“As we acquire more knowledge, things do not become more comprehensible but more mysterious.”
In a word, AWESOME! But that's been said before, so let me embellish a bit. Based on a Belgian comic series, XIII is a first person shooter that uses cell-shaded graphics giving the game a well-rendered comic-book appearance and feel. You even see sound words like “Rata-tat-tat”, “Bam”, “Boom” and the “Click” of enemy soldiers' feet patrolling nearby. Some might say, "this is just another first-person shooter..." but having played quite a few games in this genre, I found XIII to be more enjoyable than most. "Why is it so great?" That is, of course, the ever burning question. There is so much good to say, it is hard to choose where to start.
First, and foremost is the cell-shaded graphics, giving the game a comic book appearance. Relatively rare in the gaming world, this concept can be hard to describe. The images appear drawn and colored, many scenes are boxed and inset upon one another like you would find in the funny pages of your local periodical. The end result is that you feel as though you are playing this game from within the realm of a comic book. However, you quickly find yourself breaking away from the two-dimensional confines of a printed page, and leaping into a three-dimensional comic saga with a spectacular storyline.
Second, I have to comment on the story itself. Your character awakens without knowing who he is or what he's done, stricken with amnesia. Whatever he did in his former life, it must have been significant; because the whole world is instantly hell-bent on killing him. The instant sense of fear and paranoia creates a narrative hook that reels you into the game from the moment it begins. Slowly, the scenario unfolds, revealing a plot as deep and mysterious as the code name of your character, XIII. Each stage or level draws you into the next, and when you think you have it all figured out - or the game is almost done - you get another surprise; and many more hours of game play follow.
The only bad thing I can say about the game is the lack of replay value. A game like this would never leave my shelf if it had a random level generator. Playing head-to-head with other gamers through multiplayer was fun, but only for a brief time. There was nothing new or amazing that set this game apart from other first-person shooters that feature multiplayer options.
Next, are the unique aspects of this game - rare or unheard of in other FPS titles. A novel feature is the ability to pick up a variety of every-day objects and turn them into both melee and missile weapons. Drink bottles, ashtrays, candy dishes, brooms and all manner of mundane items strewn about the landscape can be employed with deadly force. This feature comes to be very handy when ammo is running low.
Without a doubt, one of the most amazing features of the game is the comic-strip headshot. Careful aim with a throwing knife or a silent but deadly zoomed crossbow bolt to the head produced instant gratification, as the impact sequence was displayed in three consecutive inset still shots. Bam-bam-bam! Even the sound effects are riveting. Walk up to your slain opponent, and you'll even find the shaft of the crossbow bolt sticking out, right where you hit him (or her). Gruesome, yes, a little, but done with class - and less gory than you might expect from the description. Perhaps this was a result of the cell-shading, but the blood seemed less graphic in this game than others.
Lastly, there are a handful of skills you learn (or should I say remember) as your amnesia slowly clears. The use of stealth is a must in this game, as is lock picking. Along the way, you also remember how adept you are with using two weapons at the same time. Although firing two weapons can be a bit wasteful when it comes to ammo, it can be useful effectively against a crowd.
XIII was a pleasant respite from the constant barrage of repetitive FPS games on the market today. It was quick and easy to learn, and experimenting with the many weapons was pleasant. (The bazooka in particular rocks in XIII, but then again, doesn't the bazooka always rock in these games?) XIII manages to escape the restrictive confines of its genre and explode onto the XBOX with profound impact. You MUST play this game. Buy it, trade for it, or steal it --- whatever it takes, but get this game and play it TODAY.
Key moment of the game: Swinging from the church bell picking off white-hood wearing bad guys with the trusty silent-but-deadly scoped crossbow.