This stealth game takes all the fun out of life in prison.
- Lock-picking minigame adds tension.
- Horribly inconsistent AI
- Camera is zoomed in so far it's difficult to get a good view of the action
- Controls are sluggish and unresponsive
- Fist fights are incredibly dull
- All sorts of problems with logic.
Prison life is difficult to emulate within the realm of video games. Because you always have the choice to turn off a torturous game and move on to something more fulfilling, the feeling of being locked away in a suffocating cell with no hope for freedom is hard to accurately convey through digital media. However, Prison Break: The Conspiracy does an admirable job of making every moment within its world mimic the utter hopelessness one must feel when trapped behind bars. This claustrophobic reenactment of the now-defunct television series never even reaches the level of tolerable. There's no reprieve from the boring fist fights and tedious stealth missions that constantly assault you throughout these eight-hours of grueling monotony. The story may appeal to fans of the series who long to interact with virtual representations of their favorite characters, but even the most ardent Prison Break fanatic should stay far away from The Conspiracy.
The Conspiracy cannot even give fans of the show the pleasure of controlling one of their favorite characters from the television series. Instead, you assume the role of Tom Paxton, a character created just for this game. Although he appears to be an ordinary prisoner--one convicted of first-degree murder--he is really a covert agent working for The Company. Your job is to do some sleuthing around the big house to figure out why Michael Scofield is really behind bars and ensure that his brother, Lincoln Borrows, goes through with his electric-chair execution. The various alliances and under-the-table dealings you must engage in may pique the interest of those who are intrigued by the shady lives of convicts, but the abrasive voice acting and stilted animations make it difficult for the uninitiated to be pulled into the layers of underhanded partnerships.
At the beginning of the story, a surly prisoner snaps “I’m not here to make friends,” but you run odd errands for everyone who asks in a desperate attempt to get on people's good side. Most of your time in The Conspiracy is spent on mind-numbing, stealth-based fetch quests, shuttling you from one dreary section of jail to another as you scrounge around for whatever random tool your mission requires. You do have a modicum of freedom within the prison walls, but there is little reason to venture off the well-worn path. Weight-lifting and bag-punching exercises encompass the worst aspects of minigames. Not only are these incredibly easy, requiring neither skill nor concentration to complete, but they also offer minimal reward; thus, your efforts are not worth the drudgery. There are also underground fights to be put to sleep by and a tattoo parlor to class up your convict, but since there's no fun to be had in any of these endeavors, it's best to march obediently to your next objective without stopping to explore.
But it's not as if the story missions are any more interesting than the dull side quests. The majority of The Conspiracy comprises a series of stealth-based missions, but reality has been stripped completely away and replaced by situations that are so contrived they are almost laughable. The AI is as artificial as it gets. There are guards and delivery men scattered everywhere, but it is impossible to predict how they'll react to your presence. Sometimes, they can spot you from across the room, even in low light with pillars and walls blocking their view. Other times, you can walk right in front of them in broad daylight, yet they look right through you. Their patterns are also inane and illogical. A delivery man will ask where he should drop off a package; when told where to go, he will begin to walk aimlessly around the room, turning robotically at odd intervals and generally acting like a man without a brain.
Dealing with incomprehensible AI is bad enough, but it's so much worse when you can't even see your enemies. The camera in The Conspiracy is way too tight, giving you a stunning view of Paxton's back but little ability to see the environment. This is inexcusable in a stealth game. If you're seen by man or camera, your game ends and you must restart from a checkpoint. But because it's so difficult to get a good look at everyone who poses a threat, you'll fail missions until you memorize where everything is situated. But even after you have everything committed to memory, you'll still fail because the AI so frequently breaks its own logic. This is a terribly frustrating game, and even when you finally overcome a situation that has been aggravating you, there is still no satisfaction to be had because luck and enemy incompetence are the keys to success.