Patreon button  Steam curated reviews  Discord button  Facebook button  Twitter button 
3DS | PC | PS4 | PS5 | SWITCH | VITA | XB1 | XSX | All

XIII (PlayStation 2) artwork

XIII (PlayStation 2) review

"XIII is a game based off the famous Belgian comic book of the same name. It is an adaptation of the first five volumes of the comic series (a series with 18 volumes and a lot of plot). In line with this, the game combines cell shaded graphics and comic style effects in order to make the player feel that they are inside a comic book. While this isn't the first time such a media cross has been attempted, XIII is notable for being one of the few to attempt it in a first person shooter genre. Unfort..."

XIII is a game based off the famous Belgian comic book of the same name. It is an adaptation of the first five volumes of the comic series (a series with 18 volumes and a lot of plot). In line with this, the game combines cell shaded graphics and comic style effects in order to make the player feel that they are inside a comic book. While this isn't the first time such a media cross has been attempted, XIII is notable for being one of the few to attempt it in a first person shooter genre. Unfortunately, XIII doesn't provide much of a reason for ever doing it again.

The game begins with the character you play as washed up on a beach, knowing nothing, not even his name. And you don't have time to figure it out. As usually happens to bad ass amnesiacs in comic books, lots of guys with guns show up and start trying to kill you. And, as always happens in first person shooters, you fight back with considerable force. The story goes on from there, taking you on an action packed journey to discover who you are, and maybe uncover a few secret organizations in the process.

The story, while maybe not life changing, is fairly complex. But does that mean it is good? Not at all. Complex in this case means confusing and poorly delivered. The characters that know what's going on neglect to tell you, and yet they expect you to complete all these story based goals for them. This isn't to say the main character doesn't figure it out, from what I could gather by the poor script, he knew what was going on by the end. But I still didn't. I was left all alone, deserted in my state of non-knowledge. In the end the confusion caused me, at least, to go through the game without any investment in it, meeting each objective not because I understood why I was doing it, but simply because it pushed the game forward. By the end, I was assassinating complete strangers because some guy in a suit calling himself my ally told me to. Sounds like Hitman, right? Except here there's supposed to be a reason for it all. Maybe part of it was the script, which is uninspiring, even for the action genre. Most of the script consists of characters pointing out the obvious, such as “Watch out! They're shooting at us!” or talking enigmatically about things you don't understand.

One other note here, XIII does not have a full storyline. While many of the mysteries are cleared up during the game, and the story arc concluded, the game ends on a cliffhanger. That would be okay, except that currently the chances of a sequel are a bit dubious, making such an ending a tad frustrating.

As mentioned before, the graphics are cell shaded. This works quite well with the comic book format, and doesn't look at all bad. In fact, there's one spot in the game where it's surprisingly beautiful, as you look over a windswept cliff into the sun setting on the ocean. I spent a while on that cliff, bullets ricocheting around me. They couldn't touch me, man. The view was empowering me. But I digress.

XIII also adds a comic book flair to the game by having text captions appear over things like explosions, gun fire, and walking (such as BOOOM, Ta-ta-ta-ta, or Tap Tap Tap), by having little mini comic panels pop up showing action occurring elsewhere, and by having a trio of comic panels appear when you successfully snipe someone, showing, in three parts, the arrow entering their head. But what the game makes up for with these little additions, it lacks in character models. The characters move stiffly and the animations are repetitive. If this is supposed to be a comic book, then it's gonna take more than some panels and text bubbles to convince me. Characters should be striking cool poses and be getting blown backwards into walls by my shotgun blasts. While the developers obviously took time to make it look like a comic book, they failed to make it act like a comic book. And therein lies XIII's major problem.

The game performs like a decent first person shooter. It uses the Unreal Engine, so players of Unreal Tournament and Halo will feel somewhat at home, though your character's abilities (like aiming precision, speed, and jumping height) are reduced from these games. The controls are also quick and easy to learn, with item and weapon switching being unusually easy to do on a console controller.

