XIII

aka: Shashou Shisan, Thirteen, XIII: Classic, XIII: le jeu vidéo
Moby ID: 11251
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Description official descriptions

XIII is a cel-shaded first-person shooter based on the popular Belgian cult comic created by Jean Van Hamme and illustrated by William Vance. The game is loosely based on the first five comics. The main theme of the game is based on Robert Ludlum's book The Bourne Identity, and features a man who is suffering from amnesia and quite possibly involved in the recent assassination of the President of the United States. The hero knows almost nothing except that he must be important, since everyone is trying to kill him. Gradually uncovering the mystery, the hero, learns more about his secret agent past and his curious name: XIII.

The player unravels clues, trying to solve a conspiracy set in an environment that breathes a comic book ambiance. Footsteps and shots are visualized in text and actions: for example, head shots are shown in a series of still images. Aside from that, the game has all the typical FPS elements: both stealth and action, more than fifteen weapons (shotguns, crossbows, rifles, ...), interaction with environmental objects and plenty of enemies in levels spread all over the world. During the game, the player can learn a number of skills such as silent walking, lockpicking and dual weapons handling.

Spellings

  • 杀手十三 - Simplified Chinese spelling

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Screenshots

Promos

Credits (Windows version)

380 People (324 developers, 56 thanks) · View all

Producer
Co-Producer
Data Managers
Associate Producer
Game Marketing Manager
Junior Game Marketing Manager
Localization Manager
Project Closer
Online Moderator
Lead Artist
Artistic Director
Lead Character
Lead 2D Artist
Character Textures
3D Artists and Special Effects
Pop-up Windows
[ full credits ]

Reviews

Critics

Average score: 78% (based on 66 ratings)

Players

Average score: 3.5 out of 5 (based on 119 ratings with 6 reviews)

High on Graphic, Low on Novel

The Good
You wash ashore like so much drift wood carrying only a key to a safety deposit box and the number XIII tattooed on your collarbone. Faint memories… a boat… a helicopter… are all you have. Somewhat dazed, you are led to a lifeguard shack by the woman on duty. Then the sounds of a helicopter and gunfire bring you around. Gunmen are moving in on the shack and all you can find to defend yourself is a knife. It's a good thing your muscle memory is combat-ready.

In XIII, the player takes on the role of ----- --- (David Duchovny), a man believed to be Steve Rowland, or XIII,—the assassin who gunned down President Sherridan. Since the only clue points to Winslow Bank, XIII begins his quest, both for his identity and the truth about the assassination, there. Instead of clearing the matter up, XIII finds himself embroiled in a conspiracy with government agents trying to capture him and rogue elements working to kill him. Caught between these two forces, XIII finds himself rescued by Major Jones (Eve) and is soon rescuing General Carrington (Adam West) from a renegade military force.

XIII is a fast-paced cel-shaded first-person shooter, based on a series of French graphic novels. Its resemblance to a playable comic book is its strongest feature. The cel-shading looks like a cartoon image, but offers more detail than other cel-shaded games have managed. Dialogue takes place in word balloons over the characters' heads, sound effects are presented in comic book fashion—machine guns fire out ammo with a visual "RAT-A-TAT-TAT"; footsteps are shown with "TAP TAP" (which is also an aid on stealth missions); explosions show a "BOOM." More impressive are in-game effects, like sniper shots that are shown with a pull-out panel effect and conversations that XIII can hear but cannot see, are shown via comic strips.

As XIII uncovers more of the conspiracy, he finds himself working through the twenty (I to XX) members of a clandestine group whose ultimate goal is the overthrow of the United States government. The variety of levels range from the aforementioned bank to a military base he must infiltrate, frozen tundra that conceals a cabin where Steve Rowland's wife is hiding, a submarine base, and more. In general, the outdoor levels look better than the indoor levels. Moving through levels typically involves finding magnetic security cards to open locked doors, but there's also a good deal of duct-crawling or plain old running and gunning. Mission objectives also strike a nice balance between all-out action or silent infiltration.

