Beards are, like, funny. At least to the special ops soldiers of Unit 13, who seem to divide their time between top-secret incursions into terrorist camps and taking the mickey out of their colleague’s bushy chin moss. Thankfully, while the rather forced pops at beards fizzle out fast, the appeal of this taut third-person shooter doesn’t.
Unit 13 juggles stealth and action with skill. It’s like a more action-orientated Splinter Cell but without the usual Tom Clancy waffle. Instead of convoluted tales of geopolitics Unit 13 tells players just two things. One, that you belong to an elite squad of beard-hating Americans and, two, that your targets are Middle Eastern terrorists with a penchant for Yasser Arafat headdresses. They probably have beards, too, the bastards.
While the story is paper thin, the action in Unit 13 is spot-on. Its balance is tipped towards sneakiness and fools who rush in will get turned into human Swiss cheese in seconds, but – with a little bit of forethought – there’s plenty of room for lively cover-based shootouts.
Unit 13 also does a good job of mixing up its action. The 36 solo missions come in four flavours: sneaky ‘covert’ operations; against-the-clock ‘deadline’ tasks; trigger-happy ‘direct action’ scenarios; and demanding ‘elite’ assignments where health doesn’t recharge and checkpoints don’t exist.
On top of this there are assassination missions to unlock and share using Vita’s social networking app Near and daily challenges that tempt you back day after day in the hope of stamping your name on the game’s leaderboard.
Rounding off the package is a two-player online co-op mode that shows that this precise and slick militaristic shooter is equally smart with friends despite its stealth elements.
Unit 13 won’t win prizes for innovation or for the limited brainpower of its enemies but it’s an entertaining game that comfortably outmaneuvers many of the third-person shooters available for home systems.