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XIII (video game)

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Developer(s)Ubi Soft Paris
Publisher(s)Ubi Soft
Feral Interactive (OS X)[1]
Director(s)Elisabeth Pellen
Producer(s)Julien Barès
Designer(s)Jean Zappavigna
Programmer(s)Dominique Duvivier
Artist(s)Nathalie Provost
Writer(s)Elisabeth Pellen
Composer(s)Alkis Argyriadis
EngineUnreal Engine 2
Platform(s)Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 2, Xbox, GameCube, OS X
  • NA: 18 November 2003
  • NA: 25 November 2003 (GC)
  • EU: 28 November 2003
  • NA: 2004 (OS X)
Genre(s)First-person shooter, stealth
Mode(s)Single-player, multiplayer

XIII is a first-person shooter video game developed by Ubi Soft Paris and published by Ubi Soft for most platforms except for the OS X version, which was published by Feral Interactive.[1] Loosely based on the first five volumes of the 1984 Belgian graphic novel series XIII, the protagonist Jason Fly (XIII) is a confused and amnesic man who searches for his identity throughout a comic book-style, cel-shaded world. Found stranded on a beach by a lifeguard, Fly is accused of having killed the President of the United States. The accusation later transpires as mistaken, as Fly finds himself facing a gang of 20 conspirators ("The XX") who aim to overthrow the government. The Xbox version of the game was developed by Southend Interactive,[2] while the OS X version was developed by Zonic.

The game was released for Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 2, Xbox, GameCube, and OS X. A reimagining of XIII, the point-and-click adventure game XIII: Lost Identity, was released on 17 October 2011 for PC, Mac, iPhone and iPad.


Gameplay of XIII, illustrating the caption that pops up when a headshot is performed.

XIII is a first-person shooter with elements of stealth and action in certain missions.[3] The game centers on the main character, named XIII, who has awakened with amnesia. He uses a variety of weapons and gadgets to uncover the mystery of his identity throughout the 13 chapters and 34 missions. The characters and weaponry in XIII are cel-shaded, giving a deliberately comic book style appearance, including onomatopoeic words contained in bubbles for sound effects. It uses the Unreal Engine 2,[4] the most recent engine at that time, as it was "really strong for level design" and allowed development "across all platforms using one engine".[5] The graphics were compared with Jet Set Radio Future and Auto Modellista.[6] The developer felt that the appearance reflected the comic book and innovated in its portrayal of violence; even blood splatters are shown in a cartoon manner.[7]

XIII includes 16 weapons, from a knife to a bazooka, an Uzi to an M60. Objects such as bottles, chairs, or brooms may be used as weapons.[5] Kevlar gear, helmets and first aid boxes are scattered throughout the map. People can be taken as hostages or as human shields, preventing enemies from firing on the protagonist. Lock picks are used to unlock doors and grapnels to climb on walls. Through the "sixth sense", XIII can hear enemies behind walls with the aid of "tap-tap-tap" signals. Stealth operations include strangling enemies or hiding dead bodies.[7] Captions pop up at the top when a headshot is performed or serve as clues or tips for the player.[5]


The multiplayer hosts a maximum of 16 players. The game features three standard game modes along with modes exclusive to each system: Team Deathmatch, Deathmatch, Capture the Flag, Sabotage (exclusive to Xbox and PC), The Hunt (exclusive to PC, PS2 and GameCube), and Power-Up (exclusive to PC and PS2). Depending on the platform, players in online and offline modes (against bots) range from 4 to 16. The GameCube version does not have any online modes, while the PC version excludes the multi-screen modes but includes a map editor. There are 13 maps on Deathmatch plus one additional on Team Deathmatch, while 5 on Capture the Flag and 3 on Sabotage. The player can choose from among 10 different character appearances, but 99 more are available in unofficial skin packs for PC players, the most recent being 2.0. Four additional animal skins (shark, duck, bat, dog, seagull) may be downloaded. As their bodies are not realistically proportioned, new or inexperienced players may face difficulty in distinguishing the skin's exact body. Cheating in both multiplayer and singleplayer is possible, as the software does not include any anti-cheat protection.[8][9][10]

In Deathmatch, all players compete against each other and the strongest player wins. Team Deathmatch is similar, but players form two teams. In Capture the Flag, a player must retrieve the flag from his enemy's base, and bring it to his own team's base. In Sabotage, one team must place a bomb in three different locations, while the opposite team must protect these areas; the protectors win if the time limit is exceeded (except if the time is set to infinite). The bomb is always found at the beginning of the team base, and the player who holds the bomb must wait 12 seconds until he may drop it and take shelter from the ensuing detonation. In The Hunt, players must shoot ghosts, which become gradually smaller after receiving hits. The player only has one weapon, the hunting gun, with which he can also shoot human opponents. Power Up is a deathmatch game, in which boxes containing special, temporary abilities, such as invisibility and higher speed, are found throughout the map.[8][9][10]


