Unit 13 is a third-person shooter developed by Zipper Interactive, the studio behind the PSP SOCOM games and MAG on the PS3. The back story is that this special forces unit, known as Unit 13, put together in secret by NATO in an effort to prevent, suppress and deny asylum to any individual or group who employs terrorism, and their objective is to eradicate terrorism through military force and the gathering of intelligence.
Within the game, You control one of six Special Forces operatives, each with their own special abilities and skills, from stealth and sniping to dealing heavy damage with big guns. As you progress through the missions, you’ll be rewarded with experience, which unlocks the talents of the operatives that you use. Using the PS Vita front touch screen, you can simply tap and choose which of the special forces operatives you want to take into a mission, making sure they are equipped with the right weaponry before you deploy them out to service. The game gives you a recommendation on your selection, the ideal operative for a given mission, but at the end of the day the decision is yours.
There are 45 missions set across various different locations for you to try and complete. These missions may see you assassinating high value targets, rescuing journalists, or collecting various documents to obtain Intel. Some of the missions can last a fair while, whilst others are pretty easy going and can be over very quickly.
The game can be played either solo or co-operatively with a friend.
There are four different types of missions to take on. the Direct Action missions will be fairly familiar to shooter fans as they will involve a number of different objectives and the player is free to approach them in any order they wish. Stealth still plays an important part in these missions as being detected early on can make things very difficult for the player. There is a decent tutorial which teaches you everything you need to know, such as how to use stealth and cover, killing enemies from behind, or shooting lasers and cameras to avoid being detected.
The deadline missions are more time based, where you have to head into a dangerous environment and complete your mission before the time runs out. If you manage to find the required check points, your time limit is extended and you get to breathe a sigh of relief, if only for a few seconds. These missions are particularly tense and may take several play-throughs to find the perfect route.
The Covert missions are specifically stealth based and you have to complete without being caught. This means setting off no alarms at all. If you’re spotted by the enemy you have to eliminate them straight away before they can alert their men. These missions tend to be all about finding the best route to the objective, making use of cover and enemy patrol routes.
The Elite missions raise the bar and consist of multiple objectives that need to be fulfilled. Things are made more difficult because the operatives health only regenerates upon reaching certain checkpoints, making extended points of conflict particularly troublesome.
Each of the missions you complete will see you rewarded with stars to show just how well you used your skills. If you only manage to complete the minimum number of objectives, then you will only get the one star. However, completing all objectives will result in five stars for mission, but will be a challenge for many gamers. All of the missions can be completed solo, but there is also the option to team up in co-op mode with a friend. Sadly, there is no competitive multiplayer included.
Each of your special Forces operatives receive bonuses when they eventually level up, so there is a great benefit to try and level each of them up as individuals. Collecting stars unlocks the High Value Target mode in which you to engage in manhunts that essentially act as boss battles. This mode is extremely difficult and you’ll need to earn many stars in your missions, because a new high value target level only opens up after every twenty stars you are awarded. Unit 13 also offers a daily challenge, which is updated every 24 hours and gives the player a chance to complete the mission of the day and then compare their score with other players from around the world. These daily missions are very difficult, but highly enjoyable.
The controls are fairly straight forward, with the left stick for movement and the right stick for aiming/looking around. The right shoulder button fires the equipped weapon, whilst the left is used to target. You can swap your weapon out by using the triangle button, the X button is used to sprint and the square initiates a melee attack. The weapons are simple to use, and flash bangs can be used by tapping on the touchscreen, which will bring up an arrow showing where the flash bang will land, making it easy to throw them through windows.
There are a nice range of weapons and the layout of the levels mean that the player has plenty of choice as to how they approach each mission. Avoid guards,sneak up behind them and take them out with melee or shoot them from a distance in an attempt to drop them quickly with a head-shot. Find alternate routes that avoid security such as lasers or cameras, or just destroy them from behind cover. The missions are very replayable as there always seem to be a better way of doing things.
Unit 13 is very much aimed at the more strategically minded gamer, those who don’t mind using caution. Players who are happier running into a situation with guns blazing may find the missions over very quickly. That being said, some of the missions require both speed and caution, resulting in some seriously frustrating moments. The early missions are not too difficult, the things very quickly become harder.
The quick mission structure makes Unit 13 the perfect shooter for gamers on the go, making it an ideal match for the Vita. There have been a number of stability problems with the game since launch, but hopefully they will all be fixed soon with a patch (the first patch didn’t seem to address every problem). The lack of competitive multi-player is a shame, and something that will likely put off many of the SOCOM fans who were looking forward to something similar. But if you are in the mood for some tactical shooting action on your new Vita console, you cannot go wrong with Unit 13.