Unit 13 is the first full fledged third person shooter for the PS Vita – yes Uncharted has shooting elements, but that isn’t the core of the gameplay there. Since the developer is Zipper and they’ve made amazing third person shooting games for quite some time, people will go into Unit 13 with high expectations. So does Unit 13 live up to those expectations, or does it have issues aiming for the prize? If you want to discover other interesting games, check the 10 of the best PS4 games in 2014
In Unit 13 you control a squad of six characters (no, not thirteen) – each character has their own “specialty” from stealth to sniping to big machine guns. You pick which character you want to take into a mission (you only take one in at a time), and you can pick from any of them – the game will tell you who is recommended for a mission, but you are under no obligation to listen. It actually helps you out at times to take a non recommended person in, as you may be able to earn more points for the leader boards by using someone who handles differently than another.
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That’s one thing that is disappointing in Unit 13 – the leader boards. Not because they are there, but because they are the only competitive part of the game. Yes, there is am online two man cooperative mode which works really well – but there is no online competitive. With this being the first and only shooter on the PS Vita (and it will be the only shooter for another two and a half months until Resistance comes out), you would think that getting that multiplayer component in there would have been a number one priority, that would have been a huge selling point for the Vita then. As it is though the leader boards are all we have. They work well at least, and they help you stay competitive with your friends (there’s even a trophy for that). There is also a “Daily Challenge” that you have one shot at getting a good score on before the score gets submitted globally – I was able to rank 21 globally on one, but man some of those are brutal.
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There are four main “mission types” that you will engage in – covert, direct action, deadline, and elite. Direct Actions are sort of an objective assault mission. Get in, get the objective done and get out. The only way to fail these missions is to die. They can be distinguished by the 3 arrow symbol. Covert Operations are basically your stealth missions; completing the objective with the idea of not getting caught. If you get caught it will trigger an alert and the mission will end in failure. They can be distinguished by the 2 overlapping thunderbolt symbol. Deadline Operations are pretty much your time trial missions – you’re on a timer so you have to be fast and diligent. If you run out of time the mission will end, but you keep getting more time once you complete objectives. They can be distinguished by the stop clock symbol. Think of Elite Operations as your Hardcore missions – limited health, no health regeneration, no checkpoints, etc. Your basic hard mode for any game. They can be distinguished by the 2 downwards arrows.
Any of those missions can be completed cooperatively which makes things a bit easier on the harder ones. In co-op, if your partner goes down you can revive them once you clear the room (or in mid combat if you’re brave), which helps you to not fail missions as easily (if you go down in single player, there’s no one to revive you so game over). With the PS Vita, you don’t need any special headsets to communicate to your teammate either since every Vita has a built in mic. This makes playing co-op really the preferred way to go through the game (you get bonus xp for playing online as well).
Speaking of xp, the six characters each gain experience to go up in level independently of each other. The max level for any of them is ten, and once you hit that max level it becomes MUCH easier to start to rack up major points for the leader boards. Each of the characters get bonuses when they level up, and there are even levels where they will unlock things for the other characters as well, so it’s a giant benefit to level each of them up separately.
The other thing that there is to do in Unit 13 are nine special missions called “High Value Targets”. These are basically your “boss” fights, and are absurdly difficult. In order to open them, you have to get stars from the main missions. You can get from one to five stars based on your performance (aim for head shots and keep kill streaks going), an a new High Value Target opens up for every twenty stars you get. You also can not do these missions through co-op, however you can unlock some early through Near if someone around you has them opened up.
The shooting in Unit 13 works very well – a lot better than I had expected from a launch window game like this. It works so well that they should have just called this “SOCOM Vita” and people would have been happy (and it would still be infinitely better than SOCOM Confrontation). I’m actually not sure why Sony didn’t have them name it that anyways – a SOCOM game on the Vita would have caused a storm of sales from the large following that series has. In the end though, it doesn’t matter though because Unit 13 has enough to stand tall on its own – hopefully people will see the Zipper logo and pick it up because of how genius their work has been.
The Bottom Line: If you like third person shooters, this is really a no brainer – Unit 13 is far and above one of the best Vita launch games, and everything about it screams quality; it is a shame about no competitive multiplayer though.
Unit 13 is out now for the PS Vita, and is available everywhere games are sold including Amazon for $39.99