I think I picked up XIII when the local Blockbuster was closing up shop and selling their used console games for half price. I hadn’t played it too much until this past weekend, when I randomly pulled it off the shelf and guided the amnesiac hero through the twisted conspiracy until he learned the identities of all twenty members of the mysterious Cult of XX.
David Duchovny provides the voice of the hero, while Adam “Batman” West is General Carrington and sometime hip-hop artist, sometime actress Eve is the sassy and deadly Major Jones. Adam West and Eve both deliver solid performances, but Duchovny sounds almost bored throughout the entire game. Hey, Ubisoft, if you make a sequel (XIV?), consider somebody like Bruce Davidson (Nowhere Man) instead of double-D. Just a suggestion.
Speaking of sequels, the developers of XIII seemed fairly certain there would be one, if the way the game ends is any indication. Though I haven’t heard anything about that sequel being in the works, I’d definitely like to play it, because despite Duchovny’s lackluster performance XIII turned out to be a very enjoyable game. It’s mostly a stealth shooter (a la the excellent Splinter Cell series), but at times it turns into a balls-to-the-wall, kill-everything-that-moves FPS.
The graphics are all cell-shaded, which perfectly matches the comic book styling throughout. Each mission opens with a mosaic of panels and one or more narrative boxes outlining the mission objectives. Every time XIII stealth kills an enemy, three panels flash in the upper left to show the villain’s demise. Likewise, as the ultra-sneaky XIII detects guards patrolling, floating panels pops up to show their movement. When hiding around a corner or in another room, XIII can hear people walking nearby, and this shows up as “TAP TAP TAP” on the screen, the size and position of the text indicating just where the perambulator is located and in which direction he or she is moving.
XIII has a variety of weapons at his disposal, my personal favorites being those designed for stealth kills: throwing knives and a scoped crossbow. In addition to these, there are grenades, several pistols, shotguns, machine guns and (of course) a bazooka. XIII can also grab an enemy in a headlock, drag him or her to a secluded location and administer a non-lethal (I think) chokehold.
There are also a few items in XIII’s inventory not designed for dealing death: medkits, a lockpick, a “shotgun” microphone and a grappling hook (which can be a lot of fun). Throughout the game, XIII picks up “important documents,” which don’t appear in his inventory, but can be accessed through the main menu. Sometimes, these documents add new skills (dual-wielding weapons, improved sniping); other times, they provide insight into a cult member’s identity or other information on the conspiracy.
The conspiracy involves the assassination of President William Sheridan. More specifically, the aftermath of the assassination. All evidence points to the game’s protagonist, XIII, as the assassin. Unfortunately, XIII has a whopping case of amnesia and can’t remember anything about the whole mess. In trying to put the pieces of his life back together, XIII meets some old acquaintances, discovers that the Cult of XX would really like him dead, and begins to uncover a far-reaching conspiracy. It’s a fairly satisfying plot, though a major problem is left unresolved, setting the stage for a sequel that may never be made.