In the world of video game collectors (and collectors in general) there is something called a “white whale”. An elusive game or an item that you just can’t get your hands on. Sometimes it’s too expensive and sometimes you can’t find anyone willing to sell it. The original XIII was the reason why I made a GOG account back in the days. I was keen on buying it the next morning and in a strange twist of fate, it was removed from their store the next day. So that was a closed chapter in my story – until recently. Not only did the original version of XIII appeared on Steam, but Microids also announced that they’re working on a remake of it, so here we are. And why do I have a killer PC if I’m not going to check out the shiny new remake first, so join me and see what have they improved.
XIII was based on a Belgian graphic novel and it mostly follows the same story. You wake up on a beach with no memory of who you are and with a strange tattoo on your collarbone. Despite the amnesia, you soon realize that you poses the reflexes of a highly trained hitman. Coincidentally, a certain president has been murdered and it seems like you played some party in that. And just like that, while knowing nothing about yourself, you set on a path to get some answers, unravel the conspiracy and leave a trail of cell-shaded bodies behind you.
Yes, cell-shaded bodies. When it came out, the original XIII had this cell shading gimmick that made the game stand out from the rest. It was like you actually played the graphic novel with onomatopeia visuals and comic style blood splatters. Sadly (for reasons I have yet to understand), the cell shading is significantly toned down in the remake. The colors are washed out and I haven’t even touched upon the gameplay yet. And where do I even start? If there is one thing the developers added in the remake, it’s the bugs. Lots of it. I witnessed the enemy AI randomly going into the braindead mode and just blankly staring at me. Enemies being completely oblivious to their friend dying and screaming AAAAAAAAAH next to them. Once I picked up a civilian as a shield and couldn’t get rid of them until the end of the level. At one point one enemy is supposed to fire a bazooka into a cottage and create an escape route for me. The bazooka was fired, however, the cottage wall was never destroyed and I had to restart a whole level to fix that. The enemies also have crazy pinpoint accuracy regardless of the game difficulty and despite that, they will often run in circles around you even though they feel have to stand still if they want to shoot at you. AI is a complete mess.
I could maybe stomach the game if the washed-out colors and toned down cell shading is all the bad I could find in it. Unfortunately, the fun didn’t stop there. Sometimes the textures wouldn’t load and sometimes they would get insanely stretched out, like once I witnessed an unconscious NPC growing in size so much that they stretched through a whole level. Granted there were some good looing locations here and there, but it was hard to pay attention to most of them when you are fighting with the visual bugs in each level.
And something similar could be said for the audio. While I could hear music and sound effect in the cutscenes, they would often be nonexistent during the gameplay. Can you guess why? Yep, another one of the bugs. Often the audio would randomly die and you could only hear every third sound effect (with a slight delay). Sometimes the guns would stop making sounds and I’d often see enemies yelling at me. Emphasis on seeing only. If I didn’t know better, I would think that I’m starting to develop some hearing problems. But nope, the only thing that’s being developed here is a rather disappointing game.
This is the part where I usually recommend or don’t recommend the game that I’m reviewing. But seeing how incredibly disappointing this remake has been, I’ll do something different now. I’ll recommend a different game. So if you looked at the screenshots of this XIII and still think there might be something here, do yourself a favour and play the original XIII instead. It’s sad that a 17-year-old game still runs better (and with some mods looks better) and has better visuals and gameplay that its remake. The remake currently holds the “overwhelmingly negative” title on Steam store page. But I guess that’s where we are now. Also, at the time of writing this, Microids released a statement on their site saying how they’re aware of the issues and they will work relentlessly to fix the game. Though, I’m not sure that even a hundred fixes and patches could salvage the game. Maybe a new remake of the remake would do?
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