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Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Unit 13 - Could have been better

Unit 13 is a tactical shooter for the PlayStation Vita from Zipper Interactive, the makers of the SOCOM series. It’s the closest PS Vita owners will get to a Rainbow Series game – that is until Ubisoft actually put out a Rainbow Six game for Sony’s latest handheld console. Unlike most story-based games, Unit 13 is divided into a bunch of stand-alone missions and the only thing explained to you from the get go is that you’re a new recruit with an elite task force called Unit 13 whose sole aim is to kill a lot of terrorists. I’m not a huge fan of this kind of a mission structure as it makes the game feel very disjointed, since there is no real story arc that’s persistent through all the missions.

On the plus side, it makes for a good pick-up-and-play kind of game where you don’t have to sit around investing multiple hours into the game. In Unit 13, there are around 35 missions to choose from. You have your stealthy infiltration kind where ideally you should dispatch your enemies silently without alerting anyone. Doing so gets you higher points that you can later on upload on to the game’s leaderboards. And then you have the kill everything that moves variant where you’re essentially running and gunning through the entire level like a man on fire. The other two types are essentially timed missions or missions with a very strict penalty where the mission ends once you die. Checkpoints are for wusses apparently.

Gameplay in Unit 13 revolves around a cover mechanic that seems pretty responsive. You press a key to snap to cover from where you can dispatch your foes or hide and eventually sneak past them. Shooting in this game is also your standard third person shooter fare where you can pop out and fire from cover. Zooming in on any weapon shifts the action to a first person perspective making it easier to take someone’s head off.

While I enjoyed the game’s stealth as well as its run-and-gun mechanics, the whole mission structure was a major buzzkill for me. For one, I never forged any sort of connection with any of the protagonists or their cause, because I could choose a new one for every mission. Also the stealth mechanics could have a bit stronger allowing me to hide dead bodies or even distract enemies a la Splinter Cell. Things also tend to get a bit repetitive and boring when you’re killing the same looking dudes in same-ish looking environments. After the environmental diversity packed into Rayman Origins, Unit 13 actually felt suffocating.

Still, if you’re a fan of tactical shooters, Unit 13 may be worth considering as its combat mechanics are rather solid. It also allows players to team up and tackle missions co-operatively online, which is always a plus point for action games. If only the game had been structured better and offered more variety, it would have joined Uncharted: Golden Abyss and Rayman origins as must-buy titles for the PlayStation Vita.

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