Sony wasted no time bringing a third person shooter to PlayStation Vita, putting the system's analog sticks to good use with Unit 13, a game from SOCOM creator Zipper Interactive. While revolutionary content is few and far between, this by the numbers frag fest offers players a great escape into the world of covert ops, where splattering high value targets' brains is the norm.
That said, the developers put the focus squarely on the gameplay, which we found refreshing. No need for long-winded speeches or poorly animated cut scenes starring stereotypical army guys. Instead, the game sticks to the basics. You play as one of several members of an elite squad of bad asses named after the 13th card in the tarot deck, AKA the death card. Your job? Kill terrorists. Lots of them.
Based on that simple premise, you set off through 45 missions, either alone or with a buddy via online co-op, rushing in guns blazing, picking off dudes from a much safer distance or sneaking around, Solid Snake style, introducing scumbags to the business end of your combat knife. In fact, some missions force you to take a much stealthier route, where getting spotted means game over.
On that note, Zipper encourages you to kill with skill, where executing a string of consecutive melee attacks or head shots builds your multiplier and goes toward your overall mission rating, designated by a number of gold stars. The better you perform, the bigger chance of leveling up and unlocking new talents, weapons and attachments.
The controls, meanwhile, are what you'd expect from this type of game, where hitting a button sends your chosen warrior into cover, while squeezing the left trigger instructs him to aim down the iron sights. As for the dual sticks, one maneuvers the soldier, while the other adjusts the camera.
There are touch screen elements, none of which get in the way of mowing down evildoers. If anything, they enhance the experience, as you tap the Vita's screen to toggle aiming, chuck grenades, reload, pick up weapons and even revive your partner; what a bum.
It's all quite satisfying, despite some inconsistent artificial intelligence and Vita's wobbly triggers getting in the way.
Then we have the social integration. There are leaderboards, of course, but also a feature called the Daily Challenge, a 24-hour mission where players the world over complete to see which grizzled gaming vet can take the top spot.
As we mentioned, though, Unit 13 lacks personality. Not only that, but it feels like a ten-year-old PlayStation 2 game, or at the very least, a more methodical version of Bizarre Creations' The Club, by no means a bad thing. After all, it is a launch window game, and considering some of the others languishing on store shelves, this title definitely satisfies.
With this in mind, don't turn your back on it. Although Unit 13 has one foot deeply rooted in the past, the challenging missions and online connectivity will you keep you coming back. Our advice? Keep those trigger fingers itchy.
Review copy provided by Sony.
What's Hot: Six operatives to choose from, 45 entertaining and increasingly difficult missions, online co-op, Daily Challenges, leaderboards.
What's Not: Inconsistent A.I., does little we haven't seen before, no competitive multiplayer.