Unit 13 PS Vita review – Terrorists, shooting and… no yawning? A miracle!

Unit 13 PS Vita SOCOM dev Zippers new shooter

The genius of Unit 13 is it doesn’t try to take that glossy, cinematic action experience of a console shooter and give it to you on a handheld – instead, it takes all the best parts of mobile gaming and gives them to you in a shooter.

Unit 13 PS Vita review

The missions don’t weigh you down with story – they’re ten-minute quick fixes that vary between all-out assaults, stealth runs and bomb defusals – and they offer just the right level of difficulty and involvement. It’s the gaming equivalent of a Sudoku and a ham croissant. With explosions.

If the game had opened with the usual ‘super-fast zooming in and out of satellite map images while a serious woman briefs you on some terrorist baddies’ opening sequence, I’d have been ready to set fire to it and cast it off to sea like a great Viking funeral for generic shooters.

But it’s straight to the point, taking you to a level-select screen of 36 missions. They do manage to eke out some form of war-on-terror plot, but that’s never the focus. The core gameplay’s supported by some super-intuitive controls that blend touch controls with trusty, reliable button-pressing.

Found a mine? Tap the screen to disarm it. Want to jump over that cover? Yep, screen. The design emphasises high scores, star ratings and levelling up the titular unit of operatives. At your disposal are the Marksman, Commando, Technician, Pointman, Gunner, and Infiltrator. Each of the missions plays to the strengths of one of these gruff gents, but you’re always free to choose whoever you bond with.

There’s a similarly open vibe in the level design, too – a little short of multiple routes and exploration, but the absence of hand-holding and rail-roading is positively giddying in the current blaster climate. By rebuilding the third-person shooter with one eye on the mobile gaming revolution, Unit 13 gets much right – but does make a few faux pas along the way.

Location and enemy design is clichéd, making it a struggle to soldier on beyond the ‘couple of casual hours’ mark. If you want more than that, it’s back to those glossy, cinematic console shooters.

Unit 13 doesn’t want you to just turn up, admire the lighting effects, shoot some guys in camo gear and run off, though – you score points for killing someone unaware, nailing a headshot and anything other than a clumsy spray of fire across enemies’ knees. Chaining headshots together becomes addictive, in the same way that nailing a four-fruit combo does in Fruit Ninja on iOS.

It’s laugh-a-minute mobile gaming in a shooter’s Kevlar vest. The upshot is an increased arsenal for each operative as they level up, nine unlockable missions and boss battles that notch up the difficulty almost too much. You also get the option to play missions in Dynamic mode, which takes away objectives and lets you shoot people just for the thrill of it.

Our Score

Score: 8