The story begins with an introductory sequence depicting the assassination of the President of the United States, William Sheridan. The protagonist, Jason Fly (voiced by David Duchovny), awakes on Brighton Beach in Brooklyn, New York City. Badly wounded, he is rescued by a lifeguard and is brought into a beach house. He has lost all his memories and all that he possesses is a locker box key. He also has a tattoo with the Roman numeral XIII on his right shoulder. He is then attacked by unknown assailants, led by a hitman known as The Mongoose, with whom Fly does battle several times throughout the game. However, he is later instead arrested by the FBI as a chief suspect in the murder. A photo proves that he resembles the murderer. XIII succeeds in escaping the headquarters with the aid of a female soldier, Jones. One of Fly's few other allies is Ben Carrington: an old war veteran and superior to Jones, Carrington knows valuable information about the President's death and is willing to help XIII. However, he is arrested and brought to a military station in the Appalachian mountains to be silenced by the conspiracy. XIII must infiltrate the base and free Carrington if he is to learn about his past.

In the following story, the player learns that the protagonist adopted the identity of the murderer. The murder is part of a conspiracy that aims to overthrow the American government. The twenty conspirators have numbers to mask their identities, and collectively name themselves "The XX". XIII was one of them, but was later betrayed and murdered by The XX. With the objective of preventing a coup, one of the members took on the appearance of XIII to confuse the opposite side and force it to make errors. The protagonist, in the guise of the early XIII, is successful in uncovering most of the conspirators, killing them and hindering the conspiracy. The game ends with a cliffhanger, when Fly confronts Walter Sheridan—brother of the assassinated President and apparent (though unconfirmed in the game) leader of the conspiracy—on a ship, followed by a promise of a sequel.

Development and promotion[edit]

David Duchovny voiced the protagonist

Ubisoft announced on March 13, 2002, that it would be working on a game called XIII. Based on the comic book of the same name by Belgian Jean Van Hamme, it would create "a world so unique and enthralling that gamers will become instantly engaged", according to president of Ubisoft, Laurent Detoc.[6] The game debuted at an event in Montreal,[11] and was later submitted at the 2002 Electronic Entertainment Expo in May 2002, with such games as Doom III, Max Payne 2 and Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos.[12] On November 22, 2002, Ubisoft announced a delay of the game, although the company did not state a reason. Justin Calvert of GameSpot guessed that the time would be used to thoroughly check the game and implement additional features on other platforms.[13]

On May 7, 2003, Ubisoft announced that singer, actress and model Eve would be the voice for major character Jones. Ubisoft's vice president of marketing, Tony Kee, stated that she was the perfect choice for the role, admitting that she has "a combination of style, sexiness, and attitude—perfect attributes that describe the Jones character."[14] Two months later, two other major voice acts were declared: David Duchovny would play Jason Fly (XIII), while Adam West, General Carrington.[15] The official site was launched on August 19, featuring movies and information about the gameplay.[16] Ubisoft implemented a pre-order in September 4, promising a free demonstration version with multiplayer and soundtrack. Kee promised it "will give gamers just enough XIII to whet their appetite until the game launches in October" and "will be a record-breaking preorder campaign for Ubi Soft."[17]

The game was promoted at the Fall College Tour from September to October. Beginning at Cornell University and finishing at the University of Southern California, the tour featured demonstrations of games, playable via the 50-screen GamePort system.[18] Another demo, now multiplayer-only, was issued on October 2, but the discovery of a bug lead to its removal. A different fixed demo was released a day later.[19] Xbox players had the opportunity from December 15 on to win one of 50 copies of the game. The campaign was dubbed "13 Days to Xmas": those who spent not less than 13 hours playing until Christmas were qualified for the contest. The winner was randomly selected on January 9.[20]


The Thirteen Soundtrack
Soundtrack album by numerous artists
GenreVideo game soundtrack
LabelFuture Primitive Sound

The Thirteen Soundtrack was composed by several artists from the San Francisco-based music label Future Primitive Sound. 13 tracks were produced, all of which were initially unnamed. According to the booklet, the DJs are connected with the characters, such as DJ Faust and Shortee with XIII, DJ Zeph with Carrington or J-Boogie's Dubtronic Science with Mongoose. The album opens with an introduction and then includes songs in the likes of typical 70s-era music such as soul, funk, jazz, but also hip-hop. According to founder and "Creative Director" of the collective, Mark Herlihy, the soundtrack project began with Herlihy's friend, Pete Jacobs, whom he met at a gig, five or six years previously. After studying the characters and the story, the group decided on a noir and futuristic style that would reflect the espionage theme. Its rhythm ranges from 105 to 120 bpm.[21][22]

