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Last Updated: Friday, 2 January, 2004, 11:03 GMT
Polished comic book look saves XIII
By Alfred Hermida
BBC News Online

It is not often you get a video game based on a comic book written in French and popular in countries like Belgium.

Screenshot from XIII
The game uses comic book style panels to fill in the action
And it is equally unusual to find a first-person shooter that turns its back on the ultra-realism of some of today's games.

But with the game, XIII, French publishers Ubisoft do both of these and to their credit, just about pull it off.

XIII, which simply stands for the number 13, is based on the comic book series of the same name by William Vance and Jean Van Hamme from Belgium.

Familiar gameplay

The plot is built around the lead character simply called XIII, who has lost his memory and is searching for his true identity. What follows is a story of intrigue, government cover-ups and conspiracy.

Screenshot from XIII
Chairs, bottle and shovels can be used to knock out enemies
The game excels in its graphic novel presentation. Key parts of the story are filled in using comic book style panels.

The cartoon feel is also used to great effect in the gameplay itself, with small panels showing, for example, an enemy falling off a cliff in the distance.

This visual element is the standout feature of XIII. Take it out of the equation and you are left with a standard first-person shooter.

There is nothing inherently bad with the gameplay, but it all feels rather familiar.

There is the usual combination of stealth, sniping and straight-forward shooting involved with weapons ranging from throwing knives to an automatic rifle to a crossbow.

Celebrity voices

As in most shooters, you can save anywhere. But surprisingly this cannot be used to return to the same stage of the game.

Screenshot from XIII
The cel shaded graphics look a treat
Instead you are sent back to your last checkpoint. This can proved especially frustrating during the stealth levels, where one false move sends you back to the beginning for the nth time.

The game also boasts some celebrity talent, with David Duchovny lending his voice to the XIII character. Unfortunately his commentary is flatly delivered.

Elsewhere you can hear the voice of Adam West of Batman fame and of the popstar Eve.

Despite its shortcoming, XIII tells a compelling story and its comic book style means it stands out from a raft of first-person shooters. It is worth playing for this alone.

XIII by Ubisoft is out now for the PlayStation 2, Xbox, GameCube and the PC.

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