TGC Rewind Review: Unit 13 (PS Vita)
A little late to the party, we’re getting our review of Unit 13 out to the masses. Considering it’s currently on offer on the PlayStation store, it seems fitting that you should at least read a quick review before putting your cash down on the table. So if you’re looking at Unit 13 and wondering whether or not it’s the shooter for you, read on and find out what we think.
What is it?
Unit 13 is a by-the-book third-person shooter. Fans of the SOCOM franchise will be instantly familiar with the over the shoulder camera and the way the game plays. It first released for the PlayStation Vita on March 6th in North America and March 7th for the UK and Europe.
Developed by Zipper Interactive, the team behind the SOCOM series on the PlayStation 2, PlayStation Portable and PlayStation 3, as well as massive only shooter MAG, Unit 13 was their last effort before being closed down by the studio owner Sony Computer Entertainment.
What’s the story?
There isn’t really much of a story, truth be told. Unit 13 is designed for quick-fire sessions with bite sized missions ideal for bursts of play, so instead of getting a fully fleshed out narrative to follow, you just take random missions as you please. There is an overlying plot of some sort, the enemies are ‘The Alko’ who are a terrorist organisation. Each mission will see you attempt to thwart their activities through a variety of mission types, controlling numerous playable members of the elite squad that is Unit 13.
Characters are pretty bland too. Each character you play as is your typical macho army dude with smarmy remarks and typical military babble. It’s a shame that the characters couldn’t have been fleshed out more in a full story, but again, it’s not the end of the world but it’s something to consider if you’re looking for a story driven action game.
As I said before, Unit 13 is similar to SOCOM in how it plays, in fact, I’m mildly surprised it wasn’t titled SOCOM: Unit 13 as it’s resemblance is more than obvious from the very first mission. You control the different members of the elite squad that is Unit 13, each of which have different stat’s that make them better suited to the different mission types.
You’ll take each of the soldier through various missions with a variety of goals – disarm the bomb, eliminate drug lord, eliminate arms dealer etc. They’re pretty standard and at first it seems like there’s some good variety, but once you’ve played through all the missions you can find yourself getting a bit bored of the same locations and objectives. Still, they are fun to play through and you can either sit and play for an hour and have some good fun, or you can take it on the road and get 5 minutes here and there whether you’re on the bus or having a sneaky play under the desk at work, just don’t get caught.
The gameplay is pretty standard third-person shooter action, with the option to switch to first person when using weapons with optic attachments. There’s something oddly satisfying in the way the game plays, by that I mean you can be in cover and pop out around the corner and plant a bullet in an enemy’s head and pop back into cover in the blink of an eye. Each soldier is equipped with a silenced pistol and an a customisable primary weapon, though if like me you prefer the stealthy gameplay, you’ll find much pleasure in taking out targets with your trusty side arm.
That’s not to say the big guns aren’t effective, quite the contrary. Sometimes you’ll find you can only progress through the use of brutal force and that filling the air with digital lead is the way forward in some cases. As well as your standard fire arms, there’s the third set of weapons - grenades, claymores, flashbangs and so on. Each character has their own assigned third weapon, but as you progress and level up your characters through the in-game levelling up system, you’ll be able to customise a little deeper and choose your perfect load out.
Though, it’s not easy to level up. The game plays through the missions with a score being kept, each time you eliminate an enemy or complete an objective you are awarded points, and the more points you accumulate, the higher your score multiplier rises. More points are awarded for stylish kills, so pop out of cover and put a bullet in the head of an enemy and you’ll be better rewarded than just hitting the trigger and riddling your foe with bullets. There’s also bonus points to earned through killing via the environment. You’ll often find bombs or mines scattered around, if you can shoot one of these explosives and kill an enemy with the resulting blast, boom, extra points to you.
As I said before, the points you accumulate go towards levelling up the different soldiers, but it’s a long-winded effort and even after playing through all 36 missions, you’ll probably only have gotten one of them to the highest level, level 10. It does add replay value by forcing you to go back and take on the missions again to level up your men, but it does feel a bit slow and sometimes frustrating.
One thing that does help in your goal is the controls. They have been well implemented and use the PlayStation Vita’s dual sticks to its advantage. Without the twin sticks, I’ve no doubt it would be a difficult experience, but the PlayStation Vita was designed with games like these in mind, so there’s no problems there.
As you can probably guess, movement is assigned to the PlayStation Vita’s dual analogues, the left stick for movement and the right stick for aiming. The face buttons play their part well too, with the cross button you’ll enter into a run, the square button will see you melee your opponents and the circle button is used to take cover with the triangle button allowing you to change your weapons. Told you it was pretty standard…
The left trigger is used to aim, with the right trigger acting as the firing mechanism. It all works well and doesn’t feel out of place, event the touchscreen controls are a pleasure to use. You can reload your weapons with a quick tap of the gun icon or if you prefer, just give the d-pad a tap. Accessing the map is easy too, just tap the mini map on the top left and away you go. Instead of shoe-horning in touch-screen controls and features, they’re used sparingly and to the game’s advantage, unlike some games (I’m looking at you Uncharted: Golden Abyss!)
