Unit 13 Review
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On 03/27/2012 at 08:50 PM by Nick DiMola
Zipper Interactive brings solid third person shooting mechanics to a repetitive Vita adventure.
Pick this game up after a price drop. Only then will its shortcomings and lack of variety be tolerable. A lack of story may be off-putting to those expecting a motivation to complete the many missions contained herein.
Unit 13 hearkens back to a day when shooters were delivered without an overarching story. Instead, they were comprised of a set of chopped up missions, each with their own specific objective. It's a design that works exceedingly well on the portable Vita platform, allowing you to consume one mission at a time if you're tight for time. Despite its praiseworthy delivery of content, the experience is a bit too homogenous to remain entertaining for more than forty missions. A lackluster online offering and a dubious scoring system only serve to provide further frustrations, bringing down an otherwise solid experience.
Being the creators of the SOCOM series, Zipper Interactive is no stranger to the third-person shooter, and the team shows their expertise in Unit 13. Shooting feels great and the Vita's control set up lends itself nicely to the tactical construction of the game. The touchscreen is even worked into the gameplay, letting you tap to disarm, hack, and obtain items. What's even more impressive is each of the six operatives you can play as has their own distinct feel, speed, and weight, making them more tangibly unique than just their unique weapon sets.
The only complaint that can be lodged pertains to remaining in cover. On occasion, you seem to "detach" from the wall, which will often get you detected in a moment by the enemy force. In a game where stealth is of the utmost importance, this little quirk becomes more than just a minor frustration.
With the game’s numerous missions, you'll quickly find that each fits within a standard type and is designated by a logo. Some call for covert entry and operation, others demand massive firefights, and many will have you fighting the clock to complete each mission objective in a timely manner. The varied approach helps keep the experience fresh for a little while, but not the duration of the entire game. More often than not, you'll find yourself in similar, or the exact same areas, for different missions where you’ll constantly be repeating the same actions.
It usually proves best to sneak around and avoid detection – this will allow you to control the flow of the mission, placing you out of the line of fire. Playing in this manner can be fun for a few missions but it does grow tiresome. As an experience driven by high scores it's typically in your benefit to tread lightly, so you'll find yourself sneaking around no matter what in order to post higher scores.
Despite having a general idea, I found it hard to predict exactly when I'd score highly. Even when I’d finish missions quickly while avoiding detection, my scores would be all over the board. In covert missions, I couldn't ever manage rankings better than three stars despite executing with near perfection. As someone who strives for high scores in these types of experiences, it was maddening, to say the least. Worse, achieving high scores is the primary hook of the experience. The unpredictability of what drives a five star ranking severely detracts from replayability.
Even if you decide to approach each mission with a unique strategy, it doesn't change the fact that most are fairly bland in their construction. The only acceptable approach to playing Unit 13 is piecemeal, as long sessions are rarely tolerable. This isn't helped by the fact that I encountered a number of Vita-freezing glitches throughout my time with the game.
The co-operative online mode also proved spotty, offering very little to appreciate. Enemies were seemingly dialed up in number to accommodate your comrade, which at times made it hard to accomplish timed missions. It was also exceedingly tough just to get into a game, as they are extremely limited. Even in matches you do establish, any disconnects before the match starts will boot you back to the main online menu, forcing you to re-setup the entire thing. If you're planning to grab Unit 13 for its co-operative features, don't.
Despite my frustrations and complaints, when you accomplish a particularly tough mission without being spotted, there's an undeniable sense of achievement. Varying your approach to achieve the highest scores can be redeeming in a select number of missions and the game's random objective system will provide further replay value on those missions you enjoy most.
Unit 13 can be incredibly fun at times and annoyingly frustrating at others, but without question, it's the type of game you wait for a price drop to pick up. Those who remember the good old days of gaming will appreciate its mission-based design, but almost all will decry its apparent lack of variety and limited appeal.