XIII is a cel-shaded first-person shooter based on a long-running French comic book of the same name. The game definitely plays up its comic book roots, complete with readable sound effects and comic-book-like panels that pop up while you're playing. While it definitely has a certain sense of style to it, the game itself misses its mark, and the total package isn't one that will hold the interest of most first-person shooter players.
It's natural for the amnesiac lead character to sound a little confused, but David Duchovny's voice work just doesn't capture XIII in a compelling way.
XIII, or "Thirteen," is both the name of the game and the name of the character you'll play as, though there's definitely some question about your character's identity. The game opens with you waking up with a gunshot wound after washing up on a beach, unable to remember anything at all. As you proceed through the game, you'll begin to piece together your past, which is an interesting one, to say the least. As it happens, you have the face of a man accused of assassinating the president with a sniper rifle. But are you, in fact, that man? Or are you an agent given a new face in an attempt to get to the bottom of the assassination conspiracy? The game attempts to answer these questions with prerendered and in-engine cutscenes, as well as slightly interactive flashbacks that occasionally burst out in the middle of a level. While none of these devices are particularly effective storytellers, the story has enough to it that you'll at least be interested in seeing it through, even in the face of XIII's rather rudimentary gameplay.
XIII may have a unique look for a first-person shooter, but the game behind the cel shading really doesn't go out of its way to distinguish itself. The objectives are basic, the weapons don't pack much of an audiovisual punch, and the AI is pretty bad. For example, guards will run into a room and bump their way past you to bend down and look at a dead soldier instead of just firing at you immediately. Or soldiers will somehow manage to hit you with gunfire even though they aren't facing you. The game does have some idea of location-specific damage, but this is really only noticeable with headshots, which slap three comic-book-style panels on the screen each time you land one. Some enemies will be wearing helmets, giving them some protection against players with good aim. But the game is largely about getting from point A to point B. In some sections you'll have to escort an AI character along the way, and you'll have to use a grappling hook from time to time to move forward. The level design isn't especially complex or interesting, but the game does effectively transition between indoor and outdoor environments.
You can save anywhere, and as in most shooters, there's also a quick-save feature. But strangely, neither type of save method can actually be used to restore your exact position. They'll send you back to your last checkpoint. The levels do contain a good number of checkpoints, but the fact that you can't even use a quick save to restore your exact position is a little frustrating, especially when attempting to navigate some of the stealthier sections.
The game starts you off empty-handed. You'll quickly find a throwing knife, which you can use to get a pistol, which you can use to get an assault rifle. You'll also encounter a sniper rifle, a different assault rifle with a grenade launcher attached, a submachine gun, two types of pistols, grenades, flashbangs, and so on. The game rewards short bursts over wildly inaccurate fully automatic fire, but even short bursts from the rifles aren't terribly accurate. The pistols and, of course, sniper weapons are far more accurate and far more useful for simply landing headshots and eliminating enemies without much fuss. Aside from gunplay and maneuvering, you can also pick up items, such as shovels or ashtrays, and bonk people over the head with them. Since some of the levels put you up against innocent bank guards and other people who have you confused with the enemy, you'll have to use this sort of nonlethal force from time to time. You can also take people hostage, which will prevent these guards from taking shots at you. All told, the single-player campaign's 13 chapters will take the average first-person shooter player somewhere between eight and 12 hours to complete on its default difficulty setting.