Once you’ve gotten through the 36 missions on offer and are now proficient enough with your weapons thanks to the well designed control scheme, you can either take on the ‘High Value Targets’ which are basically just longer mission and are really difficult, but if you want to get all the trophies for the game, you need to complete them, or you can go back through the standard missions and tackle them with the ‘Dynamic Mode’ which will see you play through the same maps but with random objectives and difficulty, or you can go online and take part in some co-op action. Each option is more or less the same, you’ll still be doing what you did when you first booted the game up, but the addition of a co-op mode is pretty cool and works well with the voice chat being a big bonus.
There’s a lot of gameplay to enjoy with Unit 13, but once you’ve completed the missions, you’re limited to what you can do to squeeze more fun out of it. Going back through missions to try to grab the high score and place high on the leaderboard is OK, but not the life and soul of the games longevity. Multiplayer with a mate is probably the best way to get more out of Unit 13 as it gives a fresh experience and a welcome change from being the lone wolf, just make sure your buddy is a decent shot, or you’ll be reviving him more often than not…
Unit 13 was one of the earliest titles for the PlayStation Vita, but it still looks pretty damn good. The graphics aren’t quite on par with other titles for the platform, but they are perfectly serviceable and are a pleasure to look at. Characters are animated very well and move in a life-like fashion, taking cover, poking their heads around corners and such, it looks believable.
One flaw that I should mention is the occasional, and I mean very occasional graphical glitch. I’ve been playing Unit 13 for around 6 months now and it’s only showed itself a handful of times, but on occasion you may experience a slow down in the action, where the frame rate drops or the game just goes into a sort of slide-show for about 10 seconds. Like I say, it’s only happened a handful of times, and I must have put well over 100 hours into the game so far, so you may or may never experience it. It’s hardly game breaking, but it’s worth noting.
The environments you’ll be sneaking/blasting your way through have been well designed with lots of spots for you to take cover and move around freely. Though after a while, you’ll soon find that some levels are just the same level with different areas available and some areas locked, but they’re nice to look at and you’ll never find yourself disgusted by poor graphics. For a game that launched alongside a new console, it’s about as good as it was ever going to look, but I fully expect future games for the PlayStation Vita to far surpass Unit 13, so if you’re reading this in 2015, there’s probably a better shooter out with better graphics and a full story to follow, but try out Unit 13 anyway!
Guns are the main point of play in Unit 13, so it’s important that they sound good. Thankfully, they sound great! By far the most satisfying sound in the entire game is the silenced pistol, the soft sound it makes as you pull the trigger will never get old (to me anyway.) The rest of the guns sound as brutal and deadly as you could wish, each gun being provided with its own sound effects.
Characters, more importantly, the ones you play as are well voiced, albeit mostly silent. They’ll usually pitch in some cocky comment or military jibe at the start of a mission in response to the woman in your ear giving you your orders. In fact, the woman in your ear probably has more lines than the entire cast of Unit 13 put together. The enemies aren’t big on conversation, with most of their dialogue consisting of “I need a new gun” or “I just want to shoot something,” unless you provoke them and then they start shouting the standard “Intruder!” and all the rest.
Music wise, there isn’t much. Apart from a little piece at the title screen and again when you finish a mission, music doesn’t really play a part in Unit 13. It’s not surprising really as music is often used to complement the story, but as Unit 13 has little to no story to speak of, why drown out the sounds of men screaming in pain and guns going bang with music?
There’s enough here to keep you occupied for at least 15-20 hours, and that’s just playing through the standard missions and maybe retrying a few, but you can easily sink in a lot more if you go for the high scores and track down all the trophies for the game, as well as online co-op. So there’s enough here for the casual gamer who’s looking for a cheap thrill, but there’s also enough to go around for those looking for a lasting experience, just expect it to get repetitive once you’ve played as long as I have…
If you’re looking for a shooter to keep you occupied until Killzone: Mercenary comes out in September, then Unit 13 should serve you well. It may not be the fast paced online action you get with Call of Duty (not Declassified,) but it’s enjoyable for what it is and if you can get into a few co-op games with a mate, you’ll be sure to get your moneys worth.
Presentation: Menus are navigated by taps of the screen, but its all good, it works superbly and doesn’t feel forced. Easy enough to get around and getting online is a doddle. 8.0
Graphics: Not bad, but definitely not the best the PlayStation Vita has to offer. 7.0
Sound: Guns sound as brutal as you could like and the silenced pistol is very satisfying. Characters sound good, albeit a little bit too standard with no personality. 7.5
Gameplay: It’s simple point and shoot fun, easy enough to get into, sometimes difficult to put down as you give it just “one more go.” Online play works well, just make sure you play with a mate for a top experience. 8.5
Lasting Appeal: There’s enough to keep you busy for well over 20 hours, levelling up alone is very time-consuming and online play rarely gets old. Lot’s of Trophies to collect, one or two that will actually amuse you… 7.0
Overall: 7.6/10 – Decent fun with solid gameplay at its core. Worthy of you money. Go forth, be strong.
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Have you played Unit 13? What did you think of it? Let us know in the comments.