Herlihy later stated that they "wanted to capture the essence of XIII in this soundtrack by showcasing its nostalgic style while giving the beats a modern twist" and their intention was "to tell its story through the music and create a seamless head-nodding mix that would complement the energy of XIII and get gamers hyped."[23] One reviewer of IGN gave the album 8 out of 10 stars, stating: "It's an album that works expertly as a chill-out slice of background groove, yet it also doubles as a dance floor jolt of exuberance perfect for spinning at a small party", but also stated that the player, understandably, quickly forgets the music while playing. He concluded that the album is "jazzaphonic electronic tripped out funkuphoria".[21]


Aggregate score
Metacritic(Xbox) 74/100[24]
(PS2) 73/100[25]
(GC) 73/100[26]
(PC) 72/100[27]
Review scores
Game RevolutionC+[32]
GameSpy3/5 stars[30]

XIII received "mixed to average" reviews, according to video game review aggregator Metacritic.[24][25][26][27]

Reviewers often praised the game's graphical style and presentation, while criticising the gameplay. GamePro called it a "rejuvenating, jaw-dropping experience".[34] IGN said "XIII has a great story-driven sheen, but at its core, it's weighed down by some occasional bewildering flaws, in addition to the lackluster weapons and simple combat".[33] GameZone also criticised the combat, stating "If not for the graphics to carry the game through, XIII would have been a boring game. Gunfights are the best part of the gameplay. It also happens to be the most unbalanced part".[31] Edge said XIII had "true artistic merit: it never gets stale; every episode has been drawn with minute care and attention. It would have been an incredible achievement if the gameplay had matched the outstanding art direction".[35] GameSpy criticised the graphics and the multiplayer mode, and concluded "When it comes right down to it, XIII is a fine game...Just don't expect the FPS of the year because, sadly, this isn't it".[30]

GamesTM said "It's one of those mixed-bag situations – flashes of genius and genuinely enjoyable moments of success, occasionally mired by unbalanced weapon damage, clumsy AI and the odd bit of unfair level design that requires astounding feats of memory".[36] Eurogamer called XIII "a flawed masterpiece. A game brimming with variety and a freshness lacking from most of the factory farmed franchise exercises that pass through our offices with crushing regularity".[29] Game Revolution complimented the game's story, graphical style, voice acting and soundtrack, while criticising the gameplay as "about as straightforward – and in some cases boring – as it gets for an FPS".[32] Electronic Gaming Monthly scored the game 6.5/6.5/6.5: Joe Fielder, the first reviewer, said, "You'd be hard-pressed to find a more visually stunning game than XIII", but complained that "numerous frustrations pile up to make XIII more chore than thrill". The magazine's Greg Ford, who provided the third review, said that its "style, cut-scenes, and story are all great, [but] the actual gameplay is pretty mundane"; he concluded, "But if all you need is a solid shooter fix, XIII will do just fine. It has no fatal flaws, and the conspiracy-laced story should keep you going".[28]

Sales performance for XIII was lower than expected.[37] In 2010, UGO ranked it #7 on the list of the games that need sequels.[38]


A reimagining of XIII, called XIII: Lost Identity, was released by Anuman Interactive for Windows, Mac, iPhone and iPad on November 15, 2011. The game is not a shooter, but a point-and-click adventure game.[39][40]


