The Plan PS2 Review
Since Metal Gear Solid showed the world that sneaking around an enemy stronghold could be fun, there has been a flood of copycats. Not many of them are fit to be mentioned in the same breath of Solid Snake’s espionage titles, as it’s one genre that feels recycled with each new game. The Plan does things a little differently though, and even if the game could have done with some additional spit and polish, the results are still commendable.
If you are thinking of espionage agents cloaked in darkness or comically hiding under a cardboard box then The Plan may come as a refreshing change. The cast of controllable characters are actually a bunch of thieves and pulling off carefully calculated heists is what this game is all about.
The game begins as the band of thieves are about to steal a couple of famous Rembrandt paintings for the Mafia in exchange for a shiny and rather valuable diamond, this is when Stephen Foster (one of the thieves) decides to turn greedy and does a runner, leaving Alan Siegel (or “Poker” to his friends) trapped and subsequently thrown in jail for five years as a result. It’s this half decade later, that you’ll take control of the prisoner, as well as Robert Taylor (nicknamed “The Mind” as he’s always the man with the plan) and Valerie Carrera (known as “The Cat“ and Foster‘s former lady friend ) you are then tasked with masterminding an escape plan, which involves everything from chatting to guards to allow another character to sneak by, and pick pocketing the unsuspecting to gain possession of important and helpful items. When Poker’s freedom is assured the time is then right to execute a “plan” that will ultimately lead to revenge.
As the game goes on you’ll find yourself controlling different characters with individual skills. Some characters are skilled in climbing, whilst others are adept at lock picking, pick pocketing, explosive usage, safe cracking, sniping and more. Basically making use of each individuals abilities is an entirely linear affair, and therefore you’ll know who to employ when the situation arises, which is a little disappointing. We would have preferred to be encouraged to be in a more surgical mindset and plan our own heists, but this sadly is never an option.
The game has an unusual spin on the norm as accompanying characters are displayed in their own individual panels. The currently controlled character is obviously viewed in a nice sized panel, and you can flip between said panels with a single button press, thus switching the primary controlled character. It’s possible to control the characters in the smaller windows, by holding L1 or R1, but it’s not something that is really necessary on that many occasions. Certain characters are required for different situations and sometimes they have to cooperate to progress, by doing inspiring stuff such as pressing switches at the same time (for those who don’t know, we lied about the inspiring stuff). Thankfully there’s a mostly excellent control scheme installed – a boon for any game.
The game also has a good range of things to do from mission to mission, sometimes you’ll be trying your best to blend in whilst taking photographs, shutting down security systems, cutting power to operate in the darkness, creating diversions, hacking into computers, neutralising guards and using various Bond style gadgets. All these ideas are stolen from likeminded games perhaps, but at least it tries a few things opposed to sticking to a single one.
It has to be said that when you compare this to the likes of the Metal Gear Solid and the Splinter Cell series that The Plan can barely compete with the leading stealth games. There’s no fluidity to any of the characters movements, graphics are drab, and the enemy AI doesn’t make any obvious effort to bring you down. In spite of being shown up by its peers for its lack of polish, it’s deserving to be rated on its own merits, therefore The Plan may not be the most playable title on the market, but it’s certainly one of the most interesting to infiltrate the genre.