Unit 13 is hard. Especially if you are playing solo. Maybe not so much if you play with a friend but even then expect to die often in the game. The premise of the game is simple. You are an elite team of specialists (6 members in total) assembled to fight against a terrorist organization Awlaad Al-Qowah. In this third person over the shoulder shooter, you disintegrate the terrorists bit by bit as you complete objectives. 45 in total. 36 normal missions and 9 special missions which the game calls High Value targets (sort of like boss battles). The missions are divided into following categories
Direct Action : These missions are to be completed in one go. There are no checkpoints. Go in and capture the enemy stronghold.
Covert : In these missions it is imperative that that you finish the business unseen. This means no tripping laser alarms or getting detected by cameras or spotted by guards. Failing to do so will lead to an instant failure. Highly constrained but incredibly fun.
Timed : These missions require prompt action. The objective must be completed within the time limit so it is usually a good idea to avoid confrontation, complete the task and get out. Time is reset or extended if you hit a checkpoint.
Elite: The health does not regenerate in these missions so it is best if you choose a character that can sustain a heavy damage. Though it is replenished every time you hit a checkpoint.
It is very important that you choose the right operative for every mission. The game recommends the best choice for each type of mission but you may want to change it depending on your play style. I always went with the guys that had superior killing ability. Alabama had a long range one shot kill. Python had a big knife with which he could sneak up to and kill two enemies with one swing.
Initially all of your operatives start with level 0, at this point their equipment and bonus multipliers etc are tied with them. As you progress through the game they level up and pass on their equipment and multipliers to others. For instance leveling up Ringo can increase the headshot attack multiplier where as Python gives you a closed range attack bonus. These bonuses in turn help you level up your character faster. Much more important than bonuses however are the weapons. For instance if you level up python far enough you can unlock the silencer mod which can be used by Alabama (or any one else for that matter) to silence his sniper transforming him into a silent killing machine. All operatives have a maximum level cap of 10.
It is important to note that although the game has some rpg elements there is no griding involved. You could clear the game on level 0 if you chose to. Though investing time in a character and building him according to your taste pays well.
If you are playing solo HUD map is your best friend. It gives a huge tactical advantage by laying out the position of the enemies on the screen. When marked white it means that the enemies are un-aware of your presence. When yellow it means that they have sensed that something is wrong. When red, they are on to you so either kill them or retreat to a safer location.
There are 9 locations in total. It may seem to be a small number but the stages are huge. You are incrementally introduced to an entire level. That is the missions that you get are usually limited to a portion of the entire level. As you progress through the game the missions get longer and you get to explore the levels in full. I really liked this approach as it kept the things fresh and let me discover many shortcuts and different routes to progress through the stages rather than overwhelming me with one giant map.
Recognizing the best route for your operative is very important. It would be unwise for a ranged operative to go head first into the enemy strong hold. Similarly a heavily armed operative is not too good at sneaking but he can take out large groups of enemies quickly. These tactical choices make the missions in Unit 13 very engaging. If you are stuck with a certain operative in a mission changing your approach to the objective or even choosing a different operative can make it seem easy.
Except for high value targets all of the missions in unit 13 can be played in co op. This is where the game truly shines. Figuring out the strategy to beat an objective with a buddy can be very fulfilling. Since there are two of you it opens up the possibility of trying out various combinations of operatives. A long ranged sniper with a a closed ranged heavy duty shotgun operative or dual mini gun mayhem it's up to you. There is no lag even over the internet and the game runs silky smooth like it does on single player.
One final mission type is the Daily Challenge in which you are given an objective and you have to score as much points as you can. At he end of the day you results are compared against everyone the participated in the mission and your worldwide rank is calculated. Some of the players are incredibly talented so it will take a lot of skill to beat them. It is pretty neat and gives you a reason to keep playing the game.
Unit 13 comes as an easy recommendation from me to any one who is looking for a no frills action packed shooter. The game does not tie you down with a narrative or hampers you by providing only one way to go about your objectives. Instead it gives you lots of options to choose from and then gets out of the way. In addition to this Unit 13 is possibly the best co-op experience on the vita and one of the best co-op games that I have played since Gears of war. It is unfortunate that this was the last Zipper game. But Unit 13 is one hell of a way to go out.