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Unit 13 – PlayStation Vita

Unit 13 – PlayStation Vita

box artPlatform: PlayStation Vita

Developer: Zipper Interactive

Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment (SCE)

Release Date: March 6th, 2012

Genre: Third Person Shooter

Nerd Rating: 7.5/10

Reviewed By: Steroid Gamer

Unit 13 is the swan song for developer Zipper Interactive seeing as the studio was closed shortly after the game’s release (Zipper shut down on March 30th, 2012).  While, it may not be the studio’s best game, it’s a quality title for the PS Vita and once again Zipper Interactive flexes their military shooter muscles and delivers (at its highs) a tense, hard, and thought-provoking shooter. Even in Unit 13’s worst moments it’s still a great pick up-and-go shooter that any Vita fan can enjoy.

Dude's name is "Python". That's legit.

Dude’s name is “Python”. That’s legit.

Unit 13’s premise is pretty simple.  There are six operatives, that allegedly, have different strengths and weakness, and you go on 36 different missions to try and stop some terrorists.  There really isn’t a story mode at all and the game’s setup is more about completing missions with a quick pre-mission synopsis of your assignment.  Of the 36 missions there are four types of missions you can go on.  Direct Action, which are more varied and a “bag of everything” type of missions, Elite Missions which are harder in nature featuring a non-regenerating health bar, which is only present in these missions, and features no checkpoints.  Then there are the Deadline missions, which require you to complete the level as quickly as possible, and finally the Covert missions which need to be completed in complete stealth.

Each operative has different traits that are “supposed” to help cater them towards specific types of missions.  For example, the Marksman and the Infiltrator are best used for the stealth missions, while the Commando and the Technician are more suited for the Direct Action missions where multiple varieties of objectives come up.  There’s nothing wrong with any of the six specialists. However, as you progress through the game and level up each character they get access to each other’s weapons and loadouts. So, if you want, you can really play through the whole game with two of your favorite characters instead of rotating out all six. Before each mission the game will automatically recommend a specified operative for you to use, but this can easily be ignored, and in some cases should be.  Unit 13 tries to add variety by mixing up the operatives you get to play as, but the more time you spend with the game the more you’ll realize that each operative is more than capable of completing each mission on their own.



Now, let’s talk about the mission types. First up, is the Covert missions which were my personal favorite.  The name might seem to give away the objective and it does.  You have to enter each map and complete all the objectives in complete stealth.   If you alert an enemy you’d better take them out quickly or it’s a mission failure.  In-game objectives range from collecting enemy Intel, diffusing bombs, planting explosives, or taking out key enemy leaders.  The stealth missions were by far the best part of Unit 13 providing intense, extreme missions where one wrong step could result in a mission failure.  Sneaking in and out of enemies’ line of sight, avoiding cameras, and diffusing enemy traps such as mines and trip wires provide a great break-up to the rest of Unit 13’s typical kill everyone in sight action.  Stealth missions are best played slow and thoughtful, and at times, felt like it could go toe to toe with some of the best stealth genre video games such as Splinter Cell and the Hitman franchise.

sniperDirect Action missions are built with more of a “Jack of all trades” setup.  Mission objectives aren’t varied across the four different modes; rather each mission just pulls a random objective from the same “hat” of mission objectives.  Again you could be collecting Intel, planting bombs, or killing key-enemy opponents.  However, Direct Action missions feature many checkpoints and are the longest missions in the game, but they can be very forgiving.  The exact opposite should be said for Elite missions which will test your patience and skill. Elite missions have no checkpoints and give players a non-regenerating health bar.  The other game modes allow the player to recuperate their health by taking cover or backing off the offense a bit, a common feature in most third-person shooters.  Elite missions can have some tension to them knowing that one mistake could result in your body being lit up by bullets, but for the most part the tension is unwelcome.  These missions are shorter and more about trial and error than anything else.  The more you fail the more you’ll memorize the enemy locations and patterns, but you’ll also find your patience getting tested more and more as the slightest mistake could send you back to the beginning of the whole mission.

Finally, there are the Deadline missions which require you to speed through each mission in a race against the clock, and were the worst part of Unit 13.  Not only are they just not fun, but Unit 13’s gameplay system works best when you take things slow, hiding behind cover and assessing each situation, then acting accordingly.  Deadline missions force you to play like “Rambo” and while you probably won’t die often, due to the over powered thug character the game recommends you play Deadline with, the overbearing pressure of the ticking clock just feels like too much.

Fighting "terrorists" is about the only backstory Unit 13 gives you.

Fighting “terrorists” is about the only backstory Unit 13 gives you.

