XIII Impressions

We got up-close and personal with Ubi Soft's graphic novel-inspired first-person shooter, which will be at E3 2003.


We took a close look at the latest version of XIII, Ubi Soft's upcoming first-person action game inspired by a popular French graphic novel. The game will feature cel-shaded graphics as well as various comic-style panels and dialogue cues.

In the game, you'll play as a soldier with a bad case of amnesia, but you'll wake up in dire circumstances. The president has just been assassinated, and for whatever reason, your character is the prime suspect. You'll begin the game as a captive in a military compound, held prisoner by a group of mysterious soldiers whose motives are unknown to you. Your first order of business will be to escape, then to clear your name.

Ubi Soft has stated that XIII should let players play the game as they wish; specifically, in many situations, they'll at least have the option of trying to be stealthy and sneak past their opponents, or to go in with guns blazing. XIII will have a "sixth sense" meter that will alert you to nearby enemies, though you may also see visual depictions of nearby characters, such as the words "Tap tap tap" floating in the air to indicate enemy footsteps (much like in a comic book). The game will have various comic book-style elements that will help progress the story, provide you with clues, and provide additional dramatic effect. For instance, skillfully taking down an enemy soldier with a well-placed shot may cause a series of cartoon-style panels to pop up in the top-left corner of the screen, indicating the enemy taking the hit, shouting "Ugh!," and falling to the ground. The screen will even change if you're too close to a grenade when it discharges; the explosion will leave a residual ringing sound (to simulate the ringing in your ears), and the screen display will briefly blur until you can recover.

Despite its comic-book roots, XIII will have various dynamic elements, including interactive environments and destructible objects. The game will also have a dynamic soundtrack that changes with the action onscreen. Also, according to Ubi Soft, you'll be able to complete several of XIII's missions in a variety of ways; in some cases by slaughtering all your enemies, or sneaking past them and reaching your objective. The game will present you with a dynamic series of objectives, such as rescuing important characters or recovering important documents. You'll need to use the game's various miscellaneous tools to accomplish these missions, such as lockpicks, a grappling hook, and first-aid kits, though if worse comes to worst, you'll also have access to an arsenal of conventional weapons, most of which have alternate firing modes. Though you'll have a better chance of taking down groups of enemies with the powerful assault rifle or shotgun, you'll also find situations in which the silent crossbow weapon (which will be equipped with a zoom lens) will be a better choice. In either case, you often find that hiding the corpses of your fallen foes (so as not to be detected by your enemies) will often be a good idea.

As it did with Splinter Cell, Ubi Soft will include exclusive features for each of the platforms for which the game is released. Though it isn't clear what sort of features will be available for the console versions, the PC version of XIII will ship with a multiplayer level editor, as well as new, multiplayer-specific levels. XIII will be available later this year for the PC, Xbox, PlayStation 2, and GameCube.

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