There’s no sense mincing words: The next game from SOCOM creator Zipper Interactive represents a fairly radical rethinking of the competitive shooter genre. The game doesn’t include a traditional single-player story or a conventional multiplayer battleground, instead focusing squarely on bite-sized, highly replayable scenarios that can be played alone or with a friend. In dropping the well-worn ways of the past, Unit 13 is positioning itself to be on the forefront of an entirely new way to think about multiplayer. The game will track and report your virtual exploits and broadcast them to friends both far (via PSN) and near (via…Near).
To get a handle on this brazen new approach to shooter design, we asked Creative Director Seth Luisi to outline Unit 13’s feature set and functionality in a video tour. Afterwards, we looped in with SCEA Producer Ara Demirjian to get answers to our burning questions. If you have any burning questions of your own, be sure to leave them in the comments!
PlayStation.Blog: In your mind, what’s key for a mobile shooter?
Ara Demirjian, assistant producer, SCEA:The ability to jump into a scenario, get your play time in, and feel like you accomplished something when you’re done. Unit 13 is set up to be an on-the-go game that gives you satisfaction when you play, especially when it propagates to your friends and your local area via near.
PSB: Will SOCOM fans find the mechanics and overall gameplay for Unit 13 familiar?
Demirjian: Yes. Zipper is known for contemporary third-person shooters — it’s what they’re good at! Unit 13 is built from the ground up for PS Vita and while the gameplay itself will feel familiar to SOCOM players, there are some different aspects given the PS Vita’s hardware features.
When you pick up the PS Vita, it’s kind of like using a DualShock controller with a huge screen: it feels good in your hands, the analog sticks feel smooth, and all the controls operate exactly how you’d expect. We have implemented touch controls for picking up weapons, reloading, vaulting over barriers, completing objectives, and accessing your tactical map, among others. We kept the implementation straightforward, but it allows us to do a lot of new things. We also use the rear touchscreen for swapping shoulders when you’re aiming down the sight; it can help you get a better shot on your enemy when you’re peeking around cover.
PSB: So there’s no traditional single-player campaign?
Demirjian: Unit 13 is built to be a mobile shooter: it’s designed around instant action, not a lengthy story mode. The mission grid gives you 36 unique missions, all playable independent of one another. Across all the missions, you’re trying to achieve a wide variety of objectives whether it’s taking down high-value targets or destroying weapons caches.
The scoring component is a major focus for us here. We want to make this an asynchronous socially competitive experience, so your scores will post to PSN and the near leaderboards so your friends can see if you top their score on a given mission. With a 3G PS Vita unit, this data can be updated automatically, and you can browse the status bar to see who is doing what at any time.
PSB: What will bring players back to keep competing with one another?
Demirjian: We’re planning a number of Daily Challenges, which will bring a unique mission objective to the game every single day. We’re not planning on having any repeats for a looo-o-oong time! This is a great opportunity for a player of average skill to make their mark on the leaderboards: once that 24 hour period is up, nobody can post against your score. So if you’re aggressive, you might be able to hold a number one position on the global leaderboards and get some bragging rights with your friends.
PSB: The game features six operatives, but how different are they? Can I level them up?
Demirjian: Each operative has different statistics, play strategy, and weapon loadouts. Some are better at stealth, or run-and-gun, or assault, or infiltration. Things like ammo capacity, rate of fire, accuracy, health regeneration and many more factors are all in play, too. You have the ability to chose whichever character you want for any mission, but certain classes will naturally perform better in certain missions.
You can level up your operative through 10 levels, and the bonuses are different from class to class. If you level up as a stealth-based operative, you’ll gain additional stealth infiltration bonuses for your score, the ability to carry new weapons and explosives, and your ammo capacity and health regeneration may improve.
PSB: How will the co-op play work?
Demirjian: Every single mission will be available for two-player cooperative play. You’ll be able to go your own way and proceed the way you want, or work more closely together if you choose. You won’t have to worry about your buddy running deep into another part of the level because we break the mission into a series of objectives.
When you’re playing co-op over Wi-Fi, we also automatically turn on the PS Vita’s internal microphone to keep communication channels open. You can turn it off, of course.
PSB: Just to be clear, co-op will be available only via Wi-Fi, right?
Demirjian: Co-op is over Wi-Fi, yes. The 3G functionality is for stat sharing via near, for getting real-time updates on scores, and for seeing when new high-value target missions or Daily Challenges become available. 3G is about the social component and seeing what your friends have been up to.