From the developers of SOCOM we are presented with our first military shooter for the Playstation Vita. Now Zipper Interactive has had pretty moderate success with SOCOM games on the PSP and this is their first launch on the Vita and they really manage to show their portable experience. Unit 13 manages to utilize the controls on the Vita to come up with a fun shooter on the go experience that manages to have great control, fun mission, and maintain momentum all the way through.
Unit 13 follows a very simple layout. There is no real narrative to speak of as you are just playing through a number of missions as different members of a special ops group known as Unit 13. Each character has a different class layout such as stealth or marksman and each mission has different objectives and methods of execution. For instance some missions require you to sneak through without being seen while others just have you trying to run and gun in a certain amount of time or just completing objectives and playing as you see fit. As you play through the game and complete missions, even more levels are opened up. It’s a simple and effective way to lay out a portable shooter.
Each mission has a five star rating attached to it and you are graded on how well you complete each mission. Luckily none of the missions are that long which works great for a game you would be playing on the go. With the more stars you earn you unlock bonus missions where you have to go into a level and eliminate a high value target like bounty hunting. These missions are usually a little more difficult and may take more fines to maneuver through. Each mission in the game you have the option of playing through cooperatively with a friend or stranger online but this also cranks up the difficulty. An added feature is a daily challenge which is a very difficult level that is new every day and you have to run through it and try to get the highest score for the leader board.
The game controls the way you would expect a standard third person shooter to play. The game allows you to play all levels with stealth or to just go loud but it’s always helpful to play stealth as long as you can. There is a cover system that feels pretty snappy but sometimes depending on which way you are facing the game may have trouble trying to tell which object you are trying to jump behind. The shooting feels great and the only complaint I can make is that the camera angle is a little too close sometimes and I wish you could back it out a little. Aiming and shooting is done with the triggers and there is also a blind fire and first person aim. Most other commands such as melee are done with the face buttons but there are a few touch screen controls. Interacting with objects or vaulting cover are all done on the touch screen but the touch options are made easily accessible and you never find yourself stretching to reach them. All of the menus are also navigated with touch controls and feel very quick to the touch. As you play through each level your characters gain experience and unlock new weapons that can be used for each mission just adding a little more depth to the way you can approach levels.
Unit 13 is a great looking game. The characters are all well made and the level designs have a nice variety of what you would expect in a military game. You will fight across hangers, warehouses, and Middle Eastern sands. Character animations are smooth and shooting dudes actually feels like shooting dudes. One thing that seems odd but became kind of funny later on is the fact that all of the enemies in every level are the same models. It’s understandable given the limited scope of the game but in a game where every mission seems like they are unrelated it becomes almost comical thinking that there is just this one terrorist organization that keeps getting foiled by the same team. Oh the missed opportunities.
Unit 13 is a game full of number overlays. Every time you perform and objective or take down an enemy an experience point number is popping up. It reminded me of the numbers popping up in Borderlands just not that much of an extreme. It was always so satisfying to watch my character gun down a terrorist and see a number value added to my headshot. It was things like that that kept me coming back just wanting to rack up more experience points.
Unit 13 had me hooked right from the beginning. It’s the only game of its kind on the Vita so far and feels right for the handheld. There are enough missions to last a while and trying to outrank your friends and top the leaderboards is a sure fire way to keep you coming back. If you aren’t interested in competing with friends then there is still plenty here to spark your interest. It’s a solid shooter with a lot of replay value and feels extremely accomplishing. The lack of any real narrative was kind of a disappointment at first but after jumping into the game it didn’t bother me at all as I was having too much fun giving terrorists the business.
Zipper Interactive has taken their experience with the PSP and cranked up their flair to produce an excellent hand held shooter. If you are a Vita owner and you love action games then Unit 13 is a must have. With great mechanics and a functioning online co-op there is a lot of fun and many hours to spend with this great title. I couldn’t put the game down and I expect to keep revisiting it for a while.