With Unit 13 being the first 3rd person shooter on the Vita, Zipper had a great opportunity to put that second analog stick to the test, and I am glad to say that they did a great job.
In Unit 13 you take control of a group of highly skilled soldiers trying to take down a terrorist organization known as the Awlaad Al-Qowah (try saying that 10 times fast). As anyone who has played a 3rd person shooter on a handheld before knows that while it might have technically worked, it just never felt right without that second analog stick to control aiming and the camera. With Unit 13 being the first 3rd person shooter on the Vita, Zipper had a great opportunity to put that second analog stick to the test, and I am glad to say that they did a great job.
Anyone who is familiar with Zipper’s past works with the SOCOM series should have no problem getting used to the controls of Unit 13. Using the left stick to control movement, the right stick to control the camera and aiming when the L button is held down, and the R button to shoot works well and is in line with what everyone is used to when playing third person shooters on consoles. Since the Vita analog sticks are shorter than the PS3′s you might find that sometimes when zooming in or aiming at inanimate objects (like cameras or bombs) it can be a little difficult to line up your shot correctly. While shooting at enemies you probably won’t have a problem since the game does use an effective auto lock function to help you aim quickly at your foes. Since it is a Vita game there is some touch controls involved, although most of them are optional and the ones that aren’t, such as interacting with objectives and vaulting over objects, are easily done by touching icons on the left and right of the screen. One cool implementation for the back touch is swiping to change the shoulder you are aiming from, which is quicker and easier to use then pressing a button.
The members of Unit 13 are composed of six different operatives: Ringo the Infiltrator, Alabama the Marksman, Animal the Commando, Chuckles the Technician, Zeus the Pointman, and Python the Gunner. Besides having different equipment each operative has different stats and therefore are better suited for different situations and playing styles. Each mission suggests the character that best suits the objectives but you are free to use whichever character you wish. Like most shooters these days a level system has been implemented for each operative with your final score at the end of each mission being used as your characters experience. Each level your operatives gain unlocks new weapons, gear, and bonuses for themselves and sometimes gear and weapons for the whole group. Having a level system adds that addictive progression quality of trying to max out your characters, and in the process being able to submit higher scores to compete with your friends and make five staring those later levels a bit easier.
The game presents you with 36 missions laid out in a grid format, so when you finish a level you not only unlock the next mission number wise you also unlock the mission below it in the grid. This is really useful to always have at least a choice of two different levels if you get stuck on one or would rather play a different type of mission. Before starting a mission you are told the type of the mission, your objectives, the difficulty level (easy, medium, hard, or specialist) and the level length (short, medium or long) so you always have a general idea of what you are getting into before you start. So if you only have those couple of minutes to play you can pick a shorter easier mission that you will be able to play through in that amount of time. After completing a level you get graded one to five stars and if you score a three or higher you unlock the corresponding dynamic mission. These dynamic missions offer the same location and type but randomize the difficulty and objectives. After collecting so many stars you can unlock a High Value Targets (HVT’s) mission. These missions task you with taking down a key member of the terrorist organization and usually pose the hardest challenges of the game. Also each day (for at least a year) a new daily mission is available. These missions are similar to the dynamic missions, but you can only complete them once. These missions have their own leaderboards associated with them and are a great way to pull you back in each day to compete on the leaderboards and gain more experience for your characters. Overall with the 36 regular missions, 9 HVT’s, daily challenges, and technically unlimited dynamic missions the game has a lot of content within that should keep you busy for a while.
There are four different mission types contained in the game: Direct Action is your standard objective based missions, Deadline where you have a timer and have to complete objectives as quickly as possible, Covert which are stealth missions that end if you set off an alarm and get extra points for not killing enemies, and Elite where there are no checkpoints and you have a health bar instead of regenerating health. You play these missions in eight different locations that are fairly large. Overall this gives a good range of mission types and areas so things don’t get old too quickly. To finish each level you must complete the objectives set for you, but the real focus (and fun) of the game is trying to complete each mission with the highest score possible. You gain points for every enemy you kill, bomb/sensor/camera you disable, and objective you complete. Also each operative has different ways to achieve point bonuses on kills, such as Alabama’s long shot bonus for eliminating enemies at 20 meters or greater or Zeus’s red-line bonus for eliminating enemies while low on health. To achieve the best scores you must play to the strength of each operatives bonuses and take advantage of the multiplier and streak systems. To show off those high scores to your friends and the world the game contains a wide array of leaderboards. Each individual mission, daily mission, and overall score contains friend, near, region and global leaderboards. Just a word of caution though you cannot submit a level score that is played while not connected to PSN, although it will still contribute to your overall score…
You don’t have to take on the Awlaad alone as the game supports two player online co-op for all 36 regular and dynamic missions. While playing co-op a few things change such as sharing streaks and multipliers and the elimination of checkpoints. You also now have the ability to revive your co-op partner if they happen to get killed, though if both of you go down you have to restart the mission all together. While there doesn’t seem to be many people playing online these days, once I did find someone I was able to join and start playing with no problems. Everything played well online and it was fun to take on the missions as a team. I did notice some stuttering of my co-op partner, but nothing serious enough to impact the fun.
A couple of problems that I did have with the game was with the AI and loading times. While the AI was pretty aggressive most of the time once they had spotted you, I found they gave up a little too easy once you hid from them. Also enemies never seemed to react properly to the environment. Routinely enemies never seemed to care about the dead bodies of their fellow guards. Or after smoke dissipated from a smoke bomb they acted like everything was normal not wondering where it came from. When it comes to loading you are looking at between 30-35 seconds to load a level. While this isn’t extensive , it is fairly long for a handheld especially when some levels can be as short as a few minutes. To restart a level manually or when you fail takes only a couple of seconds though.
While Unit 13 isn’t really the type of game that I would usually play, when I heard that the game was focused on achieving high scores my interest was piqued. While I did experience some minor problems I thoroughly enjoyed playing the numerous missions and tackling each situation trying to find the best strategy to achieve the highest score.
A copy of this game was purchased for review purposes. For more info on our review policy click here. This review is for the PlayStation Vita version of the game.
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Release Date:March 2012
Price:$35.99, £29.99/€34.99, ¥3900