Reviews// Unit 13

Posted 6 Mar 2012 17:32 by
Sony wants the PlayStation Vita to be the handheld for ?hardcore? gaming. Things like first person shooters, third person shooters and probably second person shooters as well. First-party studios tried (and failed) to get this right on the PSP, thanks to a lack of power or input controls. But Zipper Interactive?s Unit 13 finally gives us hope that the genre can succeed in portable gaming.

The developer, known for its previous work in SOCOM and MAG, has gone for something a little bit different with this game however. Unit 13 takes more of an arcade approach to level progression, eschewing a beefy campaign storyline and simply offering you a set of jump-in missions that need to be completed as quickly and efficiently as possible.

There?s a huge variety of characters to choose from when diving into one of the 36 solo missions - from the heavily-armoured Gunner to the agile Technician, each soldier has their own statistics and skills on the battlefield. Each operative can earn experience points as well, and leveling up will unlock improvements to their skill set - as well as brand new weapons for your loadout.

Graphically, it?s a great showcase of the PlayStation Vita?s hardware. Detailed environments burst with colour and texture fidelity, and the lighting effects and level mapping will make you forget you?re playing a handheld game. The camera can provide some problems - positioned right above your operative?s head can make it a bit awkward to see around you.

The controls are quite solid - a mixture of traditional button controls and intuitive touch-screen interactivity. You soon get used to tapping the weapon icon to reload, and various other HUD buttons for leaping over barricades and activating sniper shots. It works really well. The map is fantastic and will be your best friend too, detailing where enemies are and how alert they are of your presence. Depending on your choice of soldier, you can also see traps such as trip mines and security cameras on the HUD.

As polished as it all is, none of this is breaking any new ground - and despite Zipper?s pedigree, the arcade nature of Unit 13 makes it feel something of a ?little brother? to SOCOM rather than a console-quality title on a portable console. Mission objectives range from the uninspired ?kill enemy leader? to the equally uninspired ?rescue hostages.? The levels themselves are of the war shooter variety; a weapons facility, an oil refinery, a prison and a dustbowl village to name but a few.

The AI can also be a bit hit and miss. While for the most part it seems incredibly sharp - it will notice you immediately if you poke your head out of cover or avoid being stealthy - and it does like to flank you and engage in other tactics, at times enemies can be a bit thick. You can easily line up a headshot whilst sticking behind cover, then quickly nip out to take a shot before repeating the process.

In some respects, this makes the game rather accessible - and on occasion the enemies are very agile so you?re not able to rely on camping all the time - but it doesn?t feel like you?re being very tactical most of the time, simply because the enemy will be happy to stick their heads out of cover and into your bullets.

While the game won?t be winning any awards for imagination, Unit 13 really stands up in the replay value and gameplay variety departments. Every mission has a difficulty and a length ranking - meaning that some will be super-quick stages that allow for some real speedrun action whilst on the train, while others will be difficult enough to pass an extended amount of time spent on the bog. Four types of mission are available - from straightforward shootouts, to covert ops and even time-based courses. Elite missions will challenge you to rush through a level without dying. Harder than it sounds.

Once you?ve cleared a particular mission, you can play it again in a ?Dynamic? scenario, which randomises the objectives and adds a little spice to the proceedings. 36 levels quickly become at least 72 in this way. A fun and rather engaging co-op mode via PlayStation Network is a nice addition, along with a ?High Value Targets? boss rush feature, that gives you one life to run through a stage and take out a deadly foe.

Each stage has multiple leaderboards, and you can even sign onto PSN to take on a Daily Challenge - a random mission with unknown objectives that can only be completed once. A persistent notification system, not unlike the Pitwall in MotorStorm RC, lets you know when various players have beaten your time or clocked the high score on a particular challenge.

It?s fantastic that a third-person shooter of such high technical quality is finally able to be played on a portable gaming system without any limitations. Unit 13 takes good advantage of the PlayStation Vita?s power, dual analogue sticks and touch screen and presents an enjoyable - if unimaginative - arcade-style military shooter. It?s the best example of a TPS on a handheld yet. Recommended.

+ Pick-up-and-play arcade fun
+ Lots of replay value
+ Technically polished, well refined.

- Been there, done that
- AI can be too simple
- Camera issues

SPOnG Score: 7/10

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