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Prison Break: The Conspiracy had so much to draw upon to concern and thrill the sensitive player. But the more I considered things here the less I found. The constricted and lawlessness of prison life that both unsettled and intrigued me simply wasn't recreated here.
I was surprised to find that at first I quite liked Prison Break: The Conspiracy. I went into it with very low expectations, idly switching my console on while rather tired, but the early stages were quite fun. I enjoyed watching the first season of Prison Break so experiencing the Fox River prison within a game was an intriguing premise. Returning to it with a clear head though, I realised this was quite a mundane game.
You start the game as Tom Paxton, a new character not previously seen in the TV series. He's a Company agent who's been sent to observe Michael Scofield, the hero, to make sure that Lincoln Burrows, Scofield's brother, goes to the electric chair for his crimes. The story keeps quite closely to the TV series and you can watch some of the scenes from the show, such as the prison riot. But it all feels far too shallow after a time.
I found myself mostly being ordered around by characters like T-Bag. Everything involve speaking with T-Bag then going to retrieve something for him. There was an area where I could train and improve my fighting ability but it never seemed to affect anything which was frustrating and a waste of time.
A lot of the time I had to sneak around the prison in order to do more covert missions. At first this felt quite nerve wracking, as you'd expect from a stealth based game. The more I played it though, the more I realised that the prison guards were rather dim-witted and didn't seem to be able to hear or see me until I was standing directly in front of them. It quickly got very boring. I wasn't even able to throw a stone or other object to distract a guard, not that they would have heard it obviously. All I could do was run and crouch to get around them.
At one point I was finishing one stealth sequence when I realised that I had to go out and didn't have time to reach the next save point. I took a risk and decided to make a run for the exit, hoping that the guards were dull enough to not notice. I survived without a problem and realised that stealth really wasn't needed here. At least not very regularly. There were countless times when I was standing near to a guard in clear sight yet I was never spotted which was terribly disappointing for a stealth based game.
The idea of being trapped in a prison, even as an undercover agent, seems scary to me.
Worst of all there was no sign of the huge feeling of claustrophobia that I expected to feel in a prison game. The idea of being trapped in a prison, even as an undercover agent, seems scary to me.
Being restricted in your actions is a scary thought. But Prison Break never really dialled into this for me. I'm quite sensitive to these things and not once did I feel uncomfortable. I didn't care enough for the characters I think. Even witnessing or partaking in a vicious fights made me feel nothing because the characters were so 2 dimensional and unrealistic.
The fight sequences didn't help things. They failed to convince me of how vicious a prison fight could be. Blows never really connected and the whole thing felt terribly detached.
Strangely there were huge restrictions placed on how brutal I could be. I could kick another prisoner after I had felled them by a previous blow, but I couldn't kick them more than once. The game left my fears of unfettered violence on the table and walked away to the next fetch quest - like soap stars carelessly leaving their half finished drinks in the bar and walking out. In this and a hundred other ways it screamed that they didn't really care about what was being served up. The catastrophic proposition of the prison, their most valuable asset, was ignored in favour of tried and tested video game antics. It all felt so functional and as if no thought was put into the experience.
By the end of the seven hours I was very glad to be done. Even reflecting back, not once did I feel anything for the characters. And it felt sadly ironic that my most enjoyable moment was when I was half asleep. The rest of the game very nearly made me fall into a waking sleep.
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