Eager to take gaming to the next level, at least in a visual sense, some developers are taking brave steps to create something that looks different, something that looks interesting. Cel-shading, a technique that's still to make a real impact on next-gen consoles, is one such example, and now the French software house Ubi Soft has decided to bring this style to the first-person shooter in XIII for Xbox.
In a story not dissimilar to Geena Davis' The Long Kiss Goodnight, Ubi Soft's latest offering, developed in-house, tells the tale of man who wakes up on a beach with no recollection of who he is or what he's been up to. Before long, he finds himself hunted down by the FBI, apparently accused of the murder of President William Sheridan.
OK, so it's a little cliched, but as a game XIII is relatively fresh and one of the most vibrant in the genre we've seen for a long time. Where its competitors strive for unprecedented realism, XIII opts for a comic feel. All characters and objects come complete with thick black outlines and single-colour shading, and although it may sound primitive, it looks incredible.
With regards to gameplay however, XIII plays much like any other game in the genre. But that's not to say it's a bad thing. Armed with a selection of non-lethal and lethal weapons such as chairs and rocket launchers, players are generally charged with escaping the enemy in a broad range of cartoon environments. Certain sections of the game dictate that no one must be killed, requiring the player to use stealth tactics as well as his fists, whilst others offer an all-out shoot-em-up. And when an enemy is taken to the floor, pop-ups bearing legends the likes of "Crack", "Ka-Pow" and "Kaboom" serve to remind you that XIII is as much about visuals as it is about great gameplay.
But more importantly, XIII offers players the chance to compete online in several classic game modes that include Capture the Flag and Deathmatch. There's also a 4-player split screen option for those lacking online functionality.
XIII is a breath of fresh air for the FPS genre, and its success is certain. It sets a benchmark for developers and it's unlikely that it will be the last we see of the superhero fugitive that is XIII.