Prison Break: The Conspiracy Review
Written : Thursday, April 15, 2010
By: Lee Abrahams (GT: jackanape)
Just in time to tie in with the original TV series, here is Prison Break, the game. In case you missed it, that was sarcasm, you know, because the opening season of Prison Break (which this game ties into) was out many moons ago. Long enough that even die hard fans of the once popular TV show will have probably forgotten what even happened. It is not quite a Duke Nukem Forever delay, but it really does make you wonder who the game is aimed at, as the show's fans have probably moved onto the latest ‘next big thing’ on the box by now.
This is no time to stop and watch the game.
You play the role of Tom Paxton, a company man, sent into prison on an undercover assignment to keep an eye on Michael Schofield and Lincoln Burrows as they plan their diabolical escape. The plot weaves in and out of events during the first season of the show, but part of the problem is that some of the gaps are never filled in. Meaning that if you have never seen the show, then you will have little clue about what is going on. It makes the game extremely unwelcoming for newcomers and means the story is often full of plot holes and discrepancies. The immersion is also not helped by the fact our company man will make voice recordings and phone calls about his mission while standing inches away from other convicts. Oh yeah, way to keep your cover secret there chief.
The basic plot sees you at first shadowing and then taking part in the escapees' plan, while also furthering your own agenda. The obvious way to ensure success lies in stealth, as you are unarmed and outnumbered by the numerous guards and unfriendly convicts. The entire game revolves around sneaking your way past a variety of guards, cleaners and cameras in a bid to accomplish your goals. This would be fine if the whole stealth mechanic was not so utterly broken. Play the game on easy and you can pretty much run straight past guards without them batting an eyelid - which kind of kills any challenge or realism. However, play the game on "Shark" difficulty and things just become amazingly unfair. Spotlights can see you through walls and guards can find you without even looking at you. Every time you are spotted the camera zooms in on whoever caught you out, and the amount of times it zoomed into solid brick walls or the back of the nearest guard is laughable. When ninety percent of the gameplay is stealth based and that mechanic has not been implemented correctly, then you have a game that really is not worth your time.
Meeting behind the bleachers? Romantic.
The only other gameplay element comes in the form of fighting - against other inmates usually - and this hardly adds much in the way of entertainment either. Most of the fights take place in a very confined area and you only have a choice of heavy and light attacks, plus a block/counter button. However, all of that is rendered useless the second you realise that you can just tap the quick attack button as rapidly as possible in order to win each and every fight. You could spend time working on the exercise equipment too, which is just one of two different button pressing mini games, in order to raise your stamina and power levels, but there really is no point. If you want to take the chance to earn some extra cash you can partake in some underground fights against other perps, but as you can only buy tattoos there is really no reason to bother unless you are after achievements.
It does not really help that every chapter follows the same routine, no matter what your objective. You will have to sneak past some guards, find something and then sneak back. Along the way you might engage in some fisticuffs or have to overcome one of the numerous highly unfair quick time sequences, but generally, it's the same formula. Some of the button presses during these quick time events require you to tap a button continuously while others require just a solitary press, so flicking from one to the other in a split second is amazingly unfair, right? Apparently the developers did not think so and want you to suffer playing through the same section over and over again until you get the timing spot on. Fun times.
At least the game has the look and feel of the series down to a fine art, right? Sigh – if only that were the case. The characters look extremely wooden and the lip syncing is like watching a ventriloquist's dummy in action. Some of the dialogue is laughable too, at one point a guard literally says “yadda, yadda, yadda” while on the phone. It is as if the script writer just threw his hands up in the air and said he was done with the whole thing halfway through. Judging by the repetition of character models as well, you would think everyone is born from the same embryo, as there only seems to be a limited number of guards and convicts in the entire area. I could say that every area looks the same drab colour too, but it is a prison so such uniformity is expected I guess.
Even during a riot people find the time to nap.
Thankfully, for your sanity, this is a fairly easy one thousand points. You can snag more than half in the first chapter alone assuming you grind out all of the underground fights, get yourself some ink and work out on the exercise equipment. After that it becomes a case of grinding through the shockingly poor game itself. The only possible snag is completing the whole game without being seen, as you will have to quit out of the game completely should you get spotted, leading to you having to redo some sections mainly thanks to some appallingly long checkpoints. The list is pretty poorly thoughout and it does not help that the achievement tiles themselves are absolutely rubbish either.
Prison Break is a game that is almost entirely based around stealth and when that mechanic is completely broken (at best), then there is pretty much no point in persevering it. Play it on easy and you can run within inches of any guard with impunity, killing the realism, or you can try it on hard and get spotted around corners, in cover and by guards who are not even looking at you – it is a shocking experience either way. With only a very weak fighting system providing any other form of action, then this becomes a very drawn out affair all around, and the story is just not good enough to hold things together as people who have never seen the show will be wondering what the hell is going on. With Splinter Cell on the horizon, you should avoid this like the plague.
Extremely poor considering the fact they actually roped in the show's actual cast members. Most of the dialogue is clichéd and stilted at best. Plus, some of the guards' lines are just flat out lazy in terms of writing.
Decent enough, with the main character given most of the love, but there only seems to be about three different guards and inmates in the entire prison.
The stealth mechanic is totally broken, and you will often get spotted even when you are in cover – often by guards looking the other way entirely. The fights are also just a case of button mashing until you emerge victorious.
A decent tie in with the series, but it often takes complete liberties in terms of realism and how events unfold. Regardless, it has arrived about five years too late.
A poorly thought out list where you can get over half the points in the first chapter alone and the rest are then thinly spread over the rest of the game. The tiles are hideous too.
Prison Break is a stealth game that has a broken stealth mechanic that pretty much fails on every level. The story isn't up to much either and the level of realism is non-existent. I would say that this is a game purely for fans of the show, but it has been released such a long time after the original series that it no longer seems that relevant. Rent it if you must, but be prepared for disappointment.