One of the most important things in a shooter is, of course, the weapons. A good shooter will have a variety of weapons, but will also try to not have any redundant weapons (like twelve pistols, or five shotguns, with different skins). XIII does a good job in this respect, sticking to a basic line up and yet covering all the different types. XIII also incorporates the ability to pick up objects like picture frames and chairs and break them over the heads of your opponents for devastating attacks (usually one hit knock outs). This is easily the most entertaining way to take out an enemy.

The AI in XIII is intelligent enough to use cover and to work together to force you out of your hiding spots, meaning the combat will keep you on your toes and moving. The enemies also have pretty good aim, meaning you'll be using those med kits a lot (which probably contain copious amounts of morphine, adding the chance of addiction to the risks of getting shot at).

Another feature of XIII is a set of combat skills you'll learn as the game progresses. These are things like the ability to get more heal out of your med kits, to aim more precisely, to sense the positions of people on the other side of walls, and to wield dual hand guns. Yes, they're helpful and cool, but they're also pre-programmed to be acquired at certain stages. So, sadly, it's fairly uninteresting. I'm surprised they didn't copy the Deus Ex system, which incorporated a lot of customization of your character into learning skills. That would have been more fun. As is, I generally didn't even notice I'd gotten a new skill for several levels. And then it rarely changed the way I played.

XIII uses a quick save system which saves your game automatically at certain points in the stages. You can also save the game manually, but the effect is no different. You'll start at the last checkpoint either way, so you might as well let the game take care of the saving. The only reason to manually save is if you really like a level. There's no stage selection in XIII. Once you complete a mission, there's no way to go back unless you kept a save on that level. There's very little load time, by the way, which is a plus. However, the checkpoints could've been better placed. Often times, there is a check point right before an unskippable cut scene or lengthy segments involving walking down empty hallways. This is frustrating, because it means that when you die you have to go through several minutes of non-action before getting back to where you were.

The boss fights are a little disappointing. The bosses in XIII are basically faster versions of the main enemies (with different skins) who wield better guns, have better aim, and boast a hell of a lot more health. Beating them requires healing a lot and hitting them with crates worth of ammo. There's very little strategy involved beyond basic circle strafing and staying out of range.

Perhaps it is this very lack of strategy that plagues the gaming experience. In the end, the controls are fine, and the AI is good, but the gameplay lacks excitement. It's very frustrating, because you can tell that the developers put a lot of work into the game, but they weren't thinking outside of the box. And a project like XIII requires that. XIII's battles may be good, but you'll keep having that same battle over and over. The enemies may be smart, but they're all copies of each other, and they don't even have the decency to die in interesting manners. That may be more of a graphical error, as mentioned above, but the problem does leak into the gameplay, because that's where blowing people back several feet into walls comes in. Or, in XIII's case, doesn't come in.

The music is very unmemorable. You've got your basic action music, except slightly modified to sound like it's also out of a spy movie. So you end up with a jumpy piece with sort of a laid back stealth beat to it. But entirely unmemorable all the same.

Voice Work
You may initially be impressed by the list of actors that head up XIII's voice work, from David Duchovny to Adam West. But you're in for a disappointment, especially from David Duchovny. The other actors manage to do nothing good with the boring script. But Duchovny uses his super genius to do the impossible and actually make it worse. Now, don't get me wrong. I love David Duchovny. I've loved him ever since the X Files. I even wrote him a couple of fan letters telling him how cool he was. So what's happened to him in recent years? Well, if we go by his performance in XIII, it's a good bet he donated the creative side of his brain to science. I'm willing to give him the benefit of the doubt, though. I would probably sound bored and half asleep too if I was handed a script like that.