XIII is a trained killing machine—whoever he really is. If he sneaks up behind enemies he can quickly take them out or take a noncombatant hostage. He's quick with his fists, but he can also pick up chairs, ashtrays, brooms, and other objects to score a quick KO. As he progresses through the game, XIII finds shotguns, machineguns, pistols, crossbows, throwing knives, grenades, and a good old bazooka. He also can dual-wield pistols and miniguns (UZIs) for those special times when filling the air with lead is more important than accuracy.

The more XIII does in the game, the more he remembers about his past. Key areas or phrases trigger flashbacks to the events leading up to his amnesia. He regains his memory and recalls special skills: lock picking, diving, moving stealthily and more. He also remembers how to use gadgets, especially a very useful grappling hook. XIII can hook hotspots and then use the grapple's control to hoist himself up or lower himself down to an area. He can also swing back and forth on the cable to build enough momentum for a longer jump.

With few exceptions, all of XIII's enemies are gunmen: basic fodder, sharpshooters, or bosses who aren't afraid to pull out the heavy weaponry. While there are some AI issues, the player can change the difficulty setting on a sliding scale from Arcade (easy) to Realistic (one shot, one kill). XIII can find armor to reduce the damage he takes and while the game really doesn't use locational damage, headshots are usually the most effective.

The Bad
The shortest possible version of my hour-long installation saga is to say that XIII and my anti-virus software didn't get along. Since this is the first time I've encountered this conflict, I blame XIII. Anyway, disabling my anti-virus software let me fully install XIII—the first full installation I've seen that still requires disk swapping. Another interesting programming feature is the quick save. Quick saves don't bookmark your position in-game, they act as a quick version of the regular save function that takes you back to the start of a level or the closest checkpoint. Also the game lacks any autosave function, so if you want to leave the game, make sure you've saved first.

XIII also relies too heavily on event triggers. At several points, XIII needs to escort people to an area. Just getting them to the area isn't enough, though. He also has to stand in the correct spot (usually right in front of them) for the next event to occur. At one point, I was defending my location against waves of enemies and eventually I killed them all. Then I waited… and backtracked… and tried jumping on everything… and shot some stuff… and checked a walkthrough to learn that I killed a bazooka man before he had the chance to blow a hole in a wall.

If you've seen The Bourne Identity or read the book, then the whole amnesia thing-go to a bank-find a conspiracy thing might sound familiar. I believe the French source material for the game acknowledges Robert Ludlum as an inspiration, but with the Jason Bourne movies being so big right now, XIII feels like a retread. It doesn't help that Duchovny has very few lines and his talents and the role's requirements don't match up. XIII does have a great story, but the game play is focused on the action not the plot. At times, I wasn't sure how I got to an area or how I knew to go there, except for a brief blurb.

The Bottom Line
In this age of graphical realism, I was impressed by the visual flair found in XIII. Call it style over substance, but I found the dynamic visuals in XIII refreshing. I've played other games with cartoon-like graphics or presented as an interactive graphic novel, but XIII pulls it off the best. While I have problems with the core gaming experience, I think XIII is a winner in terms of presentation. As a game though, XIII doesn't bring anything new to the table (except for gorgeous fireworks).

Windows · by Terrence Bosky (5398) · 2005

It looked great and played terribly.

The Good
XIII's graphic novel look is brilliant. It looks beautiful (though a generation or two behind other shooters released around the same time) and the game play's smooth as one could ask for. The first 15 minutes met the high expectations I had set for the game...

The Bad
...but soon after I found that my hopes were MUCH too high. When the developer's of XIII announced that it would play like a comic book, nerds across the nation began salivating over what looked to be the ultimate "Hybrid of Nerdities." But soon after it's release fan's realized that by "comic book structure," the developers meant a linear bore of a traditional shooter, stuffed with panel intro's and outro's, and the irritating sound effect text's (a la batman) to give it a comic books feel. The gameplay is average, offering nothing extraordinary. I would like to know how a developer can make a FPS that has more in common Blake Stone than modern shooters of the time, and expect it to blow the mind's of gamers around the world. The story begins with a cool introduction to the world of Agent XIII, who seems to have forgotten everything about his previous life. Had the game kept the intriguing story as it's foremost concentration, I would have enjoyed it much more; but alas, it seems that shooting soldier after soldier with an M-16 is the proper way to regain one's identity. Pshh. The game doesn't even include region sensitive damage on an enemy besides the head. Pass this one up; the occasional flash back might have been cool if XIII delivered a story that pulled you in through the game play, but an intelligent game like Farcry or Doom III is a better way to spend your money.

