Review Price £29.99
You can grumble all you like about Unit 13 as a single player game. The environments, apart from a fantastic crumbling prison, are all a bit samey, and there are a lot of generic barrels, crates and warehouses knocking around. While the characters look like they might have come from an early PS3 game, the scenery has a horrible habit of reminding you of what PSP shooters used to look like. There are no real set-pieces and no real drama.
Yet there’s something about Unit 13’s businesslike attitude that just works. At heart it’s a score attack game, where your rewards come in taking out the bad guys in the most efficient way possible and working you way up the leaderboard. Each kill is even met with a comment, congratulating you on your latest headshot (and adding bonus points) or telling you in an offhand fashion that this particular kill is just a kill.
Success earns experience points and experience points see you level up, and levelling up unlocks better weapons. The challenge level ratchets up at about the same pace as your skills develop, and eventually completing missions will unlock High Value Target missions, with an extra level of challenge. It’s a solid pick-up-and-play action game and surprisingly compelling. You could play it for just one mission, but it isn’t often that you do.
What’s more, the structure works even better for co-op play. You can go through the matchmaking system, find a buddy, have fifteen minutes of good blasting and you’re done. There’s a healing mechanic so that you can keep your new friends on their feet (and visa versa), and there’s something about working together to complete objectives and blow away the baddies that’s particularly satisfying. There will be times when a hard mission sees you running through the same mission over and over again – checkpoints don’t appear to work in co-op mode – but this makes it all the sweeter when you triumph.
There are deeper co-op experiences around on the Xbox 360, PC or PS3, and nobody could seriously compare Unit 13 to Call of Duty’s Spec Ops, let-alone the co-op modes in Gears of War or Army of Two, but it’s proof that this kind of thing can work – and work well – in a handheld game.
It’s no handheld Call of Duty or Battlefield, but by stripping back the military shooter to a quick-fix, high-score fixated, all-action core, Unit 13 delivers a surprisingly enjoyable and addictive game. Inevitably it will fall under the shadow of bigger, better-looking and more ambitious games, but if you want to try this kind of thing on your PlayStation Vita right now then Unit 13 is an easy recommendation.