Reviews - Updated on September 25, 2022

“To be honest, it’s a shame to play such a disgrace even for nothing. And to pay for it – no, thank you, you wouldn’t wish such a waste of money even on your worst enemy. ”

A couple of years ago, I and many other critics delivered a verdict on the remake of the cult shooter XIII, and it was disappointing. Bad gameplay, an ugly picture, dozens of bugs of varying degrees of comicality – it seemed that after such a fiasco, its authors would do anything, so long as no one remembered the shameful release. But that was not the case: on September 13, like the orcs from Shadow of Mordor, “Garbage” rose from the dead. And who would have thought – death came to him very much even to the face.

Just magic

When Microids green-lit the remake in 2019, the company hardly imagined what a headache it would be to re-release an action comic. It looked like a non-dusty job: just take the original, beloved by the people, tighten up the graphics, fix a couple of strange design decisions, add content to your liking – and voila, the masterpiece is ready. The plan was really flawless, but the publisher did not take into account the most important thing: potential hits should be entrusted to talented people. Or at least experienced.

Alas, the resurrection of the Thirteenth gn was entrusted not to the first, not the second, but to Playmagic, a team that is unaware that the “Continue” item in the main menu should be higher than the “New Game” by default. The result turned out to be predictable: instead of the triumphant return of the classics on November 10, 2020, fans were in for a monstrous disappointment.

After this, it’s inconvenient to even look askance at some The Last of Us Part I - at least it doesn’t glitch every five minutes.

After this, it’s inconvenient to even look askance at some The Last of Us Part I – at least it doesn’t glitch every five minutes.

Many would have accepted such a blow to their reputation in silence. After all, you can’t do without misfires in business, and Microids are not the first to get into a puddle (Syberia 3, khe-khe). However, the French publisher made a public apology and promised to bring the shooter to mind.

Tired of Playmagic’s incompetence (it spent months chiseling almost useless patches), the copyright holder first hired another contractor – the little-known Tower Five studio, and then announced a big free update designed to make the game, if not candy, then at least something edible. And the new team completed the minimum program with brilliance. But whether the shooter has become much better is an open question.

The devil is in the details

It is difficult to make a clear verdict for a simple reason: technically, this is absolutely the same action movie as it was two years ago. Whatever the journalists eager for loud statements say, this is not a “remake of a remake” at all: levels, game design, the number and location of enemies, even squeezed cut-scenes – everything is identical to what Playmagic squeezed out of itself in the November before last. Six gigabytes (that’s how much a miracle patch weighs) and several months of production are not enough to reshape even a mid-budget release.

What have the authors of the Lornsword Winter Chronicle been doing all this time? In short, cosmetics. Unable to build XIII from scratch, they tried to bring the action at least to a commercial form, to make it as close as possible to the idealized version that fans have been dreaming about since the zero. What has been changed? We bend our fingers.

It was.

It was.

It has become.

It has become.

visual range

The first thing that catches your eye is the style: Tower Five decided to get rid of overly realistic effects (in particular, believable shadows and lighting) and stick out the comic origins of the action movie. The idea is great, and the execution is top notch.

  • The characters have touches a la Borderlands, emphasizing the cheekbones and wrinkles.
  • The effects of shooting and explosions have become more cartoonish (and therefore a little more beautiful).

  • The light of lamps and spotlights now not only obscures objects, but highlights their silhouettes, turning part of the picture into a sketch.

It is quite drawn to an unconditional upgrade, except for one thing – the scenery.

Original.

Original.

Remake: was.

Remake: was.

Remake: it has.

Remake: it has.

Designers and programmers did it very simply: they passed the image through a filter, added bolder strokes to objects, in some places they even reworked the color scheme to bring the graphics closer to the juicy, very characteristic drawing of William Vance. In some places – as in the screenshots above – the result looks almost perfect. However, a number of locations, such as Brighton Beach, look monstrous: artifacts are visible in large open spaces that are not so scary on Switch, but completely out of place on PC. Well, the characters now do not contrast with the environment – and thanks for that.

Audio

Although the new studio couldn’t fix all the audio problems with all their might – that would have required paying David Duchovny extra millions and getting Adam West out of the grave – they still made a couple of decent edits. In particular, lovers of loudly sighing guns are lucky: now machine guns and pistols sound much bass than before. This especially adorned the shotgun: yes, every fifth shot, instead of pellets, cotton candy still flies at the enemies, but the gun bobs like it should.

Much less often, XIII now “loses its voice” – in 2020, the music kept silent, or even did not turn on at all when the scripts required it. Fun fact: on consoles, Playmagic never fixed it (even broke something).

