I mentioned some of the shortcomings of this game in an earlier post. Now I’ve finished the game. Here is the usual list of observations:
The big thing in this game was THE CONSPIRACY. The bad guys were planning to overthrow the US government. There were 20 conspirators in all, including the main character. They were numbered I though XX, with the main character being the eponymous XIII. Throughout the game you work your way though the list, figuring out who everyone is. The big secret is: Who is number I?
Except, it wasn’t much of a secret. From the start I just assumed it was “Fred”. (I made that name up.) I thought it was pretty clear Fred was the guy. Then everyone kept asking me to find out who Number I was. You mean we don’t know? Gosh, I was sure it was Fred. Then I reached the end of the game, stopped their evil plans, and in a final ending cinematic they reveal the deep, dark, super-secret: It was Fred!
Yeah. Good one.
|There are a lot of different sorts of inking and shading going on here. The lifeguard in the foreground is outlined in black lines (which are polygonal) and rendered with cell-shading, but the black lines that divide her suit and skin are texture-based. The curtain on the left uses a plain texture map for both lines and shading. Despite using different shading schemes, the lifeguard and the curtain still look pretty good together. These different methods are combined to form a game that looks and feels like a moving comic book.|
This game has the best cell-shading I’ve ever seen. Zelda: The Wind Waker had cell shading, and I found it to be visually tiresome. Everything was bright, vibrant, and lacking in contrast. Meh. But XIII did it right by “inking” the frames, giving the characters dark black lines like you would expect to see in a comic book. It works really well.
Load times were great. Framerate was great. Always a bonus.
The final boss was predictably tough, with an annoying retry overhead. Each attempt required you to climb down a long, long ladder, and then sit through a cutscene before the shooting started. After ten tries I gave up and cheated. Note that my earlier comments on useful cheat codes applies here. I needed cheats, and the cheats in this game were just barely helpful. Cheating may break immersion, suck all of the suspense out of the game, and deny me the satisfaction of victory, but the same is true of fighting the same nigh-invincible foe thirty times in a row. If they’re going to ruin the end of the game, the least I can do is make sure they don’t waste too much of my time in the process.
The game requires CD swapping. Huh?!? What kind of idiocy is this? When they ported this thing from a console, this should have been item #1 on the to-do list. I don’t even see the point of it. The game installs to the hard drive, so what does it need the discs for? Worse, when it wants a different disc, the game minimizes, and you are yanked back to windows world with an ugly “Insert the next disc or exit the game” popup. Just shameful. And annoying. Really, someone should be whipped.
|David Duchovny just doesn’t work as the voice of the main character. When he speaks, it feels like someone is throwing their voice.|
This game also features one of my pet peeves, which is dialog with poor rhythm. When two characters talk to one another, the gaps between their lines are too long. When one NPC is talking to the player, it works fine, when two NPCs speak to each other, it sounds like they are having trouble remembering their lines.
The combat is the now-familiar blend of seven or so weapons with an eclectic mix of stopping power, reload times, magazine capacity, effective range, and usefulness in stealth situations. However, the entire process of gunning down bad guys feels fresh and new because of the little comic book touches the game adds. When you score a long distance headshot, it is punctuated by the “slam cut” sound they use in movies, and a few comic panels appear around the edges of the screen, showing your target as he goes down. Likewise, if you nail someone on a high ledge and they fall, a little “death cam” panel appears and tracks them as they plummet. I’m amazed at how effective this was. Often I’d find myself going to additional risk to create these little moments.
|I’m looking away from the water, but the game shows me what’s going on with this boat. This way the game doesn’t need to bring the action to a halt for a “cutscene”. The thing plays out and I can choose to watch or not.|
I don’t know if it was by design or luck, but I never had an inset panel cover up a portion of the screen in such a way that it was a nuisance. It never hid a bad guy or got in the way. To the game’s credit, I didn’t even think about this until I’d beaten the game.
The save game system is annoying. It uses the hated “checkpoint” system for progress, but usually checkpoint games automatically save which checkpoint you’re at. This game uses checkpoints, but you must save the game if you want to come back to this checkpoint later. It’s sort of the worst of both worlds.
I picked the game up for $10 in the bargain bin, and at that price the game was a steal. I think I might think less of the game if I’d paid full price for it. I wish the plot had been a little more clever, and I wish the designers hadn’t occasionally leaned on the crutch of checkpoint-based DIAS gameplay. Still, there were some neat ideas in here and a lot of fun to be had if you can overlook these flaws.
A demo is available.
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