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Unit 13 Review (PS Vita)

Tap tap tap.

There’s little as satisfying in video games as the perfect run.  In Unit 13, this is generally measured in terms of swiftness and score, the latter a multiplier-based end of level tally that indicates your skill and, ultimately, your ability to memorise enemy patterns.  Zipper don’t do enemy AI that particularly taxes the player, and Unit 13’s rushing hordes might as well be zombies with machine guns once they see you – they do the same things each time, in the same places.

This, though, is a good thing, because it means that the aforementioned perfect run is very much doable and achievable, at least through rote learning and a willingness to pursue the upper star ratings and the all important leaderboard.  It doesn’t matter than you can outsmart the toughest opponents with little more than some quick thinking and a few tester bullets to lead them your way because this is precisely what you want – predictability.

Think Metal Gear Solid, with a better map.

The game in action, showing off some nice lighting.
Naturally, if you fumble or falter, retribution – in the form of a restart – is quick and decisive: bullets are deadly and accurate from both parties, a quick burst from an assault rifle enough to down player or foe.  In two player co-op this isn’t a problem unless both players are killed – a simple heal system keeping the flow going – but in solo, where you’ll find most of your playtime, a wrong move is fatal and final.  Heuristics are required, then, but replaying is rarely a chore.

Unit 13’s over the shoulder third person viewpoint presents some interesting mechanics – a quick tap brings up an iron sight view, another shifts the camera from one side to another – but the fact that the player can peer around corners the character cannot is offset by the fact that whichever soldier you choose they’re always slightly too close, often obscuring a little too much of the screen and frustratingly unable to remember which side of the camera they’re meant to be on.

Swings and roundabouts, perhaps, but issues that could be solved quickly by locking the viewpoint to either shoulder and not letting the game decide each time you aim.  Likewise, the right stick free-look is never quick enough (even with the slider fully on maximum) and some silly, pointless acceleration – and a lack of gyro aiming – spoils what are otherwise fine controls.  If nothing else, Unit 13 shows that Vita’s second stick is more than good enough for the genre, but Zipper need to fix these niggles.

What they have nailed though, is the mission structure.  Perfectly interpreting the needs of a portable gamer, Unit 13’s main single player mode breaks down the action into thirty-six easily digestible chunks, with each one issuing a length and difficulty rating on selection.  Only got a few minutes and fancy something easy to complete?  Done.  In addition, each mission is given a type – stealth, against the clock etc – and progress opens up neighbouring missions on the grid.

This, as you’d hopefully expect, works brilliantly.  It’s a great system that we’d expect future games to adhere to, not least because it makes gaming on the go easier to swallow but ensures that working your way through the levels is non-linear and freeform.  Each mission is scored, starred and ranked, and you can instantly see what your mates are doing via an ever updating in-game message system, which is incorporated into the main menu.

The pre-game screen, offering choice of soldier and other goodies like weapon load out.
Alongside these levels is the ability to work through them all with a mate over the internet (which is flawless and hugely satisfying), a set of gradually unlocked high profile targets and a daily objective which changes every 24 hours.  There’s no competitive multiplayer, but the game does offer an upgrade system in which players can unlock new weapons and abilities for the various soldier types on offer, ranking up through an experience-based system.

Unit 13 also looks the business – some areas are a little bit flat and lifeless, but for the most part Zipper have coaxed the Vita into providing some decent animation, sharp textures and a few little tricks (like smoke and dust) that really bring the visuals to life.  Sound too is solid, with some tense music and voice-overs for everything helping to add to an atmosphere that generally comes off as richer than you’d expect from a portable title.

There’s a lot to like about Unit 13.  It’s in a genre that’s currently sparse on Vita, but manages to still come across as a comprehensive game with lots to get your teeth into.  The environments are re-used throughout the missions, but each is distinct enough to be individual and fans of the likes of SOCOM will appreciate the tactical but playable gameplay on offer.  I’ve found myself constantly going back to Unit 13 for the last few weeks, and always find myself spending hours at a time.


