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"[Game] Prison Break: The Conspiracy"

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This thread has been linked to the game 'Prison Break: The Conspiracy'.
Wed 31/03/10 at 14:09
Regular
Posts: 5,630
Prison Break: The Conspiracy sends you back to Fox River State Penitentiary, the ominous prison that played host to the first season of the TV show. You are incarcerated not as Michael Scofield, the tattooed genius out to save his brother from Death Row, but as Tom Paxton, an agent of shadowy organisation ‘The Company’ sent to investigate him and his escape attempt.

At this point I’d like to preface this review by saying your enjoyment of this game will be vastly different depending on whether or not you are a fan of the TV series that inspired it. For gamers unfamiliar to the series’ concepts and characters, you will largely find a substandard Metal Gear Solid clone, tenuously linked together by an inconsistent fight system and workout minigames (which I thought everyone had agreed wouldn’t see the light of day again after GTA: San Andreas).

However, if you are a fan of the TV show, you are likely to be a lot more tolerable of the game’s faults. The game is very reverential to the source material with Ramin Djawadi’s music score from the show implemented throughout. Character likenesses and voices range from the quite good (C-Note, Scofield, T-Bag) to the non-existent (Westmoreland, Dr. Tancredi). In addition it does quite a good job of incorporating familiar, memorable scenes from the first season.

Like Lost: Via Domus, you play a character previously unseen on the show, allowing a new narrative and a fresh perspective on events. That’s in theory. In practice, you either briefly witness Scofield’s own plan or are shoehorned into to many of the main moments of the first season – the riot, working in Prison Industries, the pseudo-breakout where Scofield escaped to the roof, Haywire etc. To an extent it works but unlike Lost, which is an ensemble show and arguably hard to pick a ‘main’ character, Prison Break has a clear, single protagonist. As you are essentially have the same objectives as Michael Scofield, I’m not sure why you couldn’t have played as him, because effectively you do so anyway but with a far less interesting character.

The bulk of the gameplay is stealth, as you evade guards and attempt to navigate the prison unseen. However, many if not all of the missions spread across the game’s nine chapters require you to either fetch an item or alter a document. The stealth mechanic is fairly well done, and in early chapters at least you will get a kick out of flawlessly evading guards. To navigate areas you have to constantly refer to the blueprint-style map for directions and guidance. However, there is often only one way of making it, and if you are spotted by someone it’s an instant fail. There is literally no flexibility within this. You have no option of incapacitating your witness (if it’s a guard fair enough, but if you are spotted by a receptionist or gardener?), and no methods of distraction – at all. It's evade the line of sight or else.

Now you could make the case this is realistic but from a gameplay perspective it becomes repetitive quite quickly. The only deviations from this (such as disabling lights etc) are only available when the game prompts you to do it. Furthermore, if you see a locker in the room after a while your conditioned to think that you *have* to use it to evade guards. So the lack of flexibility in how you approach the stealth areas really hurts the gameplay in the long term and the replayability of the game. The game also has an unhealthy reliance on quicktime events. For some reason the button icon is quite small and changes very quickly, so be prepared to replay sections often until you memorise the sequence and get it right. Unfortunately, they also creep their way into the fighting sections.

I recently reviewed The Bourne Conspiracy which had a far superior fighting hand to hand combat system, allowing you to build up a meter to unleash cool takedown moves reminiscent of the films. Prison Break doesn’t have anything near as well developed. You have a quick punch, a powerful punch (which takes so long to execute you almost invariably struggle to use it), and …that’s it. A block button, if executed correctly, allows you to reverse the manoeuvre, with a QTE to finish the fight. In addition to fights throughout the main campaign there is an underground fight club where you can earn money to buy tattoos. Unfortunately, once you have mastered the reverse system (which takes roughly a minute) every fight can be easily won by reversing, even on the hardest difficulty.

Most of the principle cast lend their voices to the game which adds an air of authenticity. However, at times it feels a little phoned in, and visually the characters look a little blocky with no lip movement. In contrast, cut-scenes in some games are now so well done (Mass Effect 2 for example) that the cut scenes here come across a little sub-standard. Visually the game is decent but nothing outstanding. As I mentioned earlier some of the character likenesses are very well done, and it Fox River is fairly well represented on screen. Again, if you like the show you’ll get a kick out of it. If not chances are you won’t be that impressed.

It’s hard to stretch the prison break concept, in the context of the remaining faithful to the show, to a lengthy game with varied, interesting objectives and gameplay and so it proves with Prison Break: The Conspiracy. If you are not a fan of the show but of the genre, there is very little to recommend, and it’s probably advisable to wait for Splinter Cell Conviction. Even if you are, I wouldn’t set your expectations too high. As a massive Prison Break fan I have followed the tumultuous development of this game over the last few years and didn’t expect a blinding gameplay experience but was encouraged by how faithful they were being to the source material, and on that score the game is a success and worth a play. For die-hard fans only.
Thu 01/04/10 at 17:05
Regular
"How Ironic"
Posts: 4,312
RM18 wrote:
> Ha I just checked that San Andreas review and its so true.

Glad you agree :D And great review RM :)
Thu 01/04/10 at 13:26
Regular
"@optometrytweet"
Posts: 4,686
I'll bare that in mind as need to get into a good TV series boxsets to take to university with me - as I am not taking a TV (laptops FTW).

I am indeed an achievement gamer - why not join in with freeola's 20k gamerscore challenge (you don't need 20k, just a target you pick to try and beat). It's over on the games forum.

