Prison Break: review

  • Format: PS3 (version reviewed), 360, PC
  • Unleashed: Out Now
  • Publisher: Deep Silver
  • Developer: Zootfly
  • Players: 1 – 2 (main game 1 only)
  • Site: http://prisonbreak.deepsilver.co.uk/

Imagine Metal Gear Solid, but with the weapons (and the fun) removed to make room for QTEs and ham – fisted unarmed combat. Also, being spotted while sneaking around results in instant failure, and the whole game can be completed in just a few days. Right, that’s the Prison Break review sorted; who’s coming down the pub?

Don’t worry, we will go into more detail before getting drunk and rating our partners out of ten (“The graphics are very good, but the looping soundtrack gets annoying after a while”). The events of Prison Break: The Conspiracy take place during the first season of the TV series and as such, the game is set inside a… go on, have a guess. No, not a bakery.

A prison.

This is why so much of the game sees you, as an undercover agent of The Company, sneaking around and peeking out from cupboards like a raging pervert. Prison inmates aren’t given the run of the facility you see (no, really) and you’ll often be required to be places you’re not allowed to be. Fortunately for you, security is lax and inept. The fact that one inmate has little trouble finding opportunities to clamber walls, run across rooftops, and sneak through offices is proof enough of that.

Story, understandably perhaps, is pushed as a central element of the game. You’ll follow, hinder, and eventually help the two brothers so important to the TV series, and uncover conspiracies (hence the subtitle) and plot twists along the way. Unfortunately the script is uninspiring, and the acting distinctly ‘meh’. That said, one unintentionally memorable performance is given by the actor playing mysterious Company figure Mannix. He seems to be going for an Irish rough and ready gangster – type voice; but he actually sounds like he’s doing a passable impression of Mr Krabs from Spongebob Squarepants.

As part of your cover, you very soon do a favour for one of the prison guards, who wants you to start trouble with a chap carrying the honorific ‘T – Bag’ so there’s a good excuse to put him in solitary confinement. Basically, you put T – Bag in hot water, then they leave him to stew. This event crops up later in the game once or twice, as Mr Bag seeks revenge; but again, it’s all rather uninteresting.

"What time is it, Mr Wolf?"

The form of revenge Mr Bag and others seek to wreak, is that of violence; namely, fisticuffs. You’ll sometimes be pushed into fighting other inmates in order to progress, though you’ll probably wish you weren’t. You get one button for quick punches, one for slow but stronger ones, one to ‘dash’, and one to block. Despite the talk of ‘reversals’ and finishing moves – and the ability to upgrade your skills via punchbag and weightlifting minigames – fights are basically slow, awkward, and unresponsive button – bashers. Ones where you feel like your avatar is wearing concrete wellingtons and lead gloves.

There are optional underground fights where you can take on inmates for cash; but apart from achievements/trophies and virtual tattoos, there’s no reason you’d want to. There’s also a ‘versus’ mode in the options menu where you can fight with a friend. Make use of this however and you’re less likely to hear ‘wow, this is really fun’ than you are to hear ‘make me play this with you again, and I’m telling everybody you’re sleeping with my dog’.

Objectives rarely stray from ‘go to X and retrieve Y’, with the occasional bit of ‘then give to Z’ in the name of variety. Entering a new location usually means the beginning of one of the aforementioned stealth sections. There are sometimes cameras to avoid, locks to pick (a simple but non-frustrating process) and, um, screws to be unscrewed. Most of the time though you’ll be avoiding the line of sight of guards and maintenance workers, usually by employing the workmanlike cover system. When you stray into a character’s line of sight you’ll start off their four stages of awareness, as indicated by red arrows in their direction. The four stages are presumably 1) Did I see something? 2)Yes, I think I did, I’ll try to focus my vision. 3) Yes, definitely, it’s a person. It’s… 4) It’s an inmate! He shouldn’t be here!!! The speed they go through these stages depends on how close you are, and how fast you’re moving (fast is theoretically bad).

The strictly scripted areas of vision for NPCs, however, led to several hilarious instances where a guard was shining a torch into our face from a few feet away, yet was completely unable to see us. Once, a guard rather disturbingly shoved his face through the metal of the cupboard we were hiding in, poked us in the eye with his nose (probably), and then wandered off without ever knowing we were there. In fact – and bear in mind we were playing on the highest difficulty – we sometimes found it possible, and preferable, to simply leg it past people before their awareness hit the fourth stage.

"Tell me about it man, that white shirt shop is AWESOME!"

The sad thing is however that the (surprisingly brief) final chapter is actually kind of… fun – and not just because you get to hit somebody in the face with a toilet. There’s no stealth, which is probably the chapter’s biggest boost. There is however a chase with a genuine sense of urgency, and an atmospheric rooftop battle; though that of course still relies on the same deeply flawed system as every other fight. Nonetheless, the end of the game is a bittersweet look at the title we might have seen, had Zootfly been given more time and money.

The often unexpected and awkwardly timed QTEs are bearable, but almost always unwelcome. They, and the PS2 – quality graphics, are an indication of the overall last – gen throwback feel of the game. Prison Break fan or not, bottom line is: avoid.


4/10

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Written by Luke K

Luke plays lots of videogames, now and again stopping to write about them. He's the editor in chief at Critical Gamer, which fools him into thinking his life has some kind of value. Chances are, if you pick up a copy of the latest Official PlayStation Magazine or GamesMaster, you'll find something he's written in there. Luke doesn't have a short temper. If you suggest otherwise, he will punch you in the face.

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