XIII Remake Review: Certainly Feels Like 2003
Remakes have been quite popular lately, with the likes of Resident Evil 2, Resident Evil 3, and Final Fantasy 7 Remake standing out. These have largely succeeded because not only are the original versions great, but the remakes themselves have modernized these titles to provide new experiences while also keeping the spirit of the originals alive.
2020’s XIII doesn’t really seem to fulfill either of these roles. Granted, I never played the original XIII back in 2003, but this remake absolutely feels like a game from 2003 — and not in a good way.
XIII Remake Review: Certainly Feels Like 2003
The story is probably the best part of XIII, and it’s a decent thriller. You play as a man named XIII who has lost his memory and must uncover a global conspiracy. That's about it, but it does the job admirably.
What hampers the experience is the game's awful graphics. The original XIII was lauded for its unique cel-shaded style, something that adds a certain charm to it even now. However, in an attempt to modernize the remake, the cel-shaded style in 2020's version looks like it was completely smoothed over. Honestly, calling it “cel-shading” feels like kind of a stretch.
The only aesthetical aspect of the XIII remake that remotely resembles the old art style is the somewhat thick black outlines found on every character model. Otherwise, the creative direction is lost, and every character looks like they could be a skin from Fortnite. The sharp corners and blockiness that defined the original’s art style are just gone.
I wouldn’t have that much of a problem with the game if it was just ugly, but the gameplay doesn’t feel right either.
There are a variety of different weapons at your disposal, including pistols, revolvers, crossbows, harpoons guns, and sniper rifles. You can even pick up rocket-propelled grenade launchers from enemies you kill. On top of all that, there are throwables like regular grenades and knives.
Although it's strange that throwables are treated as a primary weapon rather than a secondary weapon like almost all modern games do.
To switch between everything, there is a weapon wheel, and in order to use throwables, you have to select them from the wheel. The problem is that it also puts away your main firearm. Having to perform such a switch just to throw a grenade slows the action and ruins the flow of combat, especially when there are multiple enemies coming at you.
To add some variation to combat, there are some sections where stealth is mandatory, and you're not allowed to kill any enemies, and in some areas, you can also hide enemy bodies so they aren't seen by others. But this mechanic isn't as nearly fleshed out the way other modern franchises, like Dishonored, have iterated on it.
All of the levels on offer are pretty linear, with some deviations here and there. There's an objective marker that you can activate to see where you're supposed to go next, but about half the time, it doesn't respond.
Since XIII is a shooter, I can understand the appeal of mindless shooting action, and I expected fun, all-out gunfights going into this review, but the whole experience is hampered by the fact that guns don’t feel impactful. The shooting feels flat and unsatisfying, and the framerate is absolutely awful during many combat encounters.
The enemy AI isn’t very smart either. In my time with the game, enemies' backs would be turned toward me when I'd enter a room, or enemies would be moving backward while aiming away from me.
NPCs would also sometimes clip into walls. One prison officer I spoke to opened a door in front of me and half of the character model just merged into the wall next to it. Another time, I opened a door to a room, and the entire floor was missing. I stepped forward and fell through it, which forced me to restart from my most recent checkpoint.
On top of that, the save system isn't great. XIII has a generous amount of checkpoints, and I assumed that I could exit the game and pick up at my last checkpoint. Unfortunately, I was wrong. When I returned and selected “continue," I had to start an entire level over again.
XIII has two multiplayer modes, Deathmatch and Team Deathmatch, but there are only three maps available right now. It looks like the game is only available in local multiplayer, and since I don't know anyone else who's playing the game, I didn't get the opportunity to try it out. I live alone, and of course, I'd rather not invite anyone over during a real-world pandemic.
Despite that, I did boot up the multiplayer to give a shot. Unfortunately, it's prone to glitches too. I immediately ran into a bug where the character selection screen didn't even pop up — no matter what I tried. I was stuck looking at a gray background with the game's music continuously playing. Based on those factors alone, I can already tell that the local multiplayer isn’t really worth writing home about — if you can even get into it.
For a game branding as a remake, it's baffling how nearly 17 years of gameplay innovations didn't make it in. The gameplay could have been drastically updated with modern mechanics from shooters like Call of Duty and stealth games like Hitman. You can completely overhaul the gameplay while also keeping the spirit of the original intact. 2020's plethora of remakes has shown this.
XIII Remake Review — The Bottom Line
- Story is halfway decent
- Some variation in mission objectives through stealth only and no-kill sections
- Awful new art direction
- Lots of glitches
- Dumb AI
- Guns lack impact
To be fair, developer PlayMagic and publisher Microids put out a press statement saying that they’re working to improve the game and have already put out a patch addressing some of the game's issues. But honestly, XIII never should have been released in this state in the first place.
I’m not entirely sure what players can gain from this that they couldn’t from playing the original. A remaster would’ve been a better use of time than a remake with butchered art direction, which was the original’s biggest selling point.
The bottom line is that this remake isn’t a very good experience. The original XIII is on Steam for around $2 to $6 depending on the time of year. Just pick that up instead.
[Note: Microids provided the copy of XIII used for this review.]