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XIII PlayStation 2

Published by Ubi Soft Entertainment
Developed by Ubi Soft Entertainment
Released - Out Now
Price : £39.99

In a gaming world full of first person shooters a game that wants to stand out and raise a few eyebrows has to have a few tricks up it's sleeve. XIII has just the right amount of style and individuality to make itself stand out. The game is a based on a comic license of the same name by Belgian comic book author Jean Van Hamme. What makes it so special though is that the game actually makes you feel like you are part of a comic book, which is no small achievement.

XIII's story is actually based upon the first five books of the same name. You play as XIII aka Steve Rowland. You awake on a beach shortly after the president has been assassinated. To make matters worse you have amnesia and haven't got a clue of who you are or where you are. A lady helps you from the beach but it's all goes wrong when she is killed by men who are out to kill you. It appears you are being blamed for the president's assassination and the termination of your life seems to be the prime concern of almost everyone you meet. It might not be a highly original story but it's certainly an engrossing one.

The game offers 37 missions that are spread over 8 chapters. You also get a split-screen multiplayer mode, an online multiplayer mode and you can even play the multiplayer games against AI bots (there are four difficulty settings ranging from easy to insane for the bots). The single player game has a choice of three difficulty settings, arcade, normal and realistic, and offers a variety of stealth and action missions. There are five multiplayer modes which are Capture the Flag, Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch, Power Up and The Hunt. The multiplayer modes are OK but in all honesty they are not the same standard as the single player game.

On some of the single player missions you will have guards or FBI agents that you cannot kill so simply firing at them will lose you the mission. To get around this you can either hit them with your fists, which is a bad idea, or you can pick up a chair or whatever else comes to hand and knock them unconscious. You'll also have to take the occasional hostage and use them as a human shield, which may seem horrific but it's a good gameplay twist. The weapons in the game are satisfying. You'll get to use throwing knives, crossbows, revolver, shotgun, sniper rifle etc. Of course your enemies have weapons too and sooner or later you're going to get hurt. Thankfully when you pick up a health pack it doesn't get used right away so it's possible to store them up. It's always irritated me in a FPS how you find health items when you don't need them and can't keep them for those moments when you're in desperate need.

What can you say about the graphics that hasn't been said many times before. They look great and it's good to see a superb use of a comic strip style rather than it always being kept for cutesy games, which is so often the case. The cel-shaded look used in XIII suits the mood of the game perfectly. I'm no expert in how much resources graphics of this nature use up but the framerate in the PlayStation 2 version of XIII is spectacular and remains constant throughout, which is unusual. During the game you'll have flashback sequences where you see events that happened before the game started. These flashback sequences look superb and are probably the most stylish in the game.

If you've seen the screenshots of XIII you'd think that it's wonderfully deaf gamer friendly and for the most part this is true. All conversations during the gameplay are subtitled, comic book style of course, and a lot of the games sound effects are shown visually, also in a comic book style. Not only is this great for deaf gamers but it also adds a definite appeal to the game. Sadly though the cutscenes are not subtitled and you'll miss out on what's said. It's by no means a disaster though as most of the plot is shown in text so whatever you miss in the cutscenes, which isn't a lot, you'll be able to piece it together from the subtitled information. Each mission has it's own objectives and you're notified of these onscreen and, by pressing the start button you'll be able to recall them which is great.

XIII is one of those games where you know there are a few flaws but you're prepared to overlook them because of how enjoyable and stylish the game is. It's a shame that the AI can be a little erratic at time but it's not a major problem and it doesn't spoil the game to any large degree. From start to finish the game is enjoyable as a single player game. The multiplayer game isn't so appealing and it's definitely something I'd like to see improved upon should we have a sequel. The FPS genre is a stale one and it's always great when a game that's this stylish comes along and makes everyone sit up and take notice and XIII has definitely done this.

Overall Game Rating: 8.0/10
XIII gives a stale genre a bit of style for a change. It's great to see a none cutesy use of a comic strip look.

Deaf Gamers comment:
The cutscenes are not subtitled but otherwise XIII is fine for deaf gamers.