Videogames based on Movies deservedly get a bad rap. Most of them tend to be generic cash-in’s designed solely to con a further $60 out of fans of the movie. However compared to games based on popular TV shows, Movie tie-in’s almost seem like a work of art. Several hit shows such as LOST, 24, The Shield and The Sopranos have all garnered videogame adaptations and they have all been terrible. Now almost 5 years after Prison Break first aired on US Television, Slovenian developer Zootfly (most famous for a Youtube video) has bought the now defunct series to the PS3, Xbox 360 and PC, but honestly they should have never bothered.
Season 1 of Prison Break presented the most thrilling and intense moments of the entire series so I was pleased to hear that it will also be the basis of The Conspiracy’s plot. What I wasn’t pleased about was the invention of a new character Tom Paxton who wasn’t in the show but will act as the main protagonist in the game, not only that but this new guy who you’re forced to control will be actively working against the characters we all know and love from the show, instantly making him unlikable. For those not familiar with FOX’s 2005 phenomenon, Prison Break’s plot involved an innocent man, Lincoln Burrows, being framed for a murder and sentenced to death in Fox River, a maximum security jail located in Illinois. Rather than appealing in a court of law or accepting his brother’s cruel fate, Michael Scofield decided to do the next best thing and tattoo the entire Prison blueprint across his body and intentionally get himself locked up in Fox River so he can break his brother out. The main draw of the show was Michael Scofield, watching Michael concoct genius plans each week and work his way out of impossible situations was fascinating. Other great characters such as Officer Brad Bellick, mobb boss John Abruzzi and everyone’s favorite homosexual/pedofile/rapist Theodore “T-Bag” Bagwell helped to round out the fantastic cast. But no, here you play as Tom Paxton, an undercover operative for the bad guys (known as The Company) who is sent to Fox River solely to act as a throne in Scofield’s side and prevent him from hoping over the prison walls with Lincoln in tow.
In case I haven’t made it clear by now Tom Paxton is a terrible character. Not only is he odd looking, annoying and completely out of place, he is also the worst undercover snitch known to man. Through-out the game Paxton will document both his plans and the going-on’s in the prison via his “hidden” audio diary which he keeps on him at all times. The problem is, Paxton talks aloud in to his recording device at the most obscene moments but no one seems to notice. Whether he’s right in front of Officers, in a room full of sleeping inmates, hidden in a corner with patrolling security guard right beside him or even standing next to the very people that he’s talking about, Tom will blabber away in his little audio device as if his voice can only be heard when he wants people to hear it. Another thing I hate about Tom is his inability to say the word “No”. Almost every character in the game will have something for Tom to collect or do for them and he will always comply without hesitation, regardless of the risk or reward. C-Note you need some drugs? Tom will get it for you. Abruzzi you need a knife? Tom will find you one. T-Bag you need another inmate to hold on to your pocket and be your bitch for the day? I’m sure Tom is around here somewhere… Instead of collecting everything for everyone, then collecting some more things, why doesn’t Tom just stab the Michael in the neck with a piece of glass and Mission Complete! That would probably be too smart, and as we’ve already assessed Tom is a fucking idiot.
For a game where the main draw is the familiar cast, the character models and assosiated voice work is hit and miss. Michael looks and sounds like Michael but his cellmate Sucre may as well be an unnamed illegal immigrate. Initially I was impressed by the level of detail in the characters faces but after an hour or so I realized that it was all just smoke and mirrors. The only reason why Michael looks so good is because his face doesn’t change, ever. Whether he’s chilling out by a wall or getting the shit kicked out of him by a gang of thugs he will forever have the same blank expression on his face. The same thing applies to everyone else in the game. It’s completely jarring to be watch as a guard spots you hiding in the corner of a restricted area but show absolutely no emotion as he shines his flashlight on you. They’re never shocked, they’re never scared, they never care, their faces will continue to wear permanent smiles no matter what situation is at hand as if working in a state pen filled with vicious criminal and psychopaths is the most relaxing job in the world.
None of these inconsistencies would really matter if the game itself was actually fun but Prison Break: The Conspiracy is one of the most boring and repetitive mission-based games of this generation. The entire 6 hour campaign is spent collecting items or performing minimalist tasks for whoever needs a job done but can’t be bothered to do it themselves. Almost every objective will involve you sneaking in to places you’re not supposed to be, where you’ll unwillingly be subjected to the game’s PSone era stealth system. Luckily for Tom, every patrolling Officer in Fox River is visually impaired and can only see things that’s a few feet directly in front of them. They also seem to be partially deaf too and can’t hear when a convicted criminal sneaks up right behind them, talks in to himself and then sneaks off. If you do happened to get caught, don’t worry. The game will simply boot you back to your previous checkpoint where you’ll have to try again, and again, and again if necessary. When it comes guards Tom seems to hold a strict “no violence” policy as at no point in the game will he harm a single hair on an Officers head. Believe me I’ve tried to on several instances to punch Officers in their backs but more often than not they wouldn’t even realize that I was there let alone get hurt. Occasionally Tom will get the opportunity to fight against other inmates where his years of training with The Company has taught him how to punch, punch harder and counter punches with a punch of his own. Once your opponents life bar has depleted you’ll have to perform a single button finishing moves to knock them out which often looks less painful that the punches you were throwing during the rest of the fight.
Speaking on fights, when Tom’s not performing fetch quests he can partake in “side missions” which starts and ends with joining an underground fight club to earn money. The problem is, the only thing Tom can then do with his money is buy tattoos which are completely cosmetic. If you feel inclined to you can lift some weights in the yard or hit a punching bag 5 or 6 times to build up Tom’s strength but in reality you’ll never really need to. I put the game on the hardest difficulty and was able to take down the strongest opponent in the fight club with no training at all. Furthermore after a mere 8 fights (which last roughly 30 seconds each) I already earned enough cash to buy a tattoo for every part of my body, so why the hell would I want to fight any more? For fun? Are you kidding me? In what was clearly a moment of insanity Zootfly chose to include an offline Versus mode in the game’s main menu where you and a buddy can enjoy the worst part of a terrible game together. Needless to say, it’s awful.