The soundtrack isn’t really anything to talk about, but the sound effects are absolutely phenomenal.  The clicking of footsteps on the pebble covered ground, or the weight-clunky sounds of the soldiers carrying all their equipment, the game’s sound effects had a surreal amount of realism and set the mood perfectly.  Each gun sounds perfect and feels like there’s a real punch behind each weapon.  The blasting BOOM from the shotgun feels satisfying each time you pop off a shot, and the squishy pop sound that’s heard each time you take out an enemy with a sniper rifle is one of the more satisfying moments in all of Unit 13.  Zipper Interactive has made a ton of military based shooters and this is displayed with great extent in Unit 13.

The level design itself was varied and maps ranged from close quarter, linear sections to more opened up layouts that featured multiple levels.  Building structures had basements, upstairs sections and ground levels that all helped in providing strategy in each combat encounter.  The maps themselves tended to repeat over the course of the 36 missions.  I think there were about 5 different maps in total in terms of locations, but variety was added to each map by opening or closing certain sections of the map based on the mission.   So while, there was a limited amount of different maps, sections in the maps themselves were constantly being rotated out, so you only visit the exact same location a few times over.  It’s both beneficial and irritating at the same time.  It’s beneficial because if you already know the layout of the map, then you are better suited to complete your objective.  However, it is also irritating to see some of the same sections, particularly the less friendly layouts, pop up on multiple occasions.  It’s not a deal breaker, but Unit 13 could have gone a lot further with more unique maps.

Take on enemies with a buddy in tag team action!

Take on enemies with a buddy in tag team action!

The shooting itself is very responsive and user friendly.  I had my doubts being that this game was on the PS Vita, but Unit 13 plays and feels like a great AAA console release shooter.  Enemy AI is very alert and smart and you won’t be able to get away with sloppy play.  Unit 13 is rewarding to those who play things safely, quietly, and thoughtfully.  It will punish you if you run around guns blazing and don’t assess your surroundings ahead of time.  Unit 13 shines when these moments arise, but they only arise if you choose to play the game this way.  Sadly, there isn’t really anything in the game to tell you or encourage you to play a certain way.  The only cue you have to play the game “smarter” is the constant failure you’ll receive from playing things too risky.

Each mission gives you a ranking based on your performance awarding 5 stars for “supreme performance”.  The more stars you get the more High Value Targets (HVT’s) you’ll unlock.  HVT missions are separate missions from the previous mentioned 36.  These missions are all “kill the target” missions.  These are longer and harder missions with no checkpoints, so you’ll have to bring your “A” game if you want to eliminate all the HVT terrorists.  While these missions provide a welcome challenge and a welcome reward for doing well in the game’s main 36 missions, the frustration from failure comes along with it.  These missions can take up to 25-30 minutes long and if you make it all the way to the end of the map, where the HVT is always hiding, only to be killed by the last guy standing, your sent back to the start of the whole mission.  Unit 13 is tough because of how unforgiving it can be, and if you’re looking for a tough shooter than Unit 13 is a welcoming challenge, but this game can also be easily off putting to those looking for a more casual experience.

This dude has no idea what's beneath his feet.

This dude has no idea what’s beneath his feet.

If you want there is an option to play all of the missions in online co-op however, the co-op suffers from the same viruses that plague other third person shooters.  If you play with a competent teammate then the missions are fairly simply and straightforward.  However, if you’re paired with a complete numbskull you’ll be lucky to make it five minutes into the mission.  On top of that the co-op missions aren’t unique from the 36 missions offered in the single player mode.  They are the same missions with; as far as I could tell the same enemy count, you just get to take these on with a buddy.  There are also leaderboards for you to compare your scores on and there are daily missions to partake in as well if that floats your boat.

Unit 13 is a military shooter that provides a top notch third person shooter experience on the Vita.  It looks great and features some unique and varied level design which forces you to stay on your feet.  The sound effects are some of the best you’ll ever hear in a military shooter, and the game can be painfully punishing if you don’t play “the right way”.  Unit 13’s difficulty will be welcoming to some and equally as polarizing to others for being too hard.  The six operatives are, according to the game, different and can handle different situations better based on the individual, but you can beat the whole game with two of the same characters if you like.  There are some throw in extras like leaderboards and playing each mission in co-op.  Overall, Unit 13 provides an amazing, realistic military shooter experience with shorter mission structure that will fit perfectly on the go, but also has some longer, tense driven missions that work great for sitting at home and shooting some badies while you’re on the couch.  If you own a Vita and want a though provoking, challenging shooter then Unit 13 is right down your alley.  It can be pretty challenging at times, but don’t let that push you away if you’re looking for a more casual experience because Unit 13 can provide that as well.


Written by Sean Collins

Sean Collins

Sean Collins (aka Steroid Gamer) started playing video games when he was 8 years old. His first console was a Nintendo 64 and his first game was Mario Kart 64. He fell in love immediately and has been playing games ever since.

My current systems include; N64, Gameboy Color, Gamecube, Wii, 3DS, PS3, Vita, PS4, Xbox One and Xbox 360.

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