+ Customization options
+ Multiplayer integration
- Closed levels
- Story lacks any original touch
Final score: 8.5 / 10
A working PlayStation Vita handheld
Unit 13 is a straight up third-person shooter with stealth game elements that Sony published for their new PlayStation Vita handheld, with the actual development work done by Zipper Interactive, team best known for their work on the SOCOM series of games on the PlayStation 2 and 3 home consoles and on the original PlayStation Portable.
Their experience is clearly visible in Unit 13, which is in many ways a kind of SOCOM with the serial numbers filled off.
Players get to choose a character (the variety is certainly a welcome sight) and a load out, and they can then tackle more than 30 single-player missions, each with a layout and a set of objectives, some relying on a more direct approach while others tend to play more to the advantage of the stealthy gamer, even though all of them are very much linear
Once a mission is in progress, the controls in Unit 13 are pretty standard and work well, apart from the fact that all environmental interactions are powered by the touschscreen and require a hand to be moved away from the controls, which feels unnatural.
One thing that stands out is the relative skill of the enemies, who move around quickly and tend to quickly get into cover when they notice the player.
They also proved to be deadly in those instances when I was surprised out of cover or moved too fast through a level without bothering to check the wonderful map (the stealth and military theme of Unit 13 is a little at odds with the very detailed maps included).
As the player goes through the level, he gets points for completing objectives and for the way he takes out enemies and these are fed into a class leveling system, which opens up weapons and items that can then be used in upcoming missions.
The environments in Unit 13 seem to be pretty open at first glance, but they are actually rather linear and there’s rarely more than one way of approaching each tactical challenge with each of the included characters.
The game encourages gamers to replay each level in as many ways as possible using the cast of characters and different load-outs, in order to get more experience and unlock even more content to play around with.
The leaderboard component can quickly become addictive to those who aim to get a perfect missions score and Unit 13 also offers cooperative and competitive multiplayer matches.
The Vita design is serviceable for the shooter space, but after more than about one hour of playing Unit 13 my hands felt ready to cramp and I was begging for something that made better use of the touchscreen.
Battle is engaged
One big problem is the fact that the developers at Zipper were compelled to include touch as much as possible in the gamer although the mechanics really do not call out for it.
Unit 13 is impressive when it comes to the graphics department and really manages to show off what the PlayStation Vita is capable of in this area.
The colors are crisp, the characters have a lot of detail and the environments look just as good as something one might see on current home console.
The only clear limitation seems to be linked to the number of enemies that can be on screen at the same time but that manages to mesh well with the theme of the game.