First of all, let’s clear something up. I’ve never watched the Prison Break series. Never have, and now this far behind, never will. I’m probably missing out on some amazing TV but really, I have more important things to do. One such thing is to play the game of course. I wouldn’t blame you for having very low expectations simply because I did but thanks to LoveFilm it dropped through my shiny brown door and I actually put it in my PS3.
And I’m glad I did.
Obviously, I don’t know much about the Prison Break story lines but the game seems to follow the first season’s plot. You play as Tom Paxton, an undercover agent for The Company, and your job is to find out why Michael Schofield wants to be in prison. As you progress, you discover his plan but also a massive conspiracy, which throws a nice twist into the plot. Paxton is a new-comer to the series and eventually the game becomes all about him.
Prison Break certainly isn’t pushing the PS3’s hardware to the limits but everything, from character models to office equipment, looks decent and at times the lighting effects are quite good. A prime example is during the midnight hunts you must fulfil, where the search lights are constantly moving over the areas surrounding you (and even on you if you aren’t quick). The shadows cast allow you to easily determine safe cover and bypass the often tricky light pathways.
The characters all match their TV counterparts but seem cleaner, losing the gritty feeling I’d imagine the show (and any prison) possess. The voice acting also sounds perfect and the surroundings are nice and crisp. We aren’t talking Naughty Dog levels of detail here but everything flows well and I never saw any graphical glitches.
If stealth isn’t your thing, then this game should be avoided. Each of the nine chapters involve sneaking past at least one guard, who at times do appear to be blindfolded. A warning system of red bars easily shows the likelihood of being seen, making the stealth even easier. Some areas do require a trial and error approach but there is nothing too taxing, thanks to the R2 button allowing you to focus on the appropriate solution. Although it is possible to train your character and develop some buff looking pixels, combat can only be used against other inmates. This is extremely annoying when the only guard in the entire area spots you and the mission is failed. I’m sure a real Prison Breaker would put up a fight and ultimately win.
Which brings me nicely to the fighting controls. They are simple enough, with buttons dedicated to punches, blocking and dodging. The latter two do require some skill (or a lot of luck) but can be very useful when fighting two or more inmates. Once you have beaten and bruised your opponent enough, a finisher can be used to end the brawl. I only saw around four or five different finishers so they did start to become repetitive.
As you may have seen in the trailer, the gameplay involves regular acrobatics in the form of quick time events. These often felt sprung on me, as if the developers were scared I’d fallen asleep during the cutscenes (which normally wasn’t the case). Because of this, I frequently missed buttons or mashed the wrong one in a desperate struggle to regain control, eventually resulting in the checkpoint restarting. Not all QTEs were badly placed. Some were perfectly placed during the high tensioned areas, resulting in obscene amounts of tension.
When you aren’t swinging from the ceilings or sneaking in the back door, you will find yourself in The Yard. This outside space allows you to hone your fighting skills either by training or simply picking your opponent. To reach the top fighting level doesn’t take long at all and this is a great advantage in the underground fighting tournaments. These are introduced early on in the game but only properly usable in the second half. This feature exemplifies the repetitive nature of the finishers, mentioned earlier.
Similar to the singleplayer fighting tournaments is Versus mode, allowing two players to choose from a range of fighters and arenas to battle it out. I couldn’t find any online mode, which was a major omission, but the whole mode seemed tacked on and rushed in the first place. It wouldn’t be missed if it was removed.
Most of the mechanics are done well, with only a few let downs, but nothing new is really given to the player. If you enjoyed the TV show then you might find this to be a little lacklustre but it certainly isn’t an awful addition to the Prison Break series.
- Stealth mechanics work well
- Clean and crisp graphics
- Story progresses well
- Versus mode needs more thought
- Trial and error needed for some QTEs
- Fighting system could do with a few extra moves
The Conspiracy might not appeal to fans but to a Prison Break virgin, it is surprisingly good. Yes, there are flaws and it won’t win any awards but it should definitely at least be rented. Even just for the simple trophies.