Level Design
The level design is very linear, leading you from one enemy filled room to the next. Nothing new for a shooter. As far as that goes, the design is good, with lots of cover and obstacles. My biggest gripe was that the levels are not set up for sneaking around, despite what would've made (and is actually advertised as) a good sneaking shooter. XIII is an assassin, but the level design and enemy placement forces him to be more of a Rambo than a James Bond.

Multiplayer Value
In a word, the multiplayer aspect of XIII is unexciting. Does that mean it's not fun? No, there's just better stuff out there for your multiplayer needs. I do want to give the developers credit for coming up with some interesting modes of play (such as one where you have to chase a moving target that gets smaller every time you shoot it) and also for putting in bots. What is it with games these days and not having bots? I blame Microsoft and their insistence on everyone signing up for Xbox Live. It's okay Microsoft, I'll still sign up. It would just be nice to be able to play the multiplayer when I'm not in the mood to be punked by thirteen year olds who live halfway across the country.

In any case, the multiplayer has the same problems that the regular mode does. It's decent shooter gameplay, but there's little that's exciting about it. Again I blame the lack of exciting graphical elements. At least in the story mode you had the occasional comic book effect. Here you just have stiff character models rendered in cell shading.

Why Rent?
The first thing you have to ask yourself before you buy XIII is what you're looking for out of the game. If you're just looking for another shooter to tide you over until the next Halo or Half Life, then XIII is an acceptable rent. And if you're looking for a unique first person shooter experience... well, XIII is still an acceptable rent

Plain and simple, XIII is definitely worth the 2.50 you'll pay to rent it, but probably not the 15.00 you'd pay to buy it. It's got enough going for it that it's worth a playthrough, but it fails to deliver something that feels any different from the other shooters on the market, and it doesn't have as many flashy effects as those shooters.

Final Word: Playing XIII is a bit like skydiving. Most people will just lie and say they've done it. Are they any worse off for not actually skydiving? Probably not.

zippdementia's avatar
Community review by zippdementia (July 09, 2008)

Zipp has spent most of his life standing in an open field west of a white house, with a boarded front door. There is a small mailbox there. Sometimes he writes reviews and puts them in the mailbox.

More Reviews by zippdementia [+]
Mario Kart 8 (Wii U) artwork
Mario Kart 8 (Wii U)

Mario Kart 8 is fun. It creates a racing experience that is fast-paced and full of adrenaline, while still retaining that classic Mario Kart zaniness. And that’s important, because somewhere in the last few years, the series felt like it was losing its sense of identity.
The Last of Us (PlayStation 3) artwork
The Last of Us (PlayStation 3)

Instead, Joel’s personal motives are called into question. As his protection of Ellie becomes more and more desperate, the astute gamer will not be able to escape wondering whether Joel is trying to replace his own lost family with this little girl—leading her into an unbalanced emotional reliance in the process.
Tomb Raider (PlayStation 3) artwork
Tomb Raider (PlayStation 3)

It’s impressive to see Tomb Raider go from setting up frightening encounters with wolves, to getting your blood pumping right before a shoot out, to giving your trigger-finger a break and making you get cerebral with a puzzle or two.


If you enjoyed this XIII review, you're encouraged to discuss it with the author and with other members of the site's community. If you don't already have an HonestGamers account, you can sign up for one in a snap. Thank you for reading!

board icon
sashanan posted July 10, 2008:

The way XIII handles saving was a major irritation for me all the way through, playing the PC version. Maybe console shooter fans are used to checkpoint systems, but when I'm playing a PC FPS, I expect to decide where and when to save, not have the game decide it for me. And especially not pretend to let me save anywhere and then have me pop up somewhere completely different when I reload, typically right before an unskippable scene.