  • Decent, if not native res, graphics
  • Perfect mission structure
  • Great fun in co-op


  • Aiming is a little imprecise

Unit 13’s a pleasant surprise.  It offers up a really smart level structure which caters for short burst gaming, but similarly presents hours of gameplay that’ll take considerable time and effort to perfect and master.  By bringing this out of the release day rush, Sony have a desirable, playable and generally good looking game that will hopefully stand on its own and attract anyone wanting something a little bit meaty.  

Great stuff.

Score: 8/10

  1. uncleniccius
    Since: Jan 2012

    Might pick this up down the line… good review! Any work on an ME3 review?

    Comment posted on 06/03/2012 at 16:02.
    • Dan Lee
      Common like the rest of us.
      Since: Jun 2010

      Our PC review code only arrived yesterday, and cant be played until release day!!

      Comment posted on 06/03/2012 at 16:05.
      • Foxhound_Solid
        Is a smart cookie.
        Since: Dec 2009

        Player the demo. Siiiick game!

        Comment posted on 06/03/2012 at 21:18.
  2. Hx3 K inG
    Since: Aug 2009

    Little surprised at the “imprecise aiming” since the demo played pretty well. Will prob pick it up when it gets cheaper. great review!

    Comment posted on 06/03/2012 at 16:02.
  3. citizeninsane45
    Would happily punch a priest free of charge.
    Since: Oct 2008

    I have watched a couple of trailers but don’t seem overly keen on this. I can’t give any particular reason why, it just isn’t grabbing me. Having said that, I have downloaded the demo and not played it yet so maybe that will sway me. I am thinking now though that there are other games out there that I would rather have. wipeout, everybody’s golf & virtua tennis to name a few

    Comment posted on 06/03/2012 at 16:06.
  4. Awayze
    Since: Jul 2010

    May pick this up.

    Comment posted on 06/03/2012 at 16:08.
  5. Taylor Made
    Since: Oct 2011

    looks like my second physical vita game, I was a bit on the edge about this game even though I loved the demo.

    Good read shame no online multiplayer this game would have shined like socom games

    Comment posted on 06/03/2012 at 16:12.
    • Taylor Made
      Since: Oct 2011

      also best cover so far for the vita, I like that the grenade and black & white theme simples

      Comment posted on 06/03/2012 at 16:14.
  6. Kivi95
    Since: Oct 2009

    Good to hear that the game is not trash :).

    Comment posted on 06/03/2012 at 16:12.
  7. teflon
    Community Team
    Since: May 2009

    Loving this review’s speckled background.

    Might pick this up down the line. I’m trying to scratch the money together for some other games first.

    Comment posted on 06/03/2012 at 16:16.
    • Germanos
      Since: May 2011

      About the background – my first thought was: “holy crap, wtf is wrong with my monitor !?”
      Game looks cool, but I’m decided to buy FIFA this month :)

      Comment posted on 06/03/2012 at 16:49.
  8. colmshan1990
    Since: Apr 2009

    Demo seemed fun, although I really did miss Uncharted’s gyro aiming.
    Might pick this up soon- Game gave me a 20% off a Vita game in March voucher so I might use it on this.
    Or else Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3. Or Everybody’s Golf.
    Consoles this close to launch shouldn’t be giving me these dilemmas. Hah, love it!

    Comment posted on 06/03/2012 at 16:20.
    • colmshan1990
      Since: Apr 2009

      Oh, has the issue with the installation from cart been cleared up yet?

      Comment posted on 06/03/2012 at 16:22.
      • nofi
        One for all.
        Since: Forever

        We reported it to SCEE, but haven’t heard anything back.

        Comment posted on 06/03/2012 at 16:27.
      • Winkle
        Since: Nov 2009

        A 8mb patch went live either today or yesterday I think so hopefully it’s been cleared up.

        Comment posted on 06/03/2012 at 16:36.
      • nofi
        One for all.
        Since: Forever

        Not sure how a patch can fix the cartridge not installing. You have to install it to get the patch…

        Comment posted on 06/03/2012 at 16:48.
  9. Sympozium
    Since: Aug 2009

    Hang on… is this out this week? I really liked the demo.

    Comment posted on 06/03/2012 at 16:36.
  10. Mickey2010
    Since: Jan 2010

    The demo was prety fun will pick it up in a few weeks

    Comment posted on 06/03/2012 at 17:15.

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