What is it about?
You’ve lost your memory, you have a gang of hoodlums who want you dead, and you’re on the run because you’re charged with killing the president of the United States of America. Just another normal day in the life of the average amnesiac voiced by David Duchovny. And much like the actor’s sci-fi drama The X-Files, there’s much more to it than assassins, explosions and guns.
Why should I play it now?
XIII pairs the sensibilities of the Belgian comic of the same name with a story that would give the Bourne trilogy an inferiority complex. The narrative is tight and well developed, so much so that you’ll run and gun your way through the game’s 13 chapters and 54 missions to see what the fuss is about. Graphically, it holds its own. The cel-shaded aesthetic still looks good and nice touches such as sound effects appearing as words like it was that campy 1960s Batman show starring Adam West, who incidentally voices a character here as well.
How does it hold up today?
Aside from the comic book looks that never get old, the gunplay is still as fun as it was back in the day. The music does well to highlight the game’s 70s vibe without resorting to the cheesy classics of that era, carving out some fresh beats instead. For a game that has you popping caps in the skulls of mercs, there’s a wealth of attention to detail such as a part of the screen turning into a three panel comic showing off a perfect kill with a crossbow. In terms of weapons, it’s faithful to the era with the aforementioned crossbow being the highlight.
Is it similar to anything else out there?
Quite simply, no. Sure, there’s Highmoon Studios’ Bourne Conspiracy, which has a few similarities in terms of plot; Borderlands does a great job of bringing cel-shaded shooting thrills to your screen; and there’s Monolith’s No One Lives Forever series that captures that time period well, but none of them have the pacing or slickness that XIII brings to the table. Oh, and there a spin-off on iOS by the name of XIII: Lost Identity. Except it’s a puzzle-adventure title instead of a shooter.
Not much really. Considering that this was developed using a heavily modified version of the Unreal 2 engine back in the day when Windows XP was the OS of choice and the world was yet to know of the wonders of Steam, a PC with a mere 2 GB of HDD space, a gig of RAM and a paltry 1.8 GHz single core processor are enough to ensure you can fire at will, 70s style. And if you’re feeling adventurous, you could dust off your PS2, Xbox or Gamecube to give it a whirl.
‘When I played through…’
XIII was a rather memorable romp simply because there was nothing quite like it. At the time, barring Jet Set Radio (which has just got an HD re-release) and Auto Modellista, there were no other games, let alone shooters, that had the same art direction. It left me feeling like I was living out the role of a comic book hero with tons of guns and foes to plough through, except with a better, sinister plot and agent Mulder from The X-Files as my voice.
By and large, the game runs fine. Though getting it going on widescreen monitors does require a bit of effort in trying to find the game’s INI file. The save system is quirky. Loading up a save file takes you to the beginning of the level and the checkpoints don’t let you continue from where you’ve left off after you’ve exited the game. Needless to say, don’t forget to save.
Where do I get it?
As mentioned earlier, XIII is playable on the PS2, Xbox and Gamecube, but it’s easiest found for the PC on GOG for $5.99. To further sweeten the deal, the game’s fantastic soundtrack is part of the package. This, combined with the low spec requirements, make the PC version a no-brainer for anyone looking to check out this cult classic.