Well we’ve reviewed the latest installment in a series that many call the pinnacle of stealth gaming, so I feel it’s time we went in the complete opposite direction. Now let’s review a stealth game that would only be the pinnacle if it were maybe the second stealth game to ever be released ever.
Prison Break The Conspiracy’s sheer existence is strange. It’s not the first time a TV show based game has come out after the series is over, but the other example is an X-Files game which makes way more sense than Prison Break. Even when the game was first announced during the time the show was still on the air, nobody really cared about it. So to release it about a year later? That’s insanity. Throw in that the developers actually self-financed a great deal of the project and it takes everything to something so far past insanity that it will actually break your brain if you think about it. To add to that insanity, in Canada this game actually came out the same day as Splinter Cell Conviction! There’s really no explanation other than they wanted this thing to fail.
The other reviews for this one have certainly not been kind. They seem to usually hover around the 2/10 area. I can’t be quite that harsh on it. That kind of score should be reserved for games that are simply broken and unplayable. You can play Prison Break, it just provides you with little incentive to do so.
For fans of the show, all the characters you know are there. Michael Scofield, Lincoln Burroughs, Sucre, Teabag, Bellick, they’re all here. You play as none of them. No you play as Tom Paxton. Remember Tom Paxton? Of course not, because he wasn’t on the show!
That’s mistake number one. Why make a TV show based game and not let the player control a character they’re familiar with? What if the 24 game had come out and said “Jack Bauer has had countless bad days. But now….his cousin Ziggy is stepping in. Help Ziggy Bauer navigate countless…” See? That doesn’t work. That first X-files game tried the same thing by not having you play as either Mulder or Scully, and that did not work out for anyone involved.
It doesn’t help that Tom Paxton is a really boring character. He works for the Company and has been sent into the prison to ensure that Burroughs makes it to the electric chair. Want to guess whether or not he has a change of heart and switches teams halfway through? No because you’ve played a video game before and could see this coming a mile away? Well played, although you may be surprised at how quickly he switches sides. He spends the first half of the game skulking around, talking about how he has to make sure Burroughs dies (by the way, he talks about this into a tape recorder while standing mere feet from prison guards), until we get essentially this exchange:
“I have to make sure Burroughs dies, it’s my assignment from the Company.”
“No the company is bad, you should make sure Burroughs lives.”
Yea it’s….it’s pretty bad.
I’ll give them points for having most of the original voice actors, but none of them appear in the game for very long. For the actors they didn’t get (only three come to mind: the Warden, Dr. Tancredi, and Charles) they went one step further by not having them even resemble their TV show counterparts. Again though, they are barely in the game so it really doesn’t matter.
They did do a good job of capturing the look of the Fox River prison, and it’s also cool to hear the music cues from the show. So there you go, I do have nice things to say.
Let’s put a stop to that right now however by talking about the actual game play. Prison Break is a stealth game in its purest form. Sneak around, avoid guards, and don’t get spotted or you have to do it again. That’s really it, over and over again. It’s not like most stealth games released in the past decade where if you get caught you still have a chance to escape. Nope the second you’re spotted it’s back to the last checkpoint.
Sound frustrating? Oh you have no idea. Most of the time it’s just a matter of memorizing the patterns of the guards, searchlights, or whatever you’re up against. Sometimes though you’ll be making your way through a section the same way as always and someone will randomly spot you. The game always shows what caught you and more than a few times it would just show me a wall. Ok…so who the fuck spotted me? It couldn’t be a guard since they aren’t x-ray vision wielding robots. So did the wall itself rat me out? How did it pull that off? Can it be reasoned with? Prison Break provides none of these answers.
Aside from often being frustrating, the stealth mechanics simply aren’t very fun. You don’t have the option to take guards down and hide bodies and cause distractions or anything like that. You just hide behind things and sneak around in the dark. It is stealth gameplay in its most basic 1995 form.
Don’t worry though, there’s also some mediocre fighting to go along with it. The best I can say about the fighting is that on a basic level it is at least functional. You can punch and dodge, although that’s pretty much it. Really though you can just hammer on one button and you will almost always walk away from a fight victorious. I never once lost a fight and I never once employed any sort of strategy.
That about sums up Prison Break The Conspiracy. It’s about 8 hours of mashing a punch button and ducking behind dumpsters hoping that an inanimate wall doesn’t snitch on you. Believe me I would be ecstatic if I got to sit here and tell you this game was amazing. It would have been great if this game came out and just floored everyone with how good it is. Not surprisingly, it did no such thing, not even close. Unless you’re a die-hard enough fan that you literally got the Michael Scoffield tattoo on your torso, I wouldn’t bother with this one.