Developer: Feral Interactive
Requirements: Mac OS X 10.2, 800 MHz G3, 256 MB of RAM, 32 MB of VRAM, 1.6 GB disk space. Not Universal.
Recommended: Mac OS X 10.3, 1 GHz G3, 512 MB of RAM, 64 MB of VRAM, 2.2 GB disk space.
Trial: Feature-limited (two stages)
Based on a long-running French comic series of the same name, XIII features an amnesiac protagonist who may (or may not) have assassinated the American president. It lays a striking hand-drawn graphic style over the Unreal 2 game engine, giving it a distinctive and appealing feel. With cut scenes that play out an adapted story from the series, XIII has you traverse a dizzying series of locations in search of your past life.
XIII requires the DVD for installation and during gameplay (some of the movies play from the disc). Make sure to download the version 1.0.1 patch from Feral Interactive. According to Feral, it fixes several problems that could cause a crash mid-game.
Like many amnesia-stricken heroes, the game’s main character (Agent XIII) struggles against both unrecognized adversaries and his own lost memories. The game borrows not only the cast of characters, but also a comic-art style, complete with sound effects. Walking feet and firing guns show up onscreen—very helpful when tracking enemy movement.
The “TAP” icon shows an enemy patrol in the next corridor.
The cartoon style gives the game a unique look and sets a good mood for the story. If only the rest were as creative! Players of other first-person shooters might find the objectives simple and the weaponry typical. You can strategize around the computer enemies fairly easily, as they often pay more attention to their downed comrades than to you.
Some enemies are well armored or move a little less predictably, but most of the game travels through straightforward levels with only occasional variety, such as using a grappling hook to reach higher and lower areas.
The grappling hook gets you through the electricity, if you time it right.
As you progress, long-range and stealth weapons tend to dominate. Go for the crossbow and sniper rifle when they’re available. They allow you to target an enemy’s head, which gives a one-hit kill and three-panel comic effect.
In the story’s opening chapters, you have to survive a series of violent encounters and escapes. You soon meet up with Major Jones, who apparently worked with you under General Carrington. The General now needs rescuing, and you’re elected for the job.
Various story elements trigger memories for Agent XIII. You’ll switch to a halo-like, black-and-white scene and briefly interact with one of the characters in the current storyline. These scenes usually raise more questions than they answer, which helps build the tension.
It’s worth noting that the game’s storytelling is just fine. Even if the gameplay feels average, the writers did a good job of handling both plot and action. For some players—especially those who don’t play the genre often—this may make the game worth it.
Throughout the game, major and minor goals guide you from place to place. They appear as text at the start of each mission, and you can push Esc at any time to review them on the pause screen. Usually, you find something, escape from an area, or protect a friendly character.
David Duchovny does the voice for Agent XIII, and Adam West (TV’s Batman) does General Carrington. Perhaps I don’t remember The X Files very well, but Duchovny sounds almost asleep through much of the game. West does a fine job as Carrington, though, so it’s a wash for the two of them.
It takes a good while to unravel the mystery and finish the game. However, there’s a cliffhanger of sorts (also taken from the comic series). Should XIII not spawn a sequel to “wrap things up,” the story will simply be left hanging. For me, this counted as an annoyance, akin to waiting 20 years for the other three Star Wars movies.
The game did crash a few times, but it seemed to happen in only one particular area where the graphics card might have been at fault. Unfortunately, I didn’t hear back from support requests to both Feral and the original developer, so I’m not sure if other people will have the same problem. (Eventually, I got past it without a crash.)
XIII supports both LAN (local area network) and Internet play. Internet play goes through GameRanger, which is a free download from GameRanger.com.
To find other XIII players, create a (free) GameRanger account and enter the GameRanger lobby. The lobby lists all available games by name. Pick an existing game or host your own and wait for other players to join. (I didn’t see any games hosted by others in the three or four times I looked for them, but you can probably arrange a time to meet with players in a Mac gaming forum.)
The familiar game types such as Death Match and Capture the Flag are there. One XIII-specific addition is “Sabotage,” in which you plant a bomb at specific points in the level to gain points. Planting the bomb takes several seconds and leaves you exposed, so you probably need a few friends to protect you.
Sabotage: X marks the spot to plant the bomb.
XIII offers a unique visual environment and interesting storyline, but could use more variety in level design and basic gameplay. If you don’t play first-person shooters very much, this game will entertain but probably not pull you into the genre. For some players, the characters and story will be enough. For others, the ideas are familiar and executed more satisfyingly in other games.