Th3 Plan Review

Th3 Plan is about as clever as representing letters with numbers.

Ocean's 11 featured some pretty cool cats. The felons were slick, sly, and could mix up age-old sleight of hand with high-tech gadgets to pull off the perfect heist. If you took Ocean's 11, nixed the cool-con concept, the high-tech gadgets, the witty banter, and the intelligent action, what you'd be left with is Th3 Plan, from Crave and Monte Cristo. Aside from being poorly conceived, Th3 Plan is made all the worse by its unintelligent artificial intelligence, unlikely scenarios, and rote, mundane gameplay.

It's best not to think too hard about why you'd be using lock picks on an ID card scanner.
It's best not to think too hard about why you'd be using lock picks on an ID card scanner.

Th3 Plan is a narrative-driven game, and it drops bombs around every corner. Unfortunately, the bombs in question are of the logic variety, and they leave holes the size of the Chicxulub Crater. For instance, in one mission, you'll use very ho-hum gadgets to break into a museum and get the codes necessary to access the high-security vaults in the museum's basement. Then, after leaving a trail of unconscious security guards that lead to the museum's control room and curator's office, the very next night you break into the museum again--through its front door, no less--and after knocking out a few more guards, you'll waltz away with the museum's prized, recently obtained Rembrandt. Theoretically speaking, you'd think that someone would have had the foresight to change the security codes that were quite obviously just stolen, let alone call in tighter security. You don't need to be Columbo to pick up on the story's many inconsistencies, and it's difficult not to be overly dismissive of a storyline that takes itself seriously yet so overtly shuns plausibility.

Of course, a comatose storyline doesn't immediately sink a game. It's when that thoughtless state extends to the gameplay that you've got problems. And Th3 Plan has problems. Much of the first half of the game is spent sneaking around a prison, a train car, and a museum, avoiding detection by guards of various affiliations while gathering bits of information. It wouldn't be accurate to say Th3 Plan has brain-dead artificial intelligence for these guards because that would imply there was a brain there in the first place. Distracting one of these diligent civil servants is as easy as chatting them up in conversation, and as long as you're outside their cone of vision, they'll never know you just gassed their buddies not 10 feet away. They're also not big on pursuing you or setting off alarms, which means you'll be able to easily flee a room or train compartment without fear of reprisal. At about the point where you start to wonder how snapping pictures of doorways, video cameras, ID scanners, ventilation ducts, offices, and so on is supposed to be fun, the game transitions to a very simple shooter. After you get a pistol with unlimited ammo, your thief's tools, and a few medikits, you're mysteriously dropped into your archnemesis' backyard, left to connect the dots on how the game wants you to finish up the burglary. The AI here actually shows signs of life, which is to say enemies will slowly strafe right and left in a grim effort of self-preservation, but you'll never face off against anything remotely challenging.

The game's primary gimmick is that you play as three different characters at once. Controlling multiple characters at a time isn't anything new, but Th3 Plan takes it a bit further by divvying the screen up into thirds so you can see each character's viewpoint. It seems the goal here is to have the three different characters play off each other to orchestrate a strategy, but Th3 Plan doesn't use this mechanic smartly or creatively. Instead of complex puzzles or sequenced moves, you'll only use it to distract guards or turn some kind of valve with two characters instead of one. In addition, it can initially be absolutely mystifying trying to figure out how to direct and control the two characters that aren't on the primary screen because the game does a poor job of explaining how it's done. In fact, Th3 Plan deals in many unusual gameplay mechanics that are initially more puzzling than planning the heist itself. As easy and straightforward as the game is, you will occasionally fail a mission. More often than not, this is because you're on a time constraint, and you'll spend half the time fumbling with one of the gadgets, mashing buttons trying to figure out what it's supposed to do. For example, equipping your night-vision glasses is as easy as hitting down on the D pad, but when they're introduced, you're looking at the inventory screen. It would logically follow that you could equip your inventory item in the inventory screen, but sadly, such is not the case, and frustration will most certainly ensue.

Yes, ma'am, I believe we do have the Idiot's Guide to Lock Picking, but you might want to just consult with the nice man currently trying to break into my office.
Yes, ma'am, I believe we do have the Idiot's Guide to Lock Picking, but you might want to just consult with the nice man currently trying to break into my office.

The game's visuals go for realism, but they're severely limited by the PlayStation 2's hardware. Environments are bland, colors are washed out, and aliasing is quite noticeable. Also, this isn't a flashy game in any way, so lighting and shadows are minimal while particle effects are nonexistent. The cutscenes at least have a stylized hand-drawn look that isn't too bad. Most of the story unfolds during these cutscenes, and the voice actors delivering the dialogue turn out a wooden performance. You'll have to read the other bits of the story, but there's no confirm button to advance the script, so the text keeps on scrollin', scrollin', scrollin'. The only other audio is some subdued, jazzy beats that in no way intensify the action or add suspense to the caper.

Th3 Plan would very much like to be a hyperintelligent crime caper, but in lieu of providing you that experience, it seems satisfied to simply claim that status time and time again as the story progresses. In a simpler time, pulling the heists might have been plausible, but distracting guards by chatting about the weather and then using low-rent gadgets to crack safes or computers comes off as amateurish, as well as absolutely ludicrous. Landing at $15, Th3 Plan is at least a budget-priced game, but the PlayStation 2's bargain bin is a cornucopia of quality games these days, so there's really no reason to give this one a second thought.

The Good

  • Game costs $15

The Bad

  • Unintelligent and boring gameplay
  • initially vexing gameplay mechanics
  • illogical and inept story
  • poor audio and bland visuals

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