As someone who could never quite get into mobile gaming, the PlayStation Vita continues to impress me. Perhaps that’s because the Sony handheld tries to do things a little differently, offering console-like features and experiences, but with a slight mobile spin. The latest game to exemplify this is Zipper Interactive’s Unit 13, a 3rd person tactical shooter which features a host of social features as well as online co-op.
The core of Unit 13 is its 36 missions, each averaging between 4 and 10 minutes in length. It’s the perfect setup for firing up on your lunch break, while waiting in the doctor’s office, or a quick mission before bed. The missions themselves offer a bit of a variety, whether you’re racing against the clock to accomplish objectives or trying not to set off any alarms in a covert op. The game balances these types of scenarios and mixes them with disarming explosives, rescuing VIPs, or assassinating targets. While there is enough variety in the missions themselves to make the gameplay feel fresh, the maps leave a bit to be desired as there’s a lot of recycling of areas going on between them.
It’s really quite impressive what the Vita can do, especially this early in its life cycle. The environments showcase a variety of lighting and texture details, with the player and enemy models looking as good as something you’d find on a console. Playing the game with a solid set of headphones yields some impressive aural results. The controls themselves work really well, utilizing the touch screen only when needed for things like reloading and interacting with devices in the game world, plus, ya know - dual analog sticks and all that jazz.
Unit 13’s focus is on quick play and high scores and it’s quite evident in the social features scattered through out its interface. A constant ticker shows you what your friends have unlocked or accomplished as well as leaderboards that let you filter by friends, overall or even people found using the Near application. This drives you not only to replay missions to better your score, but also to continue to level up the game’s six operatives. Doing so not only has its advantages, perfecting missions goes towards unlocking access to additional missions like assassination targets which add some meat to the game.
Leveling up operatives in Unit 13 allows you to unlock better gear and weapons. Each operative offers a speciality like being better at stealth or offering better resistance to damage. It’s something of a rarity, but playing as one operative actually unlocks items specifically for other operatives, almost forcing you to try out different characters in different situations to acquire all the best gear.