Lately Microids has focused heavily on the nostalgia effect caused by certain IPs, buying the rights and producing them re-editions of popular videogame productions of the past. So, after the remastered Asterix & Obelix XXL, The Bluecoats - North & South and even Titeuf Méga Party, the French publisher has decided to finance a real remake of the acclaimed FPS called XIII. To tell you the truth, the video game of Ubisoft in 2003 it was a tie-in, which brought the Franco-Belgian graphic novel from the homonymous name. Initially written by Jean Van Hamme and designed mainly by the artist William Vance, the comic in question began its cycle of publication in 1984, achieving good acclaim from critics and audiences globally. The video game dedicated to him managed to impress and capture the original spirit, through one particularly inspired graphic style and a level design that made it a real one cult in the sector.
For this the goal undertaken by the publisher Microids and by the developers Playmagic it is very difficult, not only in having to respect the high expectations of the public, but also in having to modernize XII honoring a timeless work.
Amnesia is a bad ally for XIII
The narrative of this remake has not changed in the least compared to seventeen years ago, recounting the same transposition of the first 5 volumes of the graphic novel. We play the guise of XIII, a secret agent who after a mission finds himself on the Brooklyn beach suffering from a dangerous amnesia. After being saved by a girl who passes there by chance, our protagonist has no time to recover and immediately people start shooting with the intention of killing him. From here begins a journey in which to discover government secrets, the mystery of the assassination of the president of the United States of America, an international conspiracy and much more. Fortunately, our hero is not alone in this enterprise, in fact during the story he meets some old friends who help him in his mission, as well as making him recover lost memories. The narrative is therefore nothing new or special, as it presents the public with a story already told not only through the graphic novel but even with films and a TV series. The surprising thing, however, is the suit reuse of vocal tracks of Ubisoft's videogame work, in every available language.
An understandable but at the same time questionable choice, since it assumes that there is no new element inside. This situation, however, is not limited to dubbing only, but to the rest of this remake. The soundtrack of Alkis Argyriadis it is certainly valuable, it manages to give a certain spy tone to the product, and the same goes for the linear level design but well thought out, only unfortunately all this has been literally taken up without any kind of addition to the experience of 2003. Playmagic and Microids have decided to play it safe, without trying to innovate or modernize the contents of this XIII. However, the development team did not succeed in this operation, mistaking some characteristics to be defined as fundamental.
The graphic style adopted in 2020 fails to capture the essence of comics like the original, presenting itself as much more generic. Therefore, various stylistic effects are lost in the gameplay and during the movies that, in the original, they gave the illusion of playing the graphic novel. Situations such as the screen moving when a bazooka is fired, the change of vignettes in the movies and sound effects from "paper page" have been entirely removed in this re-release. The surprising thing is not so much what we have described, but the fact that XII looks even worse graphically. This is not only due to a visual sector not at the levels of a product for the eighth generation of gaming, but also to low resolution textures and others that literally disappear suddenly from our view. A pity, since in this way the work itself it loses most of its charm.
A generic and poorly maintained FPS
The remake of XIII is therefore divided into two main game modes: the single player campaign and multiplayer. Let's talk first of all about the main course, or the experience for offline players. As we mentioned in this review, the level design has remained unchanged from seventeen years ago. We find ourselves in a linear FPS from the longevity ranging from five to seven hours, in which our hero travels the world facing both action and stealth missions. The character obviously uses a powerful arsenal in his path, as well as a series of gadgets such as the grappling hook, but you can even use makeshift objects such as chairs or brooms to knock out your opponents, in case you want to avoid being heard or so as not to kill innocent people. We must then be careful and hide the bodies, given that there is a constant risk of a general alarm and the possible game over. Unfortunately, despite a relatively short duration, the videogame structure is particularly aged, which leads to a certain repetition being felt very quickly. Of course, within the maps you can find gods collectable that expand the lore of the franchise, but this is not enough to offer the right modernity to such a product. The same levels of difficulty present are indeed many, but they do not offer real differences, with the result of failure replayability by the user. To tell the truth, the title turns out a lot simple at any difficulty level, also thanks to the multitude of bullets and medkits scattered in large quantities for each stage. Fortunately, the level design proposed by Playmogic reproduces every corner of the original levels by wire and by sign, reconstructing them within the versatile engine Unity.
I merits end here, because everything else is a real one downgrade I respect the videogame of 2003. In addition to the graphic style we have already discussed, the gunplay of weapons is very interesting, not in a positive way. This is because each gun does not have any difference in their usability, so that the player does not have to be careful if he is checking a simple pistol or the machine gun on duty. Let's not talk about the enemies, who are not only practically all identical both in their models and in the reactions to our actions, but they barely feature artificial intelligence. We find ourselves in embarrassing situations such as shooting in the void, as well as in cases where it is possible to walk two steps away from them without being heard, often they remain motionless, duplicate themselves out of nowhere or more. Let's not talk about the no destructibility of the game environment, in which at most it is possible to damage the areas highlighted by the work.
Il volume mixing it is completely wrong, with music that is barely heard without headphones, weapons that occasionally have no noise or characters that change language at certain points. To finish, just know what the game features a lot of programming errors such as bugs, glitches, frequent crashes, characters that get stuck or disappear in the ground, triple hands for our XIII and much more. Some of these problems they even prevent the player from continuing in the adventure, forcing the latter to restart the short levels over and over again. Unfortunately, what we have described is not a problem due to the PlayStation 4 version we tested, but it is also present in all remaining editions currently released. We do not dare to imagine the situation of Nintendo Switch, which the publisher has wisely decided to postpone to 2021 for probable problems. Fortunately, the same is already working on several corrective patches, which we hope will fix the product making it more stable.
Not everything needs a remake
Le boss battle are the worst part of the original XIII tie-in, and in this remake they are somehow get worse still. The clashes with these great opponents are too simple and without any kind of challenge, as the player must fight a normal opponent simply more resistant. A real shame, also because such a remake has the ability to correct some of the small flaws of the original like this one. Do not consider the different times in which they fit together, leaving their removal easier than expected. However, let's not forget the multiplayer mode, which results here less full-bodied compared to seventeen years ago. The original featured multiple game modes both offline and online, some exclusive to select consoles, with up to sixteen players at the same time. In the remake of XIII we have only two of the six modes of the original, with no offline multiplayer support or what a chance to deal with the CPU.
In general this is the problem of the whole work, namely that the developers did not understand what made the original product so special and loved by users all over the world. However, it must be taken into account that this is the first video game never created by Playmagic, as well as all the complications due to the current global health emergency. Maybe though, this remake of XIII was not the right project to start with. When you go to touch a product so loved by the public, you need to be sure of what you are making and you need to know where to put your hands. Unfortunately Microids has entrusted this work to some young people who are perhaps still beginners, which unfortunately was not enough effort. All this gives the impression that - in a case like this - a remastered would have been the best solution, as it would have allowed the new generations to know a title that made the history of the genre.