"A decent first person shooter which may just hold you until Halo 2 is released"
There has been a lot of first person shooters released for the Xbox recently, one of the best, Rainbow Six 3 was from Ubisoft. Recently XIII was released and although it offers a completely different style of game to Rainbow Six 3, the design values are just as high and they have put together a competent first person shooter that may keep you happy until Halo 2 is released.
The storyline in XIII is told as the story progresses and that is what keeps the game interesting and you coming back for more. You wake up on a beach, dazed and confused not able to remember anything. Quickly you realise that your life is in danger and from then the storyline is basically your quest to find out your true identity. As you will find out during the games many stylish cut scenes, all is not what it seems in the world of XIII. You are on the run from both the law (accused of assassinating President Sheridan) and another group who wants you dead, so our characters work is cut out for him.
As mentioned before XIII is a first person shooter, but does have some interesting differences to make it unique. First of all rather then just run and gun, the gameplay offers levels where you can't kill certain types of people. This makes you employ a strategy. The game does have cliche objectives such as find the key, then use the key on a door to progress but also in some areas you will have to take hostages to progress (although should you accidentally knock them out, you can move on but it will be harder as enemies won't hold back). There are also boss fights, which seem to be quite rare in the first person shooter genre today. Some of the storyline is played out in interactive flashbacks. The flashbacks just aid the storyline rather then being an action packed section of the game.
The main stumbling block with XIII is the fact that it is a very generic first person shooter which relies on its comic background to attract interest. Obviously outside of the countries where the comic is actually released, it will have an even tougher job getting interesting. The actual gameplay of XIII is quite generic, but it is the storyline that will keep you wanting to play this game. Another stumbling block is the interface at times. For instance in one mission you will have to replace a fuse in an electricity box. That's all well and good but once you have the fuse, having to select it from the menu and then use it can be annoying and also in the case of keys (where the same thing happens) deadly. To be fair if you just keep pressing X the object will be selected but the tasks could have been done so much quicker.
Some missions you will be alone whilst others you will have some help or need to protect people. You're trying to unravel a conspiracy, and missions include rescuing an army officer, escaping a mental asylum, finding an agent hidden in a cabin and others. Each mission appears to be set across a number of small sub missions. The level design of XIII also at times encourages the player to take risks. For instance in one mission the only way to go will be to jump down to a hole, and many people will think they are jumping to their death only to be surprised by a body of water. The action doesn't let up in XIII. Whilst there are some sections where stealth is the key. You can also learn some skills as you go through the game such as the sixth sense and sniping. The sixth sense allows you to see noise on the screen such as "Tap tap tap" which gives away where enemies currently are.
As mentioned before you take on two types of enemies, the law and another private group wanting to take you down for some reason. These range from normal cops or security officers to the FBI. The only difference in their ability is their firepower and for the most part the AI is not overly smart but do offer quite a challenge. The other guys are dressed in plain clothes and have some serious firepower such as RPGs, sniper guns, machine guns and other weapons.
Obviously you have weapons of your own ranging from pistols, to sniper guns, rifles, shotguns, crossbows and others. But also you can use objects from the environments as weapons such as a chair or cigarette ashtray. This is very useful in levels where you can't kill certain types of characters, but can knock them out. The weapons are quite generic but the ability to use items from the environments mixes it up a little and you can also pick up and use enemies weapons once they are defeated.
XIII is quite a scripted game with some events not being triggered until you move into a certain area. Hanging back from enemies having a conversation can give you an insight or piece of information about the storyline and just who the main character is. Some of these events are presented in a comic cel style format with boxes appearing on the screen displaying the action. This also occurs if you throw a grenade to show you the effect of that weapon, and if you happen to hit an enemy in the head with a knife or other weapon.
The level design in XIII is fantastic with one small problem. In the level set in the FBI building there are numerous double doors that open to brick walls. However the other levels are great you will visit missions set in snow, on the beach, in a mental asylum, in a canyon and more. All the levels are heavily detailed and have interesting and varied objectives to keep you interested. One such level tasks you with getting a cable car powered again to escape with an army officer you have just rescued.
There is no doubt that XIII is a very stylish game and this definitely comes through with the graphics. XIII is cel shaded, which is nothing new and has been used in games such as Auto Modellista, but it works extremely well with a first person shooter. The models are highly detailed but are also generic. Enemies you take on in the first level, you will find again later in the game which can make it repetitive.
The voice acting in the game is quite good and the characters aren't afraid to use coarse language. Each weapon also has a distinct sound.
Multiplayer is offered on the same console, system link and also via Xbox Live. The multiplayer modes include deathmatch, team deathmatch and sabotage. Sabotage tasks players with having to either defend or destroy checkpoints. Multiplayer bots are also available for single player games.
XIII is a game that some people will love, some people will like and some people will not want to play. If you need something in the first person genre to keep you happy until Halo 2 ships in 2004 then XIII could be your fix. It offers an interesting storyline, some top gameplay as well as some interesting objectives.