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XIII (thirteen) Published by: UbiSoft Developed by: UbiSoft Montreal For: PS2, Xbox, GC, PC, N-Gage, some mobile phones Version reviewed: GC ESRB Rating: M for Intense Violence, Blood (T for Violence and Blood on portable systems)

Many shooters try and perfect a formula that was introduced with Wolfenstein 3D and Doom, both by early industry innovator id. XIII is one of the games that manages to get the system down pat, while still innovating on a genre bogged down by too many run-and-gun clones, drenched in blood and flying body parts. Yes, XIII is profane, it?s violent, and it?s bloody; however, it?s also one of the most original and compelling plot driven shooters to come along since Eidos?s Deus Ex or Bungie?s Halo. Smart, stylish, witty, and well written, XIII easily ranks among the best shooters to have come out in years, and perhaps in all time. Its graphic novel style presentation is not only pretty to watch, but the game itself flows along smoothly with nary a stutter or skip in sight, and the story is a conspiracy theory plot that runs itself into X-Files territory, making David Duchovny a natural choice for the titular character.

Graphics

As mentioned above, the graphics are appealing, running smoothly with solid black lines and excellent animation. Character models seem to come out of a Batman graphic novel, the characters blocky and authentic to their graphic novel source. The graphics themselves are modeled with a type of texture map called ?cel shading,? or ?toon shading.? The basic idea behind this is to fill in polygonal characters with solid colors, making them, in essence, like a cartoon. While this is not a new technique, it is put to excellent use here. Comic book pop up frames display enemies falling, in-game story sequences, approaching enemies, among head shots done with a sniper rifle, or otherwise. The cinematics themselves are also a treat, displaying boxed views of XIII, showing other characters, and moving the plot along, while keeping with the theme of XIII?s innovative graphic novel style. Interspersed through game play are interactive cut scenes that represent XIII?s flashbacks and memories. These are done via a stylish camera view of old film with lines, spots, and holes in it. The graphics are, perhaps, one of the best and most attractive features of this excellent game. If anything, this is the one reason that the game should be looked at.

Game play

XIII?s game play has evolved far past the dated run-and-gun games of years ago, which was standard back then. It also moves past the next step, which is ?Search and Find the Next Button/Key/Key Card to Proceed.? Id?s Return to Caste Wolfenstein failed to do this in huge amounts, making the game a working example of video game drudgery combined with excellent shooter sequences that could only come from masters of the genre. XIII moves past all that. It could be considered an evolution in first person shooter gaming; it incorporates stealth gaming into the console first person shooter realm (sorry, PC fans, but Thief [original first person stealth game. Third game coming out this fall on PC, and Xbox] doesn?t count on the console), and allows for audio stealth and visual stealth. In other words, if you ever wanted a first person Splinter Cell, this is the closest you?re going to get for a few months. The environments add a lot to the game play as well, with almost every level having huge amounts of interaction. This can range from chairs, shovels, ashtrays, and brooms that can be used as weapons, to explosive scenery and vehicles. Despite cameras being indestructible, and some doors leading to nowhere (such as a door that opens to a brick wall, for no apparent reason at all), the sheer detail and immensity of the environments allows for an incredible level of interaction and immersion. The one real problem here is the multiplayer, and that isn?t much of one. Multiplayer in XIII doesn?t hold a candle to the James Bond games, and this is because it does not allow for customization, which the Bond games have always done. Characters cannot be selected, weapon sets can?t be selected, and features within levels can?t be selected; levels, bots, time, and points are the only things that can be selected in the setup menu of the multiplayer game. Despite this flaw, the game itself is extremely fun when playing with other people, even in split screen.

Sound

XIII?s sound is, to say the least, impressive. David Duchovny?s dry wit as the titular character XIII is reminiscent of his X-Files days; in other words, if you didn?t like him there, then you aren?t going to like him here. Hip-hop songstress Eve and former TV Batman Adam West provide excellent supporting cast members, slowly explaining the truth behind XIII?s identity and the truth of his?meaning your?past. The music, a jazzy, lounge sounding music, is out of place, yet oddly fits the game quite well, given its graphic novel roots. Footsteps and other ambient noises all fall quite well in to place, thanks to excellent positioning of said sounds; even the enemies voices are well done, if not a little obnoxious and repetitive.

Control

Control in XIII can follow two paths: Classic or Goofy. Classic is styled after PC shooters, making it not classic to the consoles, but rather contemporary. I prefer Goofy after being schooled on Bond games on both the Dual Shock PS1 controller and the N64 controller. Truth be told, PC controllers are pretty difficult for me to get used to, but because of the inclusion of the so-called Goofy set up, the game controls pretty well now.

Appropriateness

As always, this is the big what-have-the-developers-done-now in the review. I?m pleased to report that the game itself is not too offensive; if you watch rated R movies, that is. The dialogue, however, is. Yeah, there?s a lot of cussing, including b****, d***, s***, f***, g**d***, and others. The Lord?s Name is taken in vain quite a few times, including the phrases ?Oh my g**,? and others. It?s a pretty big waste that the writers decided that it was acceptable for a game to have such profane language and offensive material, severely limiting the game?s viewership and audience. There is a minor case of suggested sexuality in the game, but it is more under what the ESRB would call ?Suggestive Themes? than anything. In a janitor?s closet in the game there are two pictures of almost nude women in suggestive poses. There is also a multiplayer level with a picture like this. The pictures in question are blurred out like every other sign in the game, and it?s a little hard to make out any details, but they are there, and the appropriateness appropriately gets marked down. Two things in the game itself are also disturbing, the first being a series of levels that take place in a mental hospital. This section of the game is mostly disturbing for three levels, where mental patients are talking to themselves, banging their heads against walls, and the guards are bringing you into a giant bathroom to be ?washed up.? Some might not find this at all disturbing, but I suppose it depends on whether or not you have an innate fear of mental hospitals. Which I?m not saying I have. The second is a multiplayer game called The Hunt. Essentially, there?s this character, called The Death Bonus, running around, singing a strange little tune with a strange little voice. The idea is to kill the Grim Reaper-like figure while staying alive and fighting the other players. It?s creepy, but I have to admit, still one heck of a lot of fun. There?s a Parental Lock, for what it?s worth. It cuts the ?violent death animations from the game,? which basically removes the completely unrealistic blood that pours from your view when you?re shot, and from enemies who are killed. The blood isn?t realistic, so I leave it on, but I wish that the developers could have cut lines like ?F*** it! Give me the RPG (rocket propelled grenade)!? ?Is the g**d*** gate fixed yet?? or even ?S***! S***, s***, s***!? These are completely unnecessary, and should have been removed with the parental lock, a la Duke Nukem, so that kids who aren?t old enough to be hearing language like that or seeing that blood could keep their virgin eyes/ears. I am completely aware that kids do hear that language in the school yard, and they?ve seen it on the boob tube. They just don?t need it from one other source besides what?s already being provided.

Final Ratings

Graphics A+ Game play B+ Sound A+ Control A+ Appropriateness D-

Overall B- 83%

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Drewsov

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Christ Centered Gamer looks at video games from two view points. We analyze games on a secular level which will break down a game based on its graphics, sound, stability and overall gaming experience. If you’re concerned about the family friendliness of a game, we have a separate moral score which looks at violence, language, sexual content, occult references and other ethical issues.

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