|System: PS Vita|
|Dev: Zipper Interactive|
|Release: March 6, 2012|
|Screen Resolution: 480p||Blood, Drug Reference, Mild Language, Violence|
by Ryan Rigney
Zipper Interactive has been doing just one thing for the past ten years—making an obscene number of shooters for Sony's game consoles. Since 2002 they've released seven games in the SOCOM series, broken up only by their work on MAG, the massively-multiplayer FPS.
Zipper has been a Sony-owned studio since 2006, so it's not entirely surprising to see them developing a game for the Vita so close to its launch. What is surprising is how different the game in question—a third-person, cover-based shoot-em-up called Unit 13—is from previous Zipper-developed titles. If the slow-paced, tactical nature of SOCOM isn't your thing, you're in luck: Unit 13 is like the anti-SOCOM. Whereas SOCOM is all about slow-paced squad management and tactical planning, Unit 13 wants you to crash into rooms with guns blazing, landing headshots and scoring multi-kills so you can earn a high score.
The reason for the design differences between Unit 13 and past Zipper games has to do with the nature of the PS Vita itself. Despite touting near-PS3 quality graphics, the system is still a mobile platform, and Zipper says that they've design the game with that in mind. As such, most of the missions are extremely short by shooter standards—sometimes as brief as three minutes, and never more than twenty.
Once you're into a mission, you'll be presented with a set of objectives (e.g. set bombs at these locations), and your goal is to meet that objective as quickly as possible while racking up points earned from rapid, well-executed kills. Each mission is designed to be replayed more than once, and Zipper is encouraging that by integrating leaderboards for each of the game's 36 missions. You can play through the entire game either alone or in co-op, although co-op players will have their own separate leaderboards, so there's incentive to tackle the whole game both alone and in multiplayer.
Aside from Unit 13's five basic modes (a predictable assortment of mission-based, time-trial, hardcore, and stealth modes), one of the biggest touted features of the game's online capabilities are daily challenges—miniature objectives that change on a daily basis and provide rewards to those players who seek them out.
There are six unique playable characters in Unit 13, and they function essentially like you'd expect different classes to in another shooter like Battlefield 3 or Team Fortress 2. Each dudebro has his own special abilities and perks, and you'll level them up separately as you complete missions and gain points.
The six selectable hombres also have traits that allow them to get more points by performing certain actions. For example, there's a character named Python who gets bonus points for shooting explosives while there are other enemies nearby. So if you're playing with a friend and one of you picks Python, that player will want to communicate with the other one to orchestrate scenarios that will allow him or her to be the one to deal with explosives. Oh, and thanks to the Vita's built-in front microphone (which is supposedly pretty high-quality), you won't need a headset to chat with your co-op buddies.
Unit 13 doesn't seem to be taking much advantage of the Vita's other unique features. The game barely makes use of the device's touch-sensitive back panel (it's used for switching camera perspective), and other touch functionality is limited to obvious things like menu navigation.
Story is apparently not much of a concern for Zipper when it comes to Unit 13. The game has a sort of a shell of a story about how the six playable characters got together to go on missions, but don't expect some sweeping narrative arc beyond that. According to Zipper, there's rarely any context for the game's 36 missions; they're not connected by any sort of story hook, so players can focus on hopping right in and get to shooting people who probably deserve it.
Speaking to Gamespot, Zipper team member CJ Heine said, "We didn't want the player to get going on a storyline, have to turn it off when they get off the bus, and then pick up later after work and not remember where they left off. Each mission is completely standalone."
Unit 13 looks like a sign of good things to come for the Vita. Its mobile-friendly mission design makes it clear that Zipper isn't simply cramming a PS3 game onto the Vita's smaller screen, and that's exactly the sort of thing that the Vita will need to forge its own space in the market. We won't know if Unit 13 fully delivers until March 6, but what we've seen thus far is certainly encouraging.
Date: February 8, 2012