XIII’s 2003 release delivered a unique art style and a conspiracy-focused plot. Seventeen years later, the only noticeable change is a lack of polish.
When XIII originally released in 2003, it was considered something of a novelty by fans and critics alike. XIII sported a cel-shaded art style complete with comic book-style panels, cutaways, split-screen cameras, and floating onomatopoeias that would appear whenever a loud noise occurred. Cel-shading wasn’t nearly as popular a choice in the early 2000s as it is today, but those players who gave the original XIII a chance found it to be a smooth, enjoyable FPS experience with unique visuals and some decent melee and stealth gameplay options.
The remake of XIII, published by Microids and developed by PlayMagic Ltd., isn’t nearly as good as the Ubisoft Paris & Southend Interactive original in a number of disappointing ways. The most immediate change is the graphics – while XIII’s original release looked like a comic book turned into a video game, this new remake eschews XIII’s completely cel-shaded art in oddly selective sections and instead features basic-looking 3D models with stark, ugly black outlines. NPC character shading flickers inconsistently during both gameplay and cutscenes, and, especially when in outdoor areas, frame rate slowdowns and VSync screen tears are infuriatingly common.
Unfortunately, it’s not just the graphics where XIII’s remake doesn’t live up to the standards of its 17-year-old predecessor. While the new title does reuse the same vocal performances as the 2003 original, including The X Files’ David Duchovny as the main character and the late Adam West as General Carrington, it sounds as if XIII’s returning audio files aren’t properly synced to the new ones created by PlayMagic, a combination which leads to an odd auditory disconnect during conversations. This isn’t helped by the game’s dialog, which jumps from plot point to plot point at such a breakneck pace that players may be left confused as to just what exactly is going on and why they are in their current location, especially when these writing, sound, and graphical stuttering issues combine to create either a skipped cutscene or simply an undecipherable one.
The story of XIII involves a JFK-style assassination (down to the motorcade and sniper conspiracies) and tasks the player with discovering who they are and why they’re being blamed for the American president’s murder. XIII’s remake is incredibly faithful to the original game, and despite the convoluted nature of the plot by the end of XIII players will likely feel satisfied with the answers they’ve been given about themselves, the government, and why they woke up on a beach with amnesia in the first place. What they won’t likely feel satisfied with, however, is the amount of tedious and mind-numbing gameplay segments they had to slog through to get to that point.
Frame rate skips and occasional graphic hiccups are nothing new to video games, but the excessive amount of times these issues arise in XIII make playing the title an exercise in frustration. Nearly every instance a weapon trigger is pulled causes XIII‘s visuals to lag for a brief moment, making accurate gunplay much, much more difficult than it needs to be. Thankfully the enemy’s AI is practically non-existent, or this would lead to players dying rapidly in each encounter. Instead, enemy NPCs merely stand around and wait for the player to shoot them, sometimes not even noticing when the character they had just been talking to has already been eliminated. Other times guards will become alerted for seemingly no reason at all but will not instigate a search or even continue on their normal pathfinding routine, instead choosing to stand still until the player dispatches them or crosses directly into their line of sight. This is frustrating in single-player, but in XIII‘s local split-screen multiplayer mode these skipping issues during gunfights can make the game nearly unplayable.
The remake of XIII was originally scheduled to release in 2019 but ran into multiple development issues and delays, and although the game has finally launched for PC, Xbox, and PlayStation players, the planned Nintendo Switch version has been pushed back to 2021. Recently, the developers at PlayMagic released a statement apologizing for the current state of XIII and promised multiple patches and updates will be coming soon to fix many of the issues mentioned above.
The original version of the XIII video game, based off a graphic novel series from the 1980s, is remembered as both a novelty and a cult classic. Unless PlayMagic follows through with its intended roadmap of updates and bug fixes to make this game more enjoyable, the remake of XIII will only be remembered as an uncomfortable attempt at reintroducing the series to a new generation – one which is sadly more likely to turn new fans away than draw them in.
Next: The Differences Between a Video Game Remake, Remaster, & Reboot
XIII is available now on PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One. A PS4 code was provided to Screen Rant for the purposes of this review.
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