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1 April 2005 | 0

It could have gone either way really. XIII could have been a complete disaster, destined to sink into game-oblivion, or it might have been a pleasure to play, with sparkling stylish graphics and a storyline to hook its players. Thankfully, the latter turned out to be true. Instead of sinking to the bottom of the games pile with other ‘much-hyped but failed to deliver’ titles, XIII is staying firmly on top.
The story is simple enough: You wake up on a beach with no memory of who you are or how you got there, only the number ‘XIII’ tattooed on your chest. The person who rescues you from the beach winds up dead and it gradually emerges that you are some sort of secret agent. On top of all that, the president of the United States has been assassinated and it looks like you were the gunman on the grassy knoll. You find all this out through a series of mini flashbacks (during which you can control the character to a certain extent).

Different characters are introduced to you as you make your way through the levels. There’s the Mongoose, a ruthless killer determined to take you out; General Carrington, who is convinced you are innocent but then mysteriously disappears; and your guardian angel, Jones, who will use her skills to help you out of a few sticky situations. The one pulling all the strings is the mysterious Number One, who is the orchestrator of the conspiracy to kill the president.

As XIII moves through the levels, he’ll need to defend himself. At the most basic, he has his fists to despatch any enemies he comes across. You have a number of weapons at your disposal, but you can also pick up extras such as throwing knives, or use a heavy ashtray to knock someone unconscious. You have an array of guns and grenades, plus a very handy crossbow that can take out your enemies silently when you need to be extra stealthy. Sniper rifles, bazookas, sub-machine guns and shotguns will all come in handy when you need to blast your way through the levels. You don’t get to choose which weapons you start each level with; they are determined by the games.

There are some nice touches made throughout XIII that don’t appear in regular games, such as the three-frame close up when you shoot an enemy skilfully. The frozen frames appear across the top of the screen, one after the other, with a comic-style ‘Blam!’ in each. (If you want to turn off the graphic violence, there’s a ‘Parental Lock’ option.)

You learn new skills as you go along, such as the ability to ‘see’ your enemies’ movements by monitoring their footsteps. The steps appear as ‘Tap Tap’ on the screen; the words get bigger as the enemies approach your position and fade away as they move off. To learn these skills, you have to track down the various files scattered throughout the levels. They reveal information about XIII’s life and could help XIII make it through some sticky situations.
Any relevant action that happens outside your eye-line is presented in a pop-up comic strip box. It’s a neat touch that really gives the impression that you are in a comic strip.

There is a multiplayer mode, including options such as ‘Deathmatch’, ‘Capturing the Flag’ and ‘Sabotage’.
As good as this game is, there are a few minor complaints to be raised. First of all, the gameplay isn’t quite as evolved as the graphics; there are some situations where you would like to be able to move quicker or switch weapon a little more speedily. Aiming could be a bit better too.

The AI can be less than intelligent at times, for example if you shoot one of two soldiers in a room, the other won’t attack you immediately, but might run around for a moment before attacking.
However, from the outset, XIII makes its mark. There’s something about the animation that really appeals to us, and the close-ups of your notable shots are an excellent touch.


Requirements: Gamecube console
Rating: 93%
Price: TBA
Contact: GameStop 01-8724305





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