Date: 06-13-2012 16:01
Author: Matt Fernandes

PDC profile: SilentWyvern

"We sleep safe in our beds because rough men stand ready in the night to visit violence on those who would do us harm." The men of Unit 13, are those men. Unit 13 is the final game for developer Zipper Interactive. With previous titles' failures stacked against them, does this swan song make up for past short comings? Or did Zipper go out on a sour note?

Back to the Front Lines

Unit 13 puts players in hostile enemy territories as 1 of 6 international operatives from a NATO anti terrorist task force known as "Unit 13". This premise isn't at all new, having been done by titles such as Rainbow Six, it offers a diverse amount of ways to tackle missions, however the operatives themselves are generic and forgettable. Immediately noticeable is the lack of any narrative in Unit 13. The single player portion is presented in a grid where players select the desired mission. Aside from a few ending animations there are no cut-scenes, not that they're needed as previously mentioned. While some kind of story would have been nice, not having one isn't totally unforgivable. With no focus on any narrative, Unit 13's primary focus is on obtaining high scores and comparing them on leaderboards. While competing for bragging rights may seem like a good idea, it diminishes the overall replay value.

Unit 13 features 4 main mission types, Direct Action, a basic mission requiring a balance of stealth and assault. Elite, a personal favorite, which is a harder version of Direct Action. Elite removes the player's regenerative health and features no check points. Covert, as the name implies, requires tactics and stealth to succeed. If a player is spotted they have mere seconds to kill all alerted hostiles or its mission failure. And finally Deadline. Deadline requires players to frantically run to objectives killing all enemies in your way. Deadline is timed so its never wise to get into a long, drawn out firefight.
Completing missions will give players stars based on their performance. Honestly the star system is buggy, on a few missions I completed terribly I still received 5 stars. The more stars a player has, the more High Value Target, or HVT missions the player can undertake. HVTs work like Elite missions with health regeneration on but have no checkpoints. HVTs act like Unit 13's boss missions and they can offer a real challenge.

New Innovations, Old Problems
Unit 13 is built off the same engine Zipper used to make SOCOM 4, and immediately that brings doubt to mind. However many of the issues SOCOM 4 faced did not carry over, though this does not mean Unit 13 is without it's own flaws. The cover system and aiming all work nicely but every once in a great while hit detection became an issue. Such as Alabama hitting an enemy on the shoulder when all 4 cross-hairs are positioned snugly on the enemy's face. Or Python only getting a 3 hit kill bonus when 6 rounds made contact. Enemy AI also can become buggy, enemies can at times rush in guns blazing, usually with a USAS 12. Or hide behind cover and NEVER come out. Unit 13 also had a nasty habit of muting the entire game itself or simply freezing the Vita. This is more common for some players than others and to my knowledge the only patch fixed the issue. Unit 13's controls are a mix of touch screen commands and traditional controls. Menus are entirely used by the touch screen but in-game mechanics vary. Reloading, using scopes or optics, throwing grenades and vaulting over objects are all performed via touchscreen taps. Firing, movement and aiming are done with regular controls. This mix works quite well and can feel like second nature to even the newest of players. It is somewhat disappointing to see Unit 13 lacks any other Vita functionality other than the front touchscreen, gyroscopic leaning and aiming or touch pad crawling would have been cool, but its nice Zipper didn't try to push TOO much functionality into the game.

Evening the Odds - this section was written by Todd Enloe
The online portion in Unit 13 is strictly 2 Player CO-OP. The way it works is when somebody makes a game, it places the game out on the lobby screen, with the hosts name and mission. A game may be created by tapping the "Create Game" button in the top left hand corner of the lobby selection. A screen then pops up and asks if you would like to make the game public or private. A public game is open to everybody, while a private game is only visible by friends and members in your party. After the game has been created or joined, the player then is sent to a screen similar to the character select screen from the single player. However, the difference here is that it shows your teammates Operative and their load-out. Only the host can start the game by pressing a thin button on the right side of the screen. The host and the other player are able to communicate by using the PS Vita's microphone. Using this voice chat, which is permanently toggled, the players are able to work together and devise strategies to move through each section of the level.

The in game play is very laggy at times if the host or the other player does not have a very good Internet connection. However, when the players have very good Internet connection, the game works flawlessly when syncing enemies and the other player. The multiplier system returns from the single-player, but has no effect on the other player. If one player has a five times multiplier, the other persons score is not effected by it. When progressing through a level, there begin to appear translucent white walls that prevent the player from moving on. These are to stop each player from going to far ahead without their teammate and it works rather well. But, it prevents a teammate from approaching one room from a different area, as they must enter through the wall together. When both players are in the same spot, the wall disappears and allows for them to continue forward. The objectives function as they do in the single-player, and still provide the same amount of points. After the mission is completed, the player's scores are added up. The scoring system remains the same, but also features an extra score feature called the "teamwork bonus". This is added to when the players cover each others back, provide suppressing fire, taking out sensors and mines for each other, using the microphone to communicate with each other, and taking down enemies simultaneously. The final screen also shows your teammate's score, but not their accuracy. After this, the players are sent back to the game selection screen.

All is Said, All is Done
Unit 13 as a whole feels like a step back in the direction of hardcore, tactical gameplay Zipper's customers once praised but ultimately its simply too little too late. The lack of a competitive multi-player is nothing if not absolutely disappointing. And the lack of any real narrative makes for a game that isn't going to be missed once players achieve the rather easy platinum trophy. However Unit 13 is by no means a bad game, it just feels like an unfinished project. Personally, its pleasing to see Zipper Interactive go out with Unit 13, its not the glorious anthem of redemption needed to wipe away the stench of SOCOM 4, but its not like they cut a fart and walked off stage.

Unit 13 is the final game by long time 1st party developer Zipper Interactive and is available in stores and on the PlayStation Store for $39.99. I spent 50 hours playing Unit 13 before writing this review and would recommend this game for anyone looking for a shooter to play in short sessions.

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