Release: March 30, 2010
Genre: Action Stealth
Available Platforms: Xbox 360, PS3, PC
Players: One or two with Versus mode
ESRB Rating: Teen
The kind of experience you have while playing Prison Break: The Conspiracy depends on the mindset you have going into it. It’s hard to explain what kind of views people have on the game, but from my point of view, I didn’t know what to expect. Is it a fan game? Fighting game? Stealth game? All the above are true, but if you think it’s JUST a fan game, I’d have to say you are wrong. Yes, the game covers most events from the first season of the show but I personally went into Prison Break having not seen the show previously. I didn’t even know what to expect in terms of gameplay either as I had not looked into the game that much at all. So what is Prison Break: The Conspiracy like?
Prison Break: The Conspiracy is essentially the first season of the show with events solely based in the prison. In the game, you play as Tom Paxton, an undercover agent working for “The Company”. Your boss, Jack Mannix, sends you to the prison as an inmate when he suspects something strange is going on at the Fox River prison. What’s strange is how a hard working building engineer, Michael Scofield, WANTS to be in the prison. Turns out, he is the brother of an inmate, Lincoln Burrows who was supposedly sentenced for a murder he did not commit. While you not only discover that Michael is their to break him out, you also uncover a massive conspiracy behind the murder that changes the plans and decisions of those involved.
With that said, although fans of the show will be quite familiar with the events that take place in the game, you play as a new character. At first, it seems as if you are playing Paxton just to follow Scofield around, but you soon realize there is another story to go along with Paxton. Also, a lot of the dialog and main events with Scofield in the show, are mostly transferred to Paxton for the first bit of the game. Eventually the story branches off and it’s all about Paxton.
For the most part, the game consists of you running around completing various missions to progress the story; most of the missions are played in a stealth mode and require you to sneak around inside the prison. During the early part of the game, you will be following Scofield around and will see events from the show in a different view. As you’d expect, most of the set from the show is playable in the game. Fans of the show will appreciate how closely the set is presented in the game from the prison hallways and cells to “The Yard”. Stealth missions require you to acquire an object or piece of information for either yourself or another inmate. Escaping “The Yard” and sneaking into the prison to find new information, is the most common stealth mission. Completing a mission will require good timing, patience, and planning of the guards walking paths. To avoid being spotted, you’ll be using objects from the environment to hide behind, pipes to climb, and darkness to your advantage. Some doors will be locked and require you to pick the lock. Not only will you have to line up the pins, but you will sometimes have to do it quickly to avoid being spotted. Unlike other stealth games such as Splinter Cell, you will not be taking out guards. If any guard or worker spots you in stealth mode, you will have to restart from the last checkpoint. When climbing or swinging across objects, the camera is interesting but can be awkward. At times there are quick time events but I found most of them to be frustrating and time consuming, requiring a restart from last checkpoint. Although there are a lot of these stealth missions, each involve a fresh new experience.
When you aren’t involved in a stealth mission, you’ll be spending your time in “The Yard”. Here you can increase your strength by lifting weights or punching a bag, earn tattoos or pick fights to earn money. Each section of “The Yard” is covered by a certain inmate and sometimes requires you to do something for them first. Occasionally you’ll be fighting in Prison Break and when you do, you’ll most likely be frustrated. The fighting controls are simple allowing you to punch, block, and step away but the opponents tend to punch and knock you down too often. At times you can reverse or counter an attack but you are rarely given these chances. Having more options in the fight, such as proper counters, kicks or dodging punches would have improved fighting.
Surprisingly there are a lot of things I liked about Prison Break. I found the stealth mechanics to be interesting. Although elements are reused, each stealth mission feels different. The story progresses really well. You are almost always progressing from mission to mission with minor time spent in “The Yard”. There is one mission in particular that provides an intense and action packed experience. A big riot breaks out inside the prison. In this mission there are plenty of proper quick time events, fights, and running through the halls. When introducing the main characters, there was an interesting cutaway showing the characters mug shot, name, and other little bits of information. At the end of each chapter, there is a nice recap of the events that took place in the previous chapter. Familiar transitions are present between certain sections of the game to mimic commercial transitions during the show. Being spotted will require a restart from the last checkpoint but the loading is instant and almost right from where you left off. You technically can’t die in this game either. You can lose fights but you just walk away as if nothing even happened.
The music provides a cinematic and edgy feel to the game; most of it is recycled from the show but why change what’s already great? The graphics aren’t bad and provide a great representation of the prison and actors from the show. At times, the lighting also provides an interesting and nice touch to the gameplay.
Although there are a lot of interesting components incorporated in to the game, the gameplay isn’t always executed well. The camera controls are a little awkward since the third person camera is way too close to the character. The controls feel clunky at times when running around or fighting. A versus mode is included, but is not executed very well. It feels like a Def Jam type game with the inmates creating a circle around the fight, but that’s as far as I go with the comparison. The fighting, like in the main game, is not that great. It’s nice to see a versus mode in games, but this a case where it should not have been included. The quick time events were a great addition to the gameplay but the timing between pressing the buttons was almost instant, resulting in a fail. More often then not, you’ll be continuously pressing the A button and then be required to quickly tap B. When the option to hit B is available, you’ll still be tapping A. The animations are sometimes clunky, poorly looped, and look robotic at times.
My Final Thoughts:
Although the game had many flaws, the story progressed really well and provided great stealth gameplay. I personally left wanting more – a Season 2 perhaps but with improvements of course. The game can be completed in roughly 6 hours on the medium difficulty setting; that may seem short but it wrapped up the first season in one game nicely without saturating it with unnecessary side missions. I came into this game interested in the stealth gameplay and to learn about the story as I have not seen the show. Playing the game peaked my interest so I decided to finally watch the show. Now I’m going through every season with the same excitement I had with the game. I can’t really say who this game is for or who will end up liking it. I came in not knowing what to expect, heard some negative things but ended up really enjoying the game. The gameplay is simple and, even though quick time events or fighting is frustrating, you are given many quick chances to try it again. I recommend renting the game before judging what it’s like. Who knows, maybe it’ll surprise you like it did for me.