Zipper Interactive of SOCOM makes their debut appearance on the PlayStation VITA with the Third Person Tactical Stealth…ish Shooter Unit 13. Is the VITA’s first real shooter worth the pick up? Or should you let this one sneak by unnoticed?
Unit 13 puts you in the shoes of one of six characters. Each character has a unique set of skills, weapon load outs and play styles that expand as they level up through use. At a first glance these differences are extremely minor, but as you progress through the game, each characters role becomes clearly defined and taking them out of their comfort zone will quickly lead to death.
When you start up Unit 13 you are given a quick tutorial to give you a quick rundown of the games mechanics and controls. Here you learn how to go from cover to cover Space Invade style, throw grenades, shoot your guns and interact with the world. It all feels really natural, and this is greatly enhanced by the dual analogue sticks and inventive use of the touch screen.
Once you graduate, you can start working through the various missions. These range from sneaky Covert missions where killing enemies is bad, and being detected is an automatic fail, to timed Deadline missions where you have to do various objectives in a short space of time leading more towards fast paced run and gun action. The better you do, the more points you earn and the higher your rank is at the end. You unlock more missions and continue this process leap frogging through the various characters as you go. This is all well and good, but the biggest misstep here is the complete lack of story. Each mission is essentially self contained and devoid of any character development or story.
Once you burn through the 40 or so missions, you still have plenty of game to explore which is refreshing for something that is essentially a launch title. Provided you scored at least three stars on a mission, you can go through them again in Dynamic mode, which issues random objectives. These are fun diversions, and like the rest of the game, is perfect for pick and play kind of action. Furthermore, you also have access to High Value Target missions, which are essentially Assassination missions. These are the hardest missions in the game, and easily the most rewarding. Since they are not unlocked from the get go, it may take hours to unlock them all leading to lots of replay value.
Multi-player is well integrated, with leader boards tracking everything and even Daily Challenges which give you one chance to score big in a highly competitive environment. These change daily and give you something new every time you play. A very nice addition. To top it all off you have Online Co-op which lets you and one other player fight through the story missions. It is a fun diversion, but it is hard to find players online and its lasting appeal is not exactly high.
Graphically, Unit 13 is top notch. Whilst not the best looking game on the Vita, it is certainly no slouch. The character models are detailed, and the environments look vast. Unfortunately character models and environments are recycled way too much and whilst the environments look vast, they are very restrictive in reality making missions a far to linear. Unfortunatly, sound falls into the same boat with the same one liners repeated over and over again, and the sound track droning constantly.
Unit 13 stumbles on some key areas, and does fall into repetition but for a handheld, it fits the bill perfectly being ideal for pick up and play. The demo is on the PSN so if you are interested, check it out.