Iíll be the first to admit that I may have jumped the gun and judged the Vita prematurely. For as my 3DS sits idly waiting for the next Nintendo classic to get the 3D makeover the strong launch line-up for the PS Vita has me coming back for more and more. The title diversity gives you a little taste of everything, and shooters havenít been forgotten. Zipper Interactive, known better for its SOCOM titles and most recently for the underrated and underplayed MMOFPS MAG, may have found its niche with the solid shooter Unit 13. While there are a few hiccups along the way itís still a pretty fun ride and bodes extremely well for future handheld FPSs, though not so well for the soon to be disbanded developer.
For those of you expecting some Call of Duty styled over the top epicness as far as the plot is concerned you may find Unit 13 lacking in that department. Thereís no discernible story, rather a hodge-podge of different styled missions and a slew of military specialist operatives to tackle them. I didnít find the lack of exposition detrimental as I donít need an excuse to go shoot stuff but if you like plot devices to help advance a story and give you a reason to get on with the killing Unit 13 may not be your cup of tea. You can play through the entire campaign either solo or with a co-op partner online, but Iíll touch on the action buddy team-up a little later on.
The missions are broken up into four different categories. Direct Action is just pay and spray everything in the vicinity. Covert is stealth based with any alarm triggering resulting in a failed mission. Deadline is running and gunning against the clock and very reminiscent of The Club and Elite is sniper based with no regenerative health so youíll need to pick and choose your moments to strike and keep your enemies at a distance.
You donít have to tackle these missions with specific characters either. If you want to see how a shotgun works in stealth, go for it. You can mix and match as you choose to level up and find your characterís sweet spot. You also have a slew of unlockable weapons so you can tailor the experience to your play style. The options are deeper than youíd expect offering a great deal of replayabilty.
The six different character classes open up numerous death dealing avenues for you to explore. Go the stealth route and use the Infiltrator Ringo with suppressed weapons and flashbangs. Alabama the Marksman uses long-range rifles and claymores. Python is your heavy-gunner tank class with loads of ammo and health. Animal is the jack-of-all-trades and balanced across the board, Chuckles is tech savvy and Pointman is the up close and personal specialist. Each have strengths and weaknesses and itís a blast working your way through them all.
Once you enter each warzone youíll need to employ a mixture of cover based infiltration and precise shooting to make it through. Even with the most heavily armed characters it only takes a shot or two to put you down for the count. Here Unit 13 shows a few cracks in its armour. Enemy AI is a little all over the show. Sometimes you can be almost next to a guard with them none the wiser, other times they seem to see you through a break in the wall a kilometre away.
The grenade mechanic was also extremely temperamental offering the most inaccurate limp-wristed of throws at anything close to mid-range and is only really useful at a distance. These two surprising slip-ups were the only real missteps with the inconsistencies the biggest letdown for Unit 13. If it does get a sequel (it certainly deserves one) ironing out the AI and grenade bugs would significantly lift it to new heights.
As is with most PS Vita titles touch screen functionality has been included and extremely cleverly implemented in Unit 13ís case. Rather than have you reposition your fingers trying to handle FPS motions and the touch screen at once, the interactive hot-spots are at the side of the screen allowing a quick slip of the finger to disarm mines and sensors, gather up Intel or a tap to bring up your scope for that boom headshot moment. It is well thought out and organic and probably the best incorporation of the touch screen Iíve seen in a PS Vita title as yet.
Co-operative play, as I mentioned earlier, is crazy fun with absolutely no latency issues as well as pitch perfect voice interaction if you enable chat before kicking off. Though the missions donít scale up the number of enemies to increase the challenge, which is a tad disappointing, the silky smooth gameplay lets you excuse this oversight as your two man unit tagteams the competition with a wealth of new tactical options available. I was partial to flanking and setting up a brutal crossfire at every foreseeable opportunity splitting my adversariesí attentions between myself and my partner and gleefully mopping them up as they tried to work out who to fire on first. A shotgun wielding pointman with a long-range back up also worked a treat.
Once youíve smashed out enough missions and earned enough stars (each mission gives you an out of 5 star rating) you can unlock the High Value Target missions. These are more like mini-bosses with ramped up guards who love themselves some grenades and ainít afraid to use them, more cannon fodder to churn your way through and, as youíd expect, a target to polish off to complete your mission. These are like the cherry on the sundae and will require nerves of steel and solid mixture of stealth to get you through to the end. Itís a pity these are not available for co-op but you canít have everything now, can you?
If that wasnít enough Unit 13 gives you daily challenges to smash out as well, each with unique conditions for the win and only allows you one try to get your best score up on the leaderboards. Itís a fantastic idea and always keeps the action fresh as you try your darndest to be the best in the world for a single day. These are perhaps the toughest missions of the title so be sure to bring your ďAĒ game to the party or youíll be heading home with your arse in a sling.
Though not without a smattering of problems with a few cover issues, inconsistent AI, character responses a little stiff at times and borderline retarded grenade mechanics Unit 13 solidly is a rock solid first-person shooter on a handheld. The controls work and feel much like a traditional console shooter with sensible non-gimmicky utilisation of the touch screen that doesnít impinge the experience. The co-operative features are silky smooth with great voice chat and not a hint of lag and the inclusion of Daily Challenges keeps the content fresh and constantly evolving. It may not be perfect, but goddamn itís a hell of a lot of fun.