Prison Break: The Conspiracy Xbox 360 Review

May 29, 2010 by  
Filed under Reviews & Features, Xbox 360, Xbox

Developers have a tough decision when dealing with a major film or television property, such as Prison Break. Do they make a game based on what has already been seen, putting the player into the role of the characters? Or do they expand and enhance on the property in a clever way? Prison Break: The Conspiracy aims to do both. The player takes control of agent Tom Paxton, sent into Fox River Penitentiary by the mysterious Company. Paxton’s aim is to observe and report on what newly incarcerated Michael Schofield is up to, in particular reference to his fellow prisoner Lincoln Burrows – due for execution for a murder he did not commit. The action takes place during the first season of the show, and gives a new angle on some key events leading up to the prison break.

The gameplay is a mixture of stealth and fighting, with some rudimentary platform skill needed to find a way around. Characters ask Paxton for his help, or he has to find objects within the prison. This then involves Paxton sneaking into an area, avoiding being detected by the guards, workers or security cameras. Pressing B will guide Paxton into cover, then allowing him to turn a corner or jump to the next piece of cover when the time is right. The right analogue stick is used to undo bolts or open fuse boxes, while a very similar lock-picking sequence is necessary for some doors. In the pressure-cooker atmosphere of the prison, fights often break out or Paxton can choose to earn money in the underground fighting ring. Controls are very simple – two types of punch and a block that can lead to a reversal opportunity. And at key points, the game becomes a series of QTE (Quick Time Events), with the player having to push buttons at the right time to continue.

Graphics for the most part are underwhelming. The interiors are put together well but by necessity cloaked in shadow, the institutional design not leaving much room for variety. And while there is some likeness with the actors, the face textures are very plastic and lack emotion. Character voices will be familiar, but delivery is at times stilted and with no natural overlap. The atmosphere is spoiled by repeating sections when things go wrong, the same soundbites becoming grating once they have been heard more than once. Presentation in general is adequate, the mini-map proving useful and the “discovery” effect (the camera tilting and zooming in to the guard/camera and the display fading to black & white) is nicely done. The split-screen effect (showing Paxton if he is under threat of being discovered) is also handled well, but the QTE’s are badly implemented.

Fans of the show will be looking forward to the plot, but when it is tied to such straightforward and unrewarding gameplay it is a real disappointment. The stealth sections lack the subtlety of games such as Metal Gear Solid or Splinter Cell, and the fighting mechanics are clumsy. The Versus fight option gives two players on the same console the chance to go head-to-head with the main characters, but it adds little. The game awards a steady stream of Achievements, with some locked away on the hardest (Shark) difficulty, but when getting tattoos earns you Gamerpoints their value is diminished somewhat. In the end it comes down to the fact that there is no real freedom for the player. Events happen in a strict order and there is no varying from the path. Obstacles have to be tackled in the way the game expects, as being a few inches out of the pre-ordained hiding place will see the player discovered and forced to try again. The final disappointment is how short the game is – just a few brief hours, although the individual chapters can be replayed.

Developer Zootfly took the brave decision to continue with the game after the original publishers had pulled out, and it would be nice to think that the end result was worth the effort. However, the linear gameplay and constant frustration have left a title that is unsatisfying and ultimately feels outdated. A big name deserved a better game.