The Bottom Line
Shoot, shoot, bang, kill, flashback, story information, shoot shoot shoot, bang, kill, blood, text, panels, end game.

Windows · by Ricky Pugh (6) · 2004

Old shed, new paint... but such sexy paint!

The Good
XIII's most impressive defining factor is the confidence of its storytelling. Shamelessly wearing its influences on its sleeve, the game manages to meld elements openly borrowed from 24, The X-Files, Metal Gear Solid and other obvious sources, as well as the mythology of recent history, and in doing so, create a whole that is graced with a life of its own, rather than the pastiche of dead second-hand parts that may be expected.
One of this year's great disappointments in cinema, for me, was Sokurov's Russian Ark. That film attempted to tell a large, overarching story entirely in the first person, with quiet, melancholic narrative brushstrokes applied by its unseen narrator (here echoed with ghostlike similarity by David Duchovny as the eponymous protagonist).
Comparison between cinema and videogames, as art forms at large, are usually a risky business indeed; but XIII manages to succeed precisely in many of the ways Ark failed: the first person, usually a clunky, viscerally distant perspective (cf. Ellroy's White Jazz, EA's Rising Sun, and, of course, Russian Ark), is here employed confidently and adeptly to tell a story filled with twists, double-crosses, flashbacks, hallucinations, even the odd tried-and-true visual cliche of "this person is on drugs"-cam.
Perhaps it works so well because the visual style is so confident. XIII's graphics are not excellent. At times, the game looks downright silly: large, unwieldy polygons attempt to emulate explosions, mazes of hedge and brush in later levels are rendered in unsophisticated meshes of texture (videogames just can't do foliage, particularly up close, but to see failure after failure is disheartening, particularly when there are so many things the medium can do ably). However, this doesn't matter as much as it would, perhaps because the game doesn't sell itself on any tired ideals of visual realism or graphical smoothness. Like the intentionally rough, mixed-media collage that forms the visual style of Miller's later Batman works, or the stylized-to-11 look of any Western cartoon worth the time of day (Samurai Jack, Spongebob), XIII may not always look spectacular, but it does manage a look all its own, setting itself next to Timesplitters 2 or The Wind Waker in steadfast refusal to be measured on any terms except its own.
And when it does look good, XIII looks very good. Washed-out, glowing dream sequences; comic-book panels slamming across the screen to alert the player to pertinent events or reward for a stylish action. The visual and sonic flair evident in the game propel this highly story-driven piece well, keeping the player hooked from moment to moment, unfolding like the graphic novel from which the game takes its basis.
And like a good pulp comic book, the action is immediate, flashy, taking pains to always have a task in front of the player: a gunfight, a row of guards to sneak behind, a sequence of hooks to swing between (in an admirably-realized manner that takes a cue from Metroid Prime while managing to not do that game any disservice). There is little free-range challenge-finding in this game. A game that openly states its intention to propel you via its narrative, XIII is prescripted to the nth degree, but most of the time, here it's done right. You know you're walking along a path someone else has laid out for you, but in this case, it's too much fun for you to mind.
The fact that the first-person is a perspective that, by definition, must run in constant real-time and without the luxury of editing or camera placement to enhance visual or experiential flair, means that when it's done well, such as here, it's an impressive and note-worthy exercise in any media.

