Prison Break: The Conspiracy PS3, 360, PC
You might have heard of Prison Break. It’s a pretty well-known TV show that sort of jumped the shark after its first season, as it carried on being a show called Prison Break, but stopped being a show about men trying to break out of prison. But the first season is still held in pretty high regard – such high regard, in fact, that they made a video game about it. Prison Break: The Conspiracy sees you playing as an undercover agent, assigned to keep an eye on the TV show’s main characters and report on their activities. You do this by walking around and talking to people, having some fights with other prisoners, and sneaking about a bit. Which might sound exciting. But it’s not!
Games based on films or TV shows are usually pretty rough, and absolutely everyone knows that. But at least they usually have the decency to have a fair bit of money spent on them. Prison Break: The Conspiracy‘s low budget is totally evident right off the bat, however – many of the textures look like they’re straight out of a PS2 game, and just about every character in the game has one facial expression – including the main character, who appears to feel exactly the same way about waking up in the morning as he does about someone trying to strangle him through the bars of his cell. Brilliant.
Now, a full-on prison simulator doesn’t sound like such a terrible idea for a video game (once you take away the excruciating boredom and communal showers, at least), but make no mistake – Prison Break might look like a bit sandboxy at first, but it’s a thoroughly on-rails experience that sees you endlessly chasing checkpoints and fulfilling dull objectives. Now, don’t get me wrong, I understand that prisons generally aren’t too keen on letting their prisoners run wherever the hell they like – but it always feels like it’s the game itself, not the prison, restricting your freedom. You could take a game like Bully, remove all the stuff outside of the school, and it’d still feel like a more open and convincing world than Prison Break‘s. And the fighting would be less rubbish, too.
The best part is that trying to disrupt the game in any way – going off the beaten path, or punching a prison guard just to see what happens – almost always results in locked doors, or just a game over screen. Oh, apart from the times when punching a guard results in absolutely nothing happening at all. Those are the best bits.
When you’re not being bored senseless by the idiotic cut-scenes (in one scene, characters talk openly about the titular prison break, in front of a guard), you’ll be sneaking and climbing around bits of the prison that you’re not meant to have access to. The controls for these sections are fairly unintuitive, and it almost feels like the developers knew that, because they’ve felt the need to include context-sensitive prompts for just about every action you’ll need to do. The game shouldn’t need to tell me to press the triangle button every time I’m able to jump to another ledge – I should be able to learn the game’s basic rules, and figure out the rest for myself as I go. Never mind the fact that the level design is totally uninspired, with networks of bright, yellow pipes forming convenient ladders all over the place. Did these people not play Arkham Asylum? Christ.
Then there’s the difficulty level. When we think about difficulty levels in video games, we generally perceive it as a scale with two opposite ends – on the left, you’ve got the ‘EASY BUT DULL’ end, and over to the right you’re in ‘HARD BUT FRUSTRATING’ territory. So what games usually try and do is sit on the fence somewhere in the middle – challenging the player to do stuff, whilst making sure they don’t get pissed off because the game’s too hard. But not this game. No, this game is special.
See, what Prison Break: The Conspiracy does, is spread its legs wide open and freefall straight onto the fence, bashing its balls with incredible force as it does so. And the end result is an experience that somehow manages to be so insultingly easy that you have to try really hard not to fall asleep, whilst simultaneously pissing you off to the point where you start assaulting literally everyone you see just to somehow get your revenge on this pathetic excuse for a video game (incidentally, any inmates you manage to beat to a pulp will simply get back up after a bit and act like nothing happened). The game’s so poor that you completely stop putting any effort into it, then BAM, a guard facing away from you suddenly spots you for no reason. GAME OVER.
Just… just don’t buy it, please. It’s only been out for a couple of weeks and it’s already getting heavily discounted by some retailers – and there’s a whole bunch of reasons for that. I don’t care if you’re a fan of the show, it’s just not worth it. It’s a lazy, cynical, low-budget cash-in for a TV show that hasn’t been relevant or interesting for years, and there is no reason for it to exist aside from hoovering a bit of cash out of the wallets of easily-swayed idiots. You’d be better off picking up a bar of soap than this crap.