Roger has been reminding me that it’s been too long since I gave some game reviews and with our Covid lockdown still limiting my driving where I no longer get to listen to my audio stories, I thought, why not? I decided to revisit some old classics; the game market has been surprisingly barren lately and there are not many games coming in the immediate future that I’m really itching for, so I decided to dive into some good, old games. Which means a visit to Good Old Games (GOG.com), and they had a sale going on.
I picked up the Ubisoft classic XIII for a song ($1.99). I had played it when it first came out in 2003, but I’ve played hundreds of games since then so my memory of it was very vague indeed. To make the decision even easier, I discovered that a remake is on the horizon. The story is presented in comic book format complete with animated yells as enemies plummet to their death after being shot from on high (“Aaaaah….”) and the visual “tap, tap” as people walk down corridors. Explosions even get a big visual “kaboom”. The entire game feels like I’m interacting with a graphic novel. The story deals with the assassination of a president and secret agents all code named with their numbers. Needless to say, you play number XIII. (I was hoping for number 6, but that would have been a very different game!)
One of the next things you notice after the visuals is the voices. It took me mere seconds to identify David Duchovny as the title character, but it did take me a bit longer to recognize another voice. Suddenly, I heard the echo of a thought: “You can’t interview a dead man!” Adam West, probably most well known as Batman but for me, Mayor West from The Family Guy; I was stupidly happy knowing he was in it. Barring these two, however, the voice acting is very cliche. The villains all talk as if they are going on an interview for Dr. Evil. Still, it’s a comic book game, so it fits! The other big thing you notice is the … well, the bigness. Every area you go to is enormous. I don’t mean there’s a lot to explore, but I’ll use the bank for example. The hallways are wide enough that a tank could barrel down them and not do any damage. It doesn’t take anything away, but it does make me laugh!
The game is largely survivable for the first half of the game; you don’t have to save a lot and if you’ve ever played first person shooters, that’s a feat! The 17 year old nature of the game does have its limits however, specifically when moving in certain areas. When you expect to run around trees and an invisible box stops your movement and you realize just how far we’ve come. Still for the price, I have been enjoying it, but a bad thing happened that really struck a chord. I was on a tough mission infiltrating an enemy base to destroy a bunker when I met one of the bosses. During the battle, I died and had to reload. I got back to the same area, and the cut scene began, but without sound and it seemed to be lagging something terrible. I looked online for advice, and the first handful of pages I found asked if my computer had 64 colors and a number of other ultra-basic things. The moral of the story is when playing OLD games on a very new gaming rig, expect problems and don’t expect answers to turn up easily. Luckily I did figure it out and it is playing smoothly again but it was a let down!
When the game allows you to really go all stealth, it’s tremendous fun. The sniper scope on the crossbow allows for one hit kills with a head shot and throwing knives are outstanding but you have to be judicious with them. I realize, it does sound violent when I put it like that, but it is an action game after all. You can’t expect to go picking daisies.
While I am very close to the end, I have not finished it yet. You’re not going to get a huge amount of play time out of it, but the game adds to the fun by having some hidden documents around to find – a sort of mini-game inside the story, in the event you want to go back to find the rest. The bottom line is you’ll probably only get 4-5 hours out of the game but with the price, I take no issue with that. It is a bit dated but it was innovative for its time and still holds up fairly well. I’ll leave you with the original trailer from 2003. And yes, it plays the way it looks. Enjoy! ML
ADDENDUM: I completed the game last night and found the most frustrating part was the unskippable cut scenes. When you die during a boss battle, you don’t want to have to redo it 20 times to begin with (so a save feature mid-battle would have been lovely) but to compound matters, rewatching cut scenes over and over makes it even more unpalatable. By the end, I was glad it was over and considering how much I had been enjoying it up until then really speaks volumes about how bad that final battle was. BUT to my surprise, it leaves us on a cliffhanger. Didn’t see that coming and I did not remember it…