I finally gave up some 3/4ths into the game when I got one of my greatest FPS frustrations tossed into my lap, a stealth level. Not the first one, but definitely an incredibly annoying one. If I've just gunned down two hundred bad guys in the past level, don't give me an instant game over because I alerted one here. Even if they all come pouring forth when the alarm sounds, I think I can handle them, thank you.
board icon
Genj posted July 10, 2008:

It's been a couple of years since I played XIII on Xbox, but I remember most of the stealth sections being pretty easy and mostly involving hitting people with chairs.
board icon
honestgamer posted July 10, 2008:

Some gamers just HATE stealth sections and will never be any good at them. To throw those into an FPS title that otherwise doesn't employ them and to penalize the player for failing by throwing them back a long way every time and forcing them to repeat lengthy sections they're good at but find boring upon repetition... that's inexcuseable. I don't care how 'easy' other people find it.
board icon
overdrive posted July 10, 2008:

And to add to that, Jason, I just don't like putting them in FPS games due to how they disrupt the flow.

I remember my best friend and I rented Red Faction when it first came out on the PS2. Started out having a good ol' time blasting our way through the mines. Then we got to this stealth area in a office-kind of place and my enjoyment just started going downhill. It just wasn't what I wanted in a blasting game.

I also never liked the "stealth" levels in the old Medal of Honor games, but I have to admit it was fun how you had to ignore "stealth rules" to get the best rating, since kill percentage factored into that.
board icon
zippdementia posted July 10, 2008:

See, for me, I think the whole game should've been more stealth based (judging by the fact that it is based off a spy comic book), or at least more Deus Ex in its approach to a mission.

But I totally agree. Once established as a shooter, it should've stayed there.

Personally, though, I think the main reason that level is piss shit annoying is because if you fail, you have to do the entire slooooooooooow walk into the office again, with no way to speed it up.
board icon
sashanan posted July 10, 2008:

I was thinking of a ship based level - battleship, maybe submarine, it's been a while. The level was a brick wall to me. Not the first FPS where I stranded on stealth either - Return to Castle Wolfenstein ended the same way for me.

I've come to appreciate Metal Gear Solid's gameplay in more recent months but at least there the stealth is the core gameplay, not something that feels out of place with the overall feel of the game. In LucasArts' western themed shooter Outlaws, if the enemy knew I was coming, they'd find cover and be that much harder to flush out, but I wouldn't get a game over waved in my face because sorry, you tripped the invisible instant failure wire.
board icon
zippdementia posted July 10, 2008:

Oh the ship level was a piece of shit. God I hated that level.

See, the cool thing about MGS (the first one, at least) was that even though it pressed stealth upon you, it wasn't an instant game over if you were discovered.

Most likely you'd be killed, but at least they gave you a chance to fight back/hide your sorry ass.

I dislike the whole Tenchu style of "You're seen! Game Over!"

Someone here summed it up nicely. "I've just killed about 600 people. Why is it game over when one guy spots me?"
board icon
bloomer posted July 11, 2008:

I completed XIII a few years ago on the Gamecube. I do remember individual moments of stealth pissing me off, but I would not have remembered how much stealth was called upon overall unless this thread reminded me.

XIII has a bit of significance for me in that it's the first time I learned to control movement with one thumbstick and control my POV in 360 degrees with the other, to play a FPS on a console. (As opposed to the 'turn L+R, strafe and move forward and back' on one stick, and 'look up and down' on the other... which makes you really clumsy at aiming in the vertical plane.)

You must be signed into an HonestGamers user account to leave feedback on this review.

User Help | Contact | Ethics | Sponsor Guide | Links

eXTReMe Tracker
© 1998-2021 HonestGamers
None of the material contained within this site may be reproduced in any conceivable fashion without permission from the author(s) of said material. This site is not sponsored or endorsed by Nintendo, Sega, Sony, Microsoft, or any other such party. XIII is a registered trademark of its copyright holder. This site makes no claim to XIII, its characters, screenshots, artwork, music, or any intellectual property contained within. Opinions expressed on this site do not necessarily represent the opinion of site staff or sponsors. Staff and freelance reviews are typically written based on time spent with a retail review copy or review key for the game that is provided by its publisher.