Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Remembering the game - XIII (PC, 2003)

XIII is one of those milestone games that tells a good and bad tale from my gaming life. I was very interested in this game based on what it offered - a quality FPS presented in a stylistic graphic novel presentation with a compelling story of mystery and intrugue that would require gamers to use their brains as well as their trigger fingers.

Of course, anyone who has played the game knows it is really not all that great. Sure, it has style. Certainly, it has an interesting way of laying out the story. But after you get past those, you are left with a pretty average shooter which makes use of entirely too many gaming cliches.

So why is it a milestone? Two reasons: timing and cross-platform compatibility. Let me explain.

In the summer of 2003 I really hit my stride in terms of 'game anticipation'. Prior to that there was the rare game that I really looked forward to before release, but they all made sense - I anticipated 'Return to Castle Wolfenstein' as I had been playing 'Castle Wolfenstein' on my Apple ][+ many years before; I looked forward to 'Jedi Knight II' as a Star Wars fan and lover of the previous games in the series. But after my kids got old enough that I had some more free gaming time I started to keep track of what was coming, and prior to the release of 'Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic' I was also getting into RPG's as well as FPS. I was regularly 'talking' with like-minded groups of gamers all over the world, and many of us were looking forward to what seemed to be an interesting variation on the shooter theme. But the demo put questions in my head ... it just didn't seem all that compelling. So I put the game on my Christmas list, and when I got it I played straight through. It was a pretty decent game, and occasionally loads of fun.

What about cross-platform compatibility? Ever since the Apple ][+, I've maintained some sort of Apple link ... especially for music stuff, as the best MIDI options have always been Mac programs. But for a number of years my gaming had been PC-centric. Once Apple launched the 'TiBook' - the high performance Titanium Powerbook G4 series - I grabbed one and was able to do hard disk recording as well as 'modern' gaming. So I started collecting up games ... and then, beginning in late 2002 with the release of Jedi Knight II for the Mac, I started my habit of 'dual purchasing' games. This meant that if I liked a game I would have it for both Mac and PC. So games like Deus Ex (the *real* one), Baldur's Gate 1 & 2, Fallout 1 & 2, NWN, KotOR, Soldier of Fortune II, Elite Force I & II, Jedi Academy, etc ... I got for both platforms, and was in many cases able to transfer files. The bottom line was that I preferred using the Mac because of the tremendous design and quality of the hardware and OS, but 'needed' the games way before they came to the Mac.

But by the time XIII came out for the Mac things had started to change - the Mac hardware hadn't kept up, but mainly it was that with my greater interest in RPG and handheld games I simply couldn't justify the purchases ... especially when a game like KotOR had pretty marginal performance on the Mac compared to the PC. So I decided to skip XIII for the Mac. But yet I kept an eye on eBay for bargains ... why?!?! I really don't know ... but it ended up becoming one of the reasons I started up my 'Gaming Resolutions' - to remind myself to keep away from junk. As I said there, if you don't like enough to replay it on one platform, don't buy it on another!

Today I uninstalled XIII from my gaming desktop, which was the last place I had it. I played a couple of levels 'for old times sake', and it is interesting, but quickly tiresome - it has good music, really cool visuals, a nice style, and not much else.

But yet it stays with me more than many other games - even games that are much better. It holds some specific good memories from a group of gamer who rarely keep in touch any more, and also a cautionary tale I come back to frequently ... and even if the game isn't so good, at least I can be proud remembering it for those other things.

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