Review – XIII
The original XIII game was released back in 2003 and ended up being a cult hit at the time. It was your standard first-person shooter, clearly influenced by other console-focused spy shooters of the time, such as Goldeneye and Perfect Dark, but with a neat twist that made it stand out from the rest of the genre. Since it was based on an acclaimed Franco-Belgian comic book, its graphics were crafted in order to resemble said medium, with cel-shaded visuals and a ton of onomatopoeia.
The game was a critical darling back in the day, but considering its ultra niche appeal, it wasn’t exactly the most commercially successful shooter at the time. That didn’t stop it from being constantly remembered by fans of the PS2 era of gaming, to the point that a full-fledged remake was announced to pay homage to this underrated classic. There is a catch, however. While the original XIII was developed and published by Ubisoft back in its golden age, the remake is being handled by a small studio called PlayMagic, while being published by Microids, the same company behind the Syberia games… and Garfield Kart. Not exactly the best track record, but hey, remaking a game like this shouldn’t be hard, right?
Good lord, was I wrong. I am not going to try to sugarcoat it or beat around the bush: the XIII remake is one of the worst games of the year. A huge disappointment. Without a doubt, it’s much worse than the original 2003 title in every single way, and let’s face it, that game wasn’t exactly perfect even for the standards of the time. What the hell happened? How was this build considered decent enough to be released as a commercial product? More importantly, who the hell thought that fans of the original XIII game would actually like this?
By and large, this remake doesn’t bring many new elements to the table. The level design is pretty much identical to the one featured in the 2003 game. Items are located in the same place, the enemy placement is identical, the weapons you can wield are the same. It’s basically a 2003 game running on a brand new engine, with brand new visuals and physics. This is no Resident Evil 2 remake. This is trying to be as faithful of a recreation of the original game as possible, and yet, somehow, they messed things up in the most spectacular of ways.
For those who are aware of the existence of the 2003 XIII game, the first thing that comes to mind will most certainly be its comic book-ish art style. That game’s visuals are, without a doubt, its most iconic feature. Despite some janky character models, the graphics looked pretty similar to the art style featured in the comic book. There was nothing else that looked like XIII at the time. If there was one thing the developers should not mess around with, that thing was the iconic XIII visual identity. And lo and behold, they ruined it.
Riddle me this, kids: if a game’s most iconic aspect is its comic book art style, why the hell would you want to change its visuals to a less cel-shaded, more generic graphical setting that makes it look way too much like freaking Fortnite of all games? Now, I’m not exactly a statistics analyst, but I’m pretty sure that the amount of people that enjoy both XIII and Fortnite isn’t exactly high. Especially those that would dare to say that Fortnite, the epitome of safe-looking, kid-friendly visuals, looks more iconic than an ultraviolent comic book-inspired videogame.
This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to XIII‘s visuals. The resolution is noticeably underwhelming, with tons of jagged edges that are clearly visible to even the most casual of players. The framerate is all over the place, occasionally running at 60fps whenever you’re in a small, cramped corridor, with no enemies or assets showing up onscreen. If that’s not the case, it might easily drop to the mid-teens, sometimes even less. The frame pacing is terrible as well, as to be expected. Finally, the animations are abysmal. More often than not, I’d pop a cap on a running enemy, only for him to immediately halt his animation, stand still for a second, and then proceed to perform a generic, quasi-robot death animation. To sum things up, the XIII remake looks worse than its 2003 counterpart in every aspect.
If the janky framerate doesn’t put you off, the laggy controls will. I’d press the R2 trigger, only for my main character to ponder about the mysteries of life for a while, and then remember he’s inside a first-person shooter, being shot by ten mobsters in front of him, and then decide to actually shoot his weapon. The controls would occasionally go completely haywire, with my character literally spinning around in place like a demented ballerina, for no particular reason. At first, I legit thought that I was facing an issue with my Dualshock 4, but after using two other controllers and witnessing the same issue, I concluded that this was a glitch. How riveting.
XIII still retains the same voice acting from the 2003 original, meaning that famous celebrities like David Duchovny, Adam West (may he rest in peace), and Eve (that female rapper that sang a verse in Gwen Stefani’s “Rich Girl“) reprise their roles. It sounds a bit dated, sure, as video game voice acting wasn’t exactly that pristine seventeen years ago. But all in all, that might be one of few things that actually work in here, mostly because the developers decided NOT to touch it.
The doesn’t mean that the rest of sound department gets a pass. Just like the rest of the XIII remake, it’s either mediocre or filled with glitches. The soundtrack isn’t a particularly serious offender, but it’s so bland that I would occasionally forget that music was being played in the background. What infuriated me, however, was how incompetently the sound effects were programmed in here. They’re either way too low and underwhelming, with a unsilenced pistol sounding like a fat dog coughing, or completely absent. There’s nothing more infuriating than grabbing a big shotgun, blasting some foes in front of you, just for the damn thing not to utter a single sound.
I made sure to replay the original XIII on the Gamecube while playing this remake, and to my surprise, that one still holds up. It’s faulty, that’s for sure, but its issues were mostly a consequence of the technical limitations of the time, not sheer incompetence. The XIII remake is best described as absolutely incompetent. A game from 2020 shouldn’t look, play, sound, and perform worse than a 2003 title that wasn’t even that hardware demanding back in the day to begin with. I am baffled with how unfinished and unpolished this game is. I may have played worse games this year, but I seriously doubt any of them, be it Fast & Furious or Road Bustle, infuriated me as much as this remake. The more I play it, the more I loathe it.
It doesn’t look better than the 2003 title, as it doesn’t look like a comic book anymore. The framerate is also all over the place, the character animations are abysmal, and the resolution isn’t very high.
If the janky framerate doesn’t put you off, the noticeable input lag whenever you press R2 will.
Even though the voice acting is actually pretty decent, the soundtrack is bland, and the sound effects are either terrible or completely absent. Not a single weapon sounds like it should.
In theory, you can ignore XIII‘s myriad of technical issues if you’re a big fan of the 2003 game, but this is still a humongous disappointment regardless. A game from 2020 shouldn’t look and perform worse than a 2003 title.
Final Verdict: 4.0
XIII is available now on PS4, Xbox One, PC ,and Switch.
Reviewed on PS4.
A copy of XIII was provided by the publisher.