  1. ^ a b "Support for the Mac version of... XIII". Feral Interactive. Retrieved November 6, 2012.
  2. ^ "Game". Southend Interactive. Archived from the original on October 2, 2011. Retrieved October 1, 2011.
  3. ^ Giancarlo Varanini (May 22, 2002). "E3 2002: XIII preshow report". Gamespot. CBS Interactive. Retrieved August 28, 2012.
  4. ^ "Ubisoft – XIII". Ubisoft. Retrieved December 30, 2012.
  5. ^ a b c "XIII – Exclusive shots and interview". Computer and Video Games. Future Publishing Limited. June 12, 2003. Retrieved August 28, 2012.
  6. ^ a b Giancarlo Varanini (March 13, 2012). "Ubi Soft working on a cel-shaded FPS". GameSpot. CBS Interactive. Retrieved August 28, 2012.
  7. ^ a b "E3 2002XIII hands-on". Gamespot. CBS Interactive. May 24, 2002. Retrieved August 28, 2012.
  8. ^ a b Bishop, Stuart (September 10, 2003). "News: XIII's multiplayer madness revealed!". Retrieved August 28, 2012.
  9. ^ a b "XIII Multiplayer Games". IGN. Retrieved August 28, 2012.
  10. ^ a b "XIII Multiplayer – Xbox". December 27, 2003. Archived from the original on May 12, 2008. Retrieved August 28, 2012.
  11. ^ Axel Strohm (April 11, 2002). "First look: XIII". Gamespot. CBS Interactive. Retrieved August 29, 2012.
  12. ^ Trey Walker (May 28, 2002). "E3 2002: Show wrap-up". Gamespot. CBS Interactive. Archived from the original on January 2, 2012. Retrieved August 29, 2012.
  13. ^ Justin Calvert (November 22, 2002). "XIII release delayed". Gamespot. CBS Interactive. Retrieved August 29, 2012.
  14. ^ Justin Calvert (May 7, 2003). "Eve to provide voice work for XIII". Gamespot. CBS Interactive. Retrieved August 29, 2012.
  15. ^ Justin Calvert (July 14, 2003). "Duchovny and West to star in XIII". Gamespot. CBS Interactive. Archived from the original on June 22, 2013. Retrieved August 29, 2012.
  16. ^ Justin Calvert (August 19, 2003). "XIII site launches". Gamespot. CBS Interactive. Retrieved August 29, 2012.
  17. ^ Justin Calvert (September 4, 2003). "XIII preorder incentives announced". Gamespot. CBS Interactive. Archived from the original on June 22, 2013. Retrieved August 29, 2012.
  18. ^ "2003 Fall College Tour kicks off". Gamespot. CSB Interactive. September 12, 2003. Archived from the original on May 29, 2013. Retrieved August 30, 2012.
  19. ^ "XIII multiplayer demo released". Gamespot. CBS Interactive. October 3, 2003. Retrieved August 30, 2012.
  20. ^ Justin Calvert (December 15, 2003). "Number XIII lucky for some". Gamespot. CBS Interactive. Retrieved August 30, 2012.
  21. ^ a b "The Thirteen Soundtrack". IGN. October 20, 2003. Retrieved August 28, 2012.
  22. ^ "XIII Goes Future Primitive". IGN. November 20, 2003. Retrieved August 28, 2012.
  23. ^ Sam Parker (August 21, 2003). "XIII soundtrack details". Gamespot. CBS Interactive. Retrieved August 28, 2012.
  24. ^ a b "XIII for Xbox Reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved 16 January 2014.
  25. ^ a b "XIII for PlayStation 2 Reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved 16 January 2014.
  26. ^ a b "XIII for GameCube Reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved 16 January 2014.
  27. ^ a b "XIII for PC Reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved 16 January 2014.
  28. ^ a b Fielder, Joe; Intihar, Bryan; Ford, Greg (November 24, 2003). "XIII Review". Electronic Gaming Monthly. Archived from the original on May 5, 2004. Retrieved April 12, 2010.
  29. ^ a b "XIII Review". Eurogamer. Retrieved 31 October 2008.
  30. ^ a b "XIII Review". GameSpy. Archived from the original on May 25, 2011. Retrieved 22 September 2012.
  31. ^ a b "XIII Review". GameZone. Archived from the original on July 19, 2011. Retrieved 22 September 2012.
  32. ^ a b "XIII Review". Game Revolution. Archived from the original on 24 January 2013. Retrieved 22 September 2012.
  33. ^ a b "XIII Review". IGN. Archived from the original on February 15, 2012. Retrieved September 22, 2012.
  34. ^ "XIII Review". GamePro. Archived from the original on January 19, 2010. Retrieved 22 September 2012.
  35. ^ Edge: 94. December 2003. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  36. ^ gamesTM: 98. December 2003. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  37. ^ "Ubisoft sales climb in recent quarter". GameSpot. 3 February 2004. Archived from the original on January 24, 2009. Retrieved 12 April 2010.
  38. ^ 25 Games That Need Sequels Archived November 27, 2010, at the Wayback Machine.,, 23 November 2010
  39. ^ "Follow up to XIII confirmed, not coming to consoles". October 17, 2011. Retrieved August 27, 2012.
  40. ^ "XIII Lost Identity". GameSpot. Archived from the original on November 1, 2012. Retrieved November 9, 2012.
  • Hansen, Philip; Sumner, Christian (November 4, 2003). XIII Official Strategy Guide. Indianapolis, Indiana: Brady Publishing. ISBN 9780744002416. OCLC 61200284.