The Bad
The question that must be asked of XIII, that rears up early and recurs often, threatening to justify or damn its every gambit both narratological and ludological, is this: If this looked like Half-Life, would I be playing it? Do the welcome excesses in stylistic adventure justify yet another game where I walk around a warehouse shooting guards, another maze where I must use - yawn - Stealth to dispatch my opponents with a well-placed - deeper yawn - headshot, subsequently - groan - hiding their bodies so the enemy won't - anguished howl - sound the alarm and end my mission before I've really done anything?
And the answer is: maybe. If XIII didn't sound like a cosmopolitan spy thriller and look like a gorgeous violent cartoon, it would be the bastard child of Metal Gear Solid and Deus Ex, stealing so many ideas from them, adding nothing and providing little thrill in the process.
I play XIII because if I see one more first-person shmup with realistically-textured bricks and fetishistically-realised real-world weapons, my back teeth will be swimming; but I like a good story, and I like a fun videogame, and XIII is both those things. But that doesn't mean I can't admit that if the game is a tricky exercise in influential alchemy: take this element from here, present it as seen in that movie there, and then add the life, the magic, that gels it all together.
And that magic doesn't work on everyone. And if it doesn't work on you, you'll find yourself playing a game that boasts originality, but not in spades; and pastiches elements of countless other games, but not in a manner that thoroughly overshadows the source material.
A game where enemies can take three shots to the face at close-range before dying; a game where you sneak past five soldiers, remembering the several dozen other times you've done the same thing here and elsewhere, only to be spotted and greeted with an unceremonious "failure" message and made to do it all again; a game where an old man's importance in the story can augment him with quadruple the health of a soldier who should, by rights, be a much tougher opponent, but isn't, because hey, this is a videogame, and you need boss battles, right? A game with crates, and switches, and - for the love of God - escort missions.
This, then, is several things that haven't been done before, a lot of things that have, but are in fine form here; and a handful of things that have been done far, far too often.

The Bottom Line
As a good story well-told in a medium that often overlooks both qualities, it's a standout and a joy. As a first-person shooter, it's high-quality MOR. As a showcase of things that videogames really should get over already, at times, it's sadly comprehensive.

PlayStation 2 · by Bill Clay (33) · 2003

[ View all 6 player reviews ]

Discussion

Subject By Date
Game with MSI! Fred VT (25957) Feb 19, 2014
Cine14.bik Daniel Saner (3503) Aug 12, 2007

Trivia

Characters

Not all the enemies in the game are pure fantasy. The look of at least two of them is based on real persons. One of them is Niels Bogdan, German PR-guy from Ubi Soft, the other one is more interesting: In cooperation with the German games-show NBC GIGA GAMES, the designers gave the viewers of the show the chance to get themselves into the game. They just had to send pictures - and the other viewers decided, which was the meanest looking villain, you could imagine.

Well, in the end, they didn't choose some mean looking guy - but a very, very mean, in a strange way, looking, young, ultra-nerdish guy. So, if you come across some really questionable villain who looks a bit like Bill Gates, you know why...

References

In the Canyon level, you can find three deserted graves. Unlike the tomb in the garden of the mansion, later on in the game, the names written on them do not refer to in-game characters, but to members of the development team: Olivier Dupin (2D), Marc Chevalier (3D Artists and Special Effects) and Nath Moschetti (Artistic Director).

Soundtrack

The groovy seventies music is composed by artists associated with the San Francisco's Future Primitive Sound art collective. The soundtrack has been made available exclusively in a XIII game bundle that could be ordered from the Ubisoft site. There are no song titles, just 13 unidentified tracks that flow one into the other in one continuous mix.

Awards

  • 4Players
    • 2003 – Best PC Story of the Year
    • 2003 – Best PC Innovation of the Year
  • Computer Gaming World
    • March 2004 (Issue #236) – Special Achievement in Art Direction

Information also contributed by Felix Knoke

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Related Sites +

  • Official Webpage (Mac)
    The official product page for the Mac version of XIII on the publisher's website, which provides trailers, an overview of characters and weapons within the game itself, desktop wallpapers, a demo, and purchasing information, among other such particulars.
  • Treize
    Official comic book site
  • UBI Soft XIII site
    UBI Soft website for XIII
  • XIII - le site non-officiel
    Unofficial XIII comic book site

Identifiers +

  • MobyGames ID: 11251
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Contributors to this Entry

Game added by Sciere.

GameCube, Xbox, PlayStation 2 added by Corn Popper. Macintosh added by Kabushi.

Additional contributors: Unicorn Lynx, jean-louis, Stillman, Zeppin, Patrick Bregger, Plok, 64er.

Game added December 8, 2003. Last modified February 11, 2024.