XIII (video game)
Southend Interactive (Xbox)
|Engine||Unreal Engine 2|
|Release date(s)||NA 18 November 2003 (PC & PS2)
XIII (pronounced: Thirteen) is a first-person shooter video game developed by Ubisoft Paris and published by Ubisoft for most platforms except for the OS X version, which was published by Feral Interactive. Loosely based on the 1984 Belgian comic book XIII, the player controls (through a first-person view) the protagonist Jason Fly (XIII), 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 game was released for Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 2, GameCube, Xbox and OS X. A reimagining of XIII, the point-and-click adventure game XIII: Lost Identity, was released on October 17, 2011 for PC, Mac, iPhone and iPad only.
XIII is a first-person shooter with elements of stealth and action in certain missions. 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 54 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 Unreal Engine 2, the most recent engine at that time, as it was "really strong for level design" and allowed development "across all platforms using one engine". The graphics were compared with Jet Set Radio Future and Auto Modellista. 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.
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. 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. Captions pop up at the top when a headshot is performed or serve as clues or tips for the player.
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.
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.
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 which 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
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 Entertainment, Laurent Detoc. The game debuted at an event in Montreal, 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. 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.
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." Two months later, two other major voice acts were declared: David Duchovny would play Jason Fly (XIII), while Adam West, General Carrington. The official site was launched on August 19, featuring movies and information about the gameplay. 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."
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. 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. 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.
|The Thirteen Soundtrack|
|Soundtrack album by numerous artists|
|Genre||Video game soundtrack|
|Label||Future 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 which would reflect the espionage theme. Its rhythm ranges from 105 to 120 bpm.
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." 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".
|The Thirteen Soundtrack track listing|
|2.||"J-Boogie's Dubtronic Science"||J-Boogie||3:38|
|4.||"Needle Drop"||Dj Zeph||3:34|
|5.||"The Mission"||Faust & Shortee||4:44|
|8.||"The Black Hole (Remix)"||DJ Z-Trip||2:38|
|9.||"The Drumbattle"||Faust & Shortee||5:30|
|10.||"Covert Ops (SWAT Vs. Meat Beat Manifesto)"||Meat Beat Manifesto||3:12|
|11.||"Tino's Beat (Faust & Shortee Remix)"||Tino||4:41|
|12.||"Untitled"||Bing Ji Ling||3:26|
|13.||"Lord of the Pants"||Romanowski||4:14|
The game attained mostly positive reviews. According to Metacritic, XIII has an average of 74% for the Xbox version, 73% for the GameCube and PlayStation 2 versions, and 72% for the PC version.
Reviewers often praised the game's graphical style and presentation, while criticising the gameplay. GamePro called it a "rejuvenating, jaw-dropping experience". 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". 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". 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". 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".
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". 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". 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". 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".
A reimagining of XIII, called XIII: Lost Identity, was released by Anuman Interactive for Windows, Mac, iPhone and iPad on November 15, 2011. It was not released on consoles. The game is not a shooter, but a point-and-click adventure game.
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