Technical side

Bugs became much less. The remake sometimes jams a little (loading a checkpoint after death for some reason does not always reset progress), but the shooter was successfully cured of serious problems, such as unloaded rooms, falling through the ground at the beginning of level Thirteen or getting stuck in a helicopter environment. Some edits are frankly budgetary – for example, a partner is simply not allowed to run to the zone where one particularly comical glitch happened before. But it’s better than nothing.

Unfortunately, along with the improvements, new minor flaws arose. In particular, opponents have become much more difficult to take hostage: the command on the screen appears too late, in fact, when the main character breathes into the victim’s head. The problem is funny, but not very serious – from a human shield, except for two plot points, there is no benefit.

Gameplay and convenience

Although the new studio was unable to shovel the game, the designers added a couple of useful gameplay touches of their own. Firstly, it is a stealth indicator in the spirit of Hitman and Metal Gear Solid V. In 2003 and in 2020, you had to sneak “by touch”, but now there is a character visibility indicator on the screen. It looks so elegant and out of place that it may even seem as if it was here originally.

The second change concerns the enemy AI. Yes, the villains still behave not much smarter than the Nazis from Wolfenstein 3D, but now they move much more actively in battle, willingly tumble from hits and very beautifully “ragdoll” after death (before they sluggishly folded like an accordion with a frequency of 5 fps). Plus, the programmers removed the damage animation from their repertoire in order to slightly increase the dynamics of firefights. It’s hard to believe, but such little things significantly change the perception of action scenes for the better – now you can even get some kind of pleasure from them!

The third feature of the fresh XIII is the balance of weapons and difficulty: the crossbow now kills with one hit on any part of the body (which greatly simplifies the stealth segments), and the Thirteenth has lost the ability to regenerate HP. The latter, however, did not make the adventure much more difficult: the antediluvian original is still much angrier.

The interface has become larger, plus pointers where to go now appear much more often.  This slightly compensates for the lopsided design of the individual levels.

The interface has become larger, plus pointers where to go now appear much more often. This slightly compensates for the lopsided design of the individual levels.

The interface has become larger, plus pointers where to go now appear much more often.  This slightly compensates for the lopsided design of the individual levels.

The interface has become larger, plus pointers where to go now appear much more often. This slightly compensates for the lopsided design of the individual levels.

Alas, this is all that is important and really noticeable – other differences are small, and they should be on the Steam page, not here. Neither Playmagic nor Tower Five programmed a quick save system into the remake: you still have to go through the levels in one gulp, the game still does not remember the checkpoints. They never added a normal Game Over screen – in the original, an unlucky spy at least fell to the ground after death, but here there is no such luxury. One can only guess what kind of wonderful source code the developers from Malta have created and how miserable the budget for the patch / port on Switch was.

In summary, no, the ugly duckling never turned into a beautiful swan. Looking at all these edits, at first it’s hard not to feel a bit of disappointment: not as much has changed as we would like. It is clear that in fact the update was timed to coincide with the release of the Switch port and no one planned global changes. But seriously, is that all? Was Microids trying to attract already burned fans with this?

Online multiplayer (represented by a single mode

Online multiplayer (represented by a single mode “XIII kills”) could not be evaluated – it turned out to be useless.

However, the more you think about a topic, the harder it is to make an assessment. On the one hand, it still doesn’t turn out to be a good game: even after a general cleaning of the odor of the weak game design of the zeros, coupled with the technical competence of the twenties, they still haven’t gone anywhere. It’s still a mediocre shooter with clumsy stealth at best, except that it can now be played without disgust.

But at the same time, from the very first minutes it is noticeable that Tower Five sincerely tried to save the failed project. She made corrections where necessary, made the action tolerable and almost enjoyable, even brought the picture closer to the original source – yes, by a cheap method, but the same Playmagic did not at all seek to preserve the comic spirit beyond a couple of effects and cel-shading on the models. It is a pity that the project was not entrusted to an indie team from the very beginning – perhaps now we would have been waiting for a sequel, and not prepared a belated patch.

It was.

It was.

It has become.

It has become.

Alas, the publisher failed to save one of the main failures of recent years. To fix some bugs, you need a time machine, not 5 gigabytes of new files. Nevertheless, the free upgrade turned out to be tolerable – so tolerable that the game even wants to be promoted.

The remake of XIII is no longer “Trash” – now it’s a solid “Passhole”. Carry this title proudly, Thirteenth, because, unfortunately, you don’t get better praise.

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