Prison Break: The Conspiracy – The PS3 Attitude Review
Prison Break originally made its debut on FOX in 2005. The show was absolutely brilliant and was a huge success for the network. As you can imagine, a drama about breaking out of prison can’t last forever. After a ridiculous fourth season, Prison Break properly ended in 2009.
The Conspiracy is based on the amazing first season of Prison Break. However, Michael Scofield is not the main character. Instead, you play as an undercover agent named Tom Paxton. He’s a new character that was created just for the game.
Does Prison Break: The Conspiracy manage to free itself from the shackles of mediocrity or is this just another licensed game that deserves to be locked up forever? The answer probably won’t shock you.
The story in Prison Break revolves around Michael Scofield and his brother Lincoln Burrows. After being accused of murdering the brother of the Vice President of the United States, Burrows was incarcerated and sentenced to death. Michael, a structural engineer, eventually believes that his brother is innocent and devises an ingenious plan to break him out of prison.
By obtaining the blueprints of Fox River State Penitentiary, Michael was able to cleverly construct an elaborate design for a tattoo that covered his entire upper body and arms. This tattoo would serve as his map and only he was able to read it. After perfecting his plan internally, Michael went to a bank, held it up, and fired a pistol. He pled guilty at his trial and wished to be sent to Fox River, which is where his brother was being held at for his execution.
The foundations of the story have not been changed but new characters are introduced that never existed in the show. Jack Mannix is in charge of a secret operation for The Company and recruits agent Tom Paxton for the job. Paxton is sent to Fox River to observe Michael Scofield and report back with any information. The story isn’t too complicated, nor does it need to be.
The fact that you don’t even get to control the main character of the show is more than disappointing. You’ll constantly wish that you played as a familiar face, but being an outsider does add a new dynamic to the story. Unfortunately, it just doesn’t work. Paxton does nothing but run errands for various inmates. Many of the fetch quests tie into events that actually occurred in Prison Break. If Abruzzi needed a shank, then it was Paxton who got it for him. The pills that Michael received from C-Note? Yup, that was Paxton too. This is a trend that lasts throughout the entire game.
In the show, Fox River was built to be this impenetrable prison. There was no way anyone could break out and that’s what made Michael’s scheme so meaningful. The game turned Fox River into a joke. There are vents everywhere and it’s just too convenient to be believed. If you encounter a locked vent all you need to do is unscrew each end. Sometimes you’re doing this a few feet away from guards or janitors. Not only is this unbelievable but it completely ruins the Prison Break experience. Why is Paxton able to get around Fox River so easily? Michael had to plot an intricate escape and even that didn’t work out as planned.
The gameplay has a mix of everything with a large focus on sneaking. The stealth is extremely archaic, although it is appropriate. If you get caught by a guard it should be Game Over, there is no doubt about that. However, absolutely nothing happens when you fail. All you get is a prompt to press X after the screen dulls. The guards don’t capture you or anything. It looks cheap but at least you can restart from the last checkpoint without any loading.
There is hand-to-hand combat for the inevitable prison brawl but the controls are really poor. You can block, counter and do light and heavy punches. Everything is done in a very clumsy manner and fights require absolutely no effort on your part. You don’t even need to throw your own punches. Just counter a few times and you won.
In the single player campaign you can lift weights, hit punching bags, get prison tattoos, and participate in underground fights to earn money. These mini-games are more annoying than fun. For some reason, there is a two player offline versus mode using the same fighting mechanics previously described. The only positive about this mode is being able to play as characters other than Paxton.
Paxton can hang onto ledges, climb ladders, and slither across large gaps by grasping onto oversized pipes. The controls are simple so there aren’t be many technical issues here. These sections are probably some of the better moments in the game, although they don’t entirely make sense. There is also a cover system that’s sufficient enough to get you through the game.
The Conspiracy features some of the worst QTEs you’ll ever encounter. They just don’t make sense (notice a trend yet?). Instead of pressing the button once, most of the time you have to mash whatever the prompt is. That in itself isn’t an issue. However, in these sections there is a meter that builds around the button the faster you mash. You would think that filling up this meter would take you to the next action, right? Apparently that would make too much sense.
Instead, you’re just repeatedly pressing a button for an unknown amount of time. It’s random, but it gets worse. After that sequence abruptly ends you almost always have to press a different button immediately after. This happens without warning and you’ll likely fail and have to start the whole scene over again. It’s as frustrating as it sounds. The events aren’t complicated or difficult, just poorly designed.
The biggest problem with The Conspiracy is with its overall design. Nothing makes sense. Doors are conveniently unlocked and give Paxton access to restricted areas. Nobody seems to care and guards never notice either. Paxton just so happens to be a ‘master of unlocking’ as well. The mini-game is very basic and you won’t find yourself making many mistakes. Picking a lock as a guard is walking toward you is as intense as this game gets.
This next sentence is a slight spoiler. Are we seriously supposed to believe that Bellick (correctional officer Captain) signs up for underground fights filled with nothing but inmates without any backup? He’s hyped as this dirty fighter but he doesn’t do anything different than any other random inmate you face. Not only is this disappointing but it’s highly improbable.
There are so many questions that you’ll have as you play this game. Why can you tap a security camera and disable it temporarily? Why can I easily jump the gate of a maximum-security prison (in broad daylight!) and access restricted areas without worrying about getting caught? Paxton keeps an audio diary of the events as they transpire. He will randomly just start talking without worrying about his surroundings. How is it possible that nobody notices this peculiar behavior? If you get caught by a janitor, it’s game over. Really?
To the developers credit, they did faithfully recreate Fox River. It’s neat being able to walk around the yard and experience various landmarks from the show. It’s as close to the source material as you can get. Unfortunately, the likenesses are hit or miss. The original actors for Michael, Linc, C-Note, Sucre, Abruzzi, Bellick, T-Bag, and a few others are present, but their roles are disappointingly minimal. The actors that didn’t reprise their role were replaced by characters that only shared the same name. Westmoreland’s appearance is nowhere near similar to actor Muse Watson. Dr. Sarah Tancredi suffers the same fate and plays a very minor role in the game. It’s distracting and takes away from the authenticity.
There isn’t much music and the best tracks are just taken straight from the show (which is good!). There is a severe lack of sound effects as you’ll hear everyone make the same grunts after being hit, including Paxton. The voice acting ranges from poor to passable. Why don’t we get to hear more from the original cast? T-Bags performance is great but he’s barely around. Bellick is probably the best voice actor in the game but he doesn’t play a prominent role. You’ll be hearing a lot of Paxton’s voice and everything from him sounds too forced.
The game will last you about 8 hours but even that feels far too long. A lot of key moments from the first season are completely skipped and that’s just a shame. There are no hidden unlockables scattered throughout Fox River and there really is no replay value. The trophies are easy to attain. If you’re a hunter then you’ll be pleased. However, you do have to beat the entire game without getting caught once if you’re going for a Platinum. With the way the AI is set up, this is bound to be a frustrating task.
So what’s the verdict?
Prison Break: The Conspiracy doesn’t do anything particularly well beyond the likenesses and the environments. The gameplay is shallow and there are too many design flaws that hinder the experience. Many of which actually break the foundations that were carefully crafted for the show. If you are a fan of Prison Break you will be disappointed. Let this game fry in the bargain bin until it’s dirt cheap and maybe then it’ll be worth purchasing. Don’t even bother otherwise. If you’ve never seen the show, do yourself a favor and at least watch the first season.