Art Perspective: XIII

Although many greats have used the cel-shading graphical style within their games, one that stands out above the rest is the 2003 first person shooter XIII.

In early 2000€™s cel-shading burst onto the video game scene, with many titles opting for its cartoon-like graphical art style. A plethora of games began to utilise the technique, spanning many genres and platforms; from Dance Dance Revolution to The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker. Although many greats have used this graphical style within their games, one game that stands out is the 2003 first person shooter XIII. XIII (thirteen) was released across all of the main platforms of the day Playstation 2, Xbox, GameCube, Windows and even Macintosh. The title received positive reviews from critics, praising its outstanding art direction and its unique look. The game demonstrates one of the great things about video games; inspiration for a game can come from anywhere. In much the same way that the Rockstar beat €˜em up The Warriors took its inspiration from a relatively obscure late 70€™s action movie, XIII€™s developers Ubisoft Paris have taken there inspiration directly from a Belgium comic book series that started in 1984.

The comic series of the same name was itself inspired by Robert Ludlum€™s 1980 book The Bourne Identity, which has since found fame with a movie trilogy starring Matt Damon. XIII the game takes it story from the first five instalments of the comic series, of which there are now nineteen volumes. The main charm and reason to play XIII is because of its delightful art direction. Based upon a comic, the game uses cel-shading to great effect, keeping to its hand drawn roots. But it is not just the cel-shading that shows XIII embracing its comic book heritage; the game employs many other devices to give the player the feeling that they are playing within a comic world. Aside from the breathtaking visuals the game also uses onomatopoeic words on screen to demonstrate comic sound effect, from the €œTAP TAP TAP€ to signify a character walking, to the €œBLAM€ of an explosion. This is an amusing and utterly charming game feature that shows the player how strange it would be if comic book aesthetics where applied to a moving world. The games dialog is displayed on screen in speech bubbles, the arrows of which follow the character around. This is perhaps the only device in which the unloved type face Comic Sans is used without any distain from the player.
One of the main comic book influences is the panels which become a key gameplay feature. The panels are used for many things, from displaying events in different locations, to showing which item the player has just picked up. The most satisfying use of panels is displaying the fate of your enemies; a sniper bullet or a throwing knife to the head would trigger a three panel close up of the bloody moment of impact. The game really took a refreshing look at gaming and successfully demonstrated what is possible within games. At its core XIII is a fairly standard first person shooter, but its is the games creative approach to art direction combined with an engaging story that made the game stand out. A lot of games concern themselves attempting to create a game world that is as close to reality as possible. XIII on the other hand attempts to create a game close to a comic book, creating a new game world that is more innovative and perhaps more engaging than those based upon the real world. The games developers obviously took a great amount of care and attention to detail in producing such a memorable gaming experience. Unfortunately, although loved by critics and gamers who played it, XIII produced disappointing sales figures and therefore it is unlike that a sequel will be made.

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