I've just watched the video for this game and it does look pretty interesting!
Wed 31/03/10 at 14:32
Regular
Posts: 5,630
Ha I just checked that San Andreas review and its so true. Whats worse in PB is that you don't get any stronger or fitter from doing so, and if you like to go for achievements in games (as I do) there are a couple for doing the punch bag and bench press for 10 minutes! Utterly, utterly mundane.
Wed 31/03/10 at 14:25
Regular
Posts: 5,630
Thanks man - the first season of Prison Break is definitely worth watching. I'd play the game afterwards. Doing it the other way round would probably put you off!
Wed 31/03/10 at 14:18
Regular
"@optometrytweet"
Posts: 4,686
Great review - sounds like I may give it a play through - who knows, it may even get me into Prison Break!

*I like the reference to the GTA:SA workout minigames...especially as they've been discussed in a review this week on GTA:SA*
Wed 31/03/10 at 14:09
Regular
Posts: 5,630
Prison Break: The Conspiracy sends you back to Fox River State Penitentiary, the ominous prison that played host to the first season of the TV show. You are incarcerated not as Michael Scofield, the tattooed genius out to save his brother from Death Row, but as Tom Paxton, an agent of shadowy organisation ‘The Company’ sent to investigate him and his escape attempt.

At this point I’d like to preface this review by saying your enjoyment of this game will be vastly different depending on whether or not you are a fan of the TV series that inspired it. For gamers unfamiliar to the series’ concepts and characters, you will largely find a substandard Metal Gear Solid clone, tenuously linked together by an inconsistent fight system and workout minigames (which I thought everyone had agreed wouldn’t see the light of day again after GTA: San Andreas).

However, if you are a fan of the TV show, you are likely to be a lot more tolerable of the game’s faults. The game is very reverential to the source material with Ramin Djawadi’s music score from the show implemented throughout. Character likenesses and voices range from the quite good (C-Note, Scofield, T-Bag) to the non-existent (Westmoreland, Dr. Tancredi). In addition it does quite a good job of incorporating familiar, memorable scenes from the first season.

Like Lost: Via Domus, you play a character previously unseen on the show, allowing a new narrative and a fresh perspective on events. That’s in theory. In practice, you either briefly witness Scofield’s own plan or are shoehorned into to many of the main moments of the first season – the riot, working in Prison Industries, the pseudo-breakout where Scofield escaped to the roof, Haywire etc. To an extent it works but unlike Lost, which is an ensemble show and arguably hard to pick a ‘main’ character, Prison Break has a clear, single protagonist. As you are essentially have the same objectives as Michael Scofield, I’m not sure why you couldn’t have played as him, because effectively you do so anyway but with a far less interesting character.

The bulk of the gameplay is stealth, as you evade guards and attempt to navigate the prison unseen. However, many if not all of the missions spread across the game’s nine chapters require you to either fetch an item or alter a document. The stealth mechanic is fairly well done, and in early chapters at least you will get a kick out of flawlessly evading guards. To navigate areas you have to constantly refer to the blueprint-style map for directions and guidance. However, there is often only one way of making it, and if you are spotted by someone it’s an instant fail. There is literally no flexibility within this. You have no option of incapacitating your witness (if it’s a guard fair enough, but if you are spotted by a receptionist or gardener?), and no methods of distraction – at all. It's evade the line of sight or else.

Now you could make the case this is realistic but from a gameplay perspective it becomes repetitive quite quickly. The only deviations from this (such as disabling lights etc) are only available when the game prompts you to do it. Furthermore, if you see a locker in the room after a while your conditioned to think that you *have* to use it to evade guards. So the lack of flexibility in how you approach the stealth areas really hurts the gameplay in the long term and the replayability of the game. The game also has an unhealthy reliance on quicktime events. For some reason the button icon is quite small and changes very quickly, so be prepared to replay sections often until you memorise the sequence and get it right. Unfortunately, they also creep their way into the fighting sections.

I recently reviewed The Bourne Conspiracy which had a far superior fighting hand to hand combat system, allowing you to build up a meter to unleash cool takedown moves reminiscent of the films. Prison Break doesn’t have anything near as well developed. You have a quick punch, a powerful punch (which takes so long to execute you almost invariably struggle to use it), and …that’s it. A block button, if executed correctly, allows you to reverse the manoeuvre, with a QTE to finish the fight. In addition to fights throughout the main campaign there is an underground fight club where you can earn money to buy tattoos. Unfortunately, once you have mastered the reverse system (which takes roughly a minute) every fight can be easily won by reversing, even on the hardest difficulty.

Most of the principle cast lend their voices to the game which adds an air of authenticity. However, at times it feels a little phoned in, and visually the characters look a little blocky with no lip movement. In contrast, cut-scenes in some games are now so well done (Mass Effect 2 for example) that the cut scenes here come across a little sub-standard. Visually the game is decent but nothing outstanding. As I mentioned earlier some of the character likenesses are very well done, and it Fox River is fairly well represented on screen. Again, if you like the show you’ll get a kick out of it. If not chances are you won’t be that impressed.

It’s hard to stretch the prison break concept, in the context of the remaining faithful to the show, to a lengthy game with varied, interesting objectives and gameplay and so it proves with Prison Break: The Conspiracy. If you are not a fan of the show but of the genre, there is very little to recommend, and it’s probably advisable to wait for Splinter Cell Conviction. Even if you are, I wouldn’t set your expectations too high. As a massive Prison Break fan I have followed the tumultuous development of this game over the last few years and didn’t expect a blinding gameplay experience but was encouraged by how faithful they were being to the source material, and on that score the game is a success and worth a play. For die-hard fans only.

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