Shooter games tend to borrow from each other and eventually they all seem to play the same with only minor tweaks. Zipper Interactive is surely trying to set the bar for shooters on the the PlayStation Vita. Using their experiences from SOCOM and Mag. Zipper is poised to take the lead as the only shooter experience on the market for the Vita with Unit 13.
In Unit 13, you play as one of six highly specialized military operatives — each with their respectful specialization: stealth, explosives, or going Rambo style. These operatives can be leveled up individually to unlock more perks and the more you play with them, the more efficient they become. The characters are shared if playing through the missions on co-op, so no need to level them up again.
There isn’t any story to find in this game as the campaign is broken up into over 30 separate and unrelated missions. Each mission comes with a mission background, but there is no overarching story. It reminds me of the classic Rainbow Six titles, where there was no need of a story; instead it was just select your mission, read the briefing and away you go. The missions are broken down into five different game modes that affect the approach to the mission, but the premise is basically the same — kill everything in sight and collect something of interest.
Direct action is a multi-objective mode that will give you a new objective after completing the first. These can be anything such as collecting documents or eliminating a terrorist leader. Deadline missions are a timed assault mode focusing on quickly moving through the levels while killing everything as fast as you can. As you are timed, it is important to kept moving and getting to the next checkpoint which resets the timer. Failure to do so will result in a mission restart.
Covert has you stealthily moving throughout the levels without being seen. If you are spotted you only have a few seconds to eliminate the hostile, but if you take too long the alarm will sound and it’s back to the start of the mission. Elite missions ramp up the difficulty and remove the regenerative health. Staying in cover and playing smart is a must to stay alive. The final mode involves very challenging High Value Target missions where the goal is to eliminate the enemy HVT.
The levels are designed to be non-linear with many branching paths to enter a room, whether it is going on the ground floor inside a warehouse or entering the same room via the stairs on the left side in an attempt to flank the enemies. At times however, the levels do feel too restrictive as sections will be blocked off until the new objective is opened up. Once that occurs, the new pathway to the next location is revealed and the enemies will finally appear.
Unit 13 is marketed as always being connected and nowhere is safe. Using 3G or Wi-Fi functionality, the competitive and social features will keep you informed on the daily HVT missions as well as leaderboards for each of the missions against your PSN friends and other players through the Near function or just about anyone in the world. Using Near, you will be sent HVT targets that must be eliminated as fast as possible. Each of the missions can also be completed online using the built in Wi-Fi, where up to two players can connect to take on the missions and try to get the best rank on the co-op leaderboards. Using the built in microphone, you don’t have to worry about connecting to a silent partner.
While not a powerhouse visually, the game does have good-looking player models. The levels themselves are pretty standard looking for a military shooter and do tend to blend together after playing through numerous amounts.
Levels are unlocked on a grid; completing one will unlock the ones next to it. While this doesn’t prove too much of a concern, if you do not like one of the game types, you may be stuck having to play through it just to unlock another mission. Anyone who knows me knows I do not enjoy stealth in games; so playing through covert, while it may be fun and intense, became harder than it should as the game’s AI is not the best. At times the AI does its job and performs as such, but other times enemies can spot you from clear across a level, even if you are behind a wall or on a different floor! Other times you will see an enemy completely dumbfounded to why an enemy right next to him just fell down.
Unit 13 is definitely a cover-based game. Even during the timed missions that require you to move fast you need to take cover and pop up to kill the hostiles. Standing out in the open is a death sentence and going toe-to-toe with an enemy will result in you dying long before they do. I was surprised about the little health you have, but not that it is a bad idea as it does feel like a more classic shooter. It is just not something you see in modern day shooters.
Unit 13 is a great first effort on putting a solid shooter on the Vita. The controls work very well, but if the AI gets some tweaks, we could have an even better experience. As is Unit 13 produces some very frustrating sections, but with plenty of missions to replay to get a higher score and daily challenges Unit 13 is a game you will be coming back to, even for only a couple missions a day.
Note: The Unit 13 review was written based on the Vita version of the game provided by the publisher.