Unit 13 Review

Unit 13 (Exclusively available on PlayStation Vita)
ESRB Rating: T
Players: 1-2
Genre: Tactical Shooter
Publisher: SCEA
Developer: Zipper Interactive
Release Date: March 6, 2012
PSN: Online Multiplayer
Download Size: 1.2GB

Parent Talk: Unit 13 is rated T for teen by the ESRB due to blood, drug reference, mild language, and violence.  The violence is realistic, and bodies twitch from the ragdoll physics, but there’s no gore. This is a tactical shooter.

Plays Like: SOCOM, Rainbow Six, etc.

Review Basis: Finished the 36 single-player missions, participated in many online co-op missions, eliminated more than half the high value targets and completed a series of dynamic single-player missions.

Zipper Interactive was a standout PS2 developer, enjoying critical and commercial success with SOCOM, and being the first to take Sony’s console online. Bring in the PS3, and Zipper has had a hard time retaining our respect, with MAG and SOCOM 4 not meeting expectations.  Taking a crack at a Vita game, Unit 13 is a fun tactical shooter, but sadly not as compelling as their previous work. 

The Great:

Perfect for on the go. Most missions last mere minutes, with quick loading and easy navigation.  This is how you create a portable, tactical shooter.

The Good:

+ Mission variety. Tough-as-nails elite missions that give a health meter, no checkpoints and challenging objectives along with stealth missions where one slip-up means game over…are here. Even timed missions require you to beat the clock, and direct action missions that confront you with expansive objectives give you gameplay variety.

+ Dynamic missions. Random objectives and difficulty keep you coming back, and offer a great alternative to the campaign.

+ Great weapons. Unlock attachments based on your character’s level, which increases based on your mission performance. Quick completion, high accuracy and eliminating all enemies are example conditions. Attachments include recoil stabilizers, silencers, and more.

+ Characters. There’s a healthy number of character options to choose from, each capable of reaching level 10, and bearing unique strengths and weaknesses.

+ Fun co-op. Make sure you join a party with a buddy, or you won’t be able to communicate.

+ Great touch screen use for switching sights, tossing grenades, and navigating the menu.

+ Constantly connected. You’ll know when your scores are overtaken, which keeps the pressure on you to achieve five-star ratings on missions.

+ Daily missions.  You have once chance to post to a daily leaderboard. You can retry the mission endlessly, but your score posts the moment you quit or finish.

+ High production values. Standout graphics, a solid soundtrack and more. Zipper gave Unit 13 the full 20-gun salute.

+ The closest to a console experience. Unit 13 plays just like a console shooter, a compliment to Zipper. Good job guys!

The So-So:

+/- Only nine unique environments.  Missions exploit different elements from the environments to try to keep things fresh, but repetition sets in before long.

+/- Repetitive objectives. Save civilian X, plant explosives; sabotage a plane engine, locate intelligence, etc.  Coupled with the issue above, you’ll quickly start to feel déjà vu.

The Bad:

– Enemy AI. Sometimes you can sneak by guards with no one the wiser, and other times your suppressed weapon is heard from a mile away. Or, they get stuck facing a wall or looking in the opposite direction of the action.

– Party interface. If you join others to play, you’re kicked out once returned to the main lobby. This needs completely reworked.

– No story. You’re out to eliminate high-ranking Awlaad al-Qowah targets, but the details that connect everything are never fleshed out.

– Enemy chitchatting. They’ll walk by and say “I wonder what’s on TV”, or, “I know you’re there” though they’re walking away.  These are bizarre comments.

The Ugly:

You’re advancing through a tough mission, only to have the game lock up and force a hard reset. This happened six times during my various gameplay sessions. U13 has been updated since launch, but with no help for this problem. Be warned!

The Lowdown:

Unit 13 shows us that tactical shooters can work on the Vita.  The online system needs refinement and the system-locking bugs must be fixed ASAP, but the core is excellent.  Add a story next time though.  For anyone wanting a solid tactical shooter, Unit 13 should fit the bill nicely.

Average Score Scale: 7.0 (+/- 0.5) out of 10

Personal Final Score: 7.5/10 (Inflated)

Reason for +0.5 Inflation: U13 is the closest we’ve come to a console tactical shooter on a portable.

Reason for -0.5 Deflation: The system-locking bugs affect the end of the game, and the online interface is cumbersome.   

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