If you think life in regular prison is tough, what with the shankings, shivings and shaftings and all, then spare a thought for Secret Service member Agent Paxton. Not only does he have to contend with being a “small fish in a big pond” (as the game rightly puts it) but he also has to keep an eye on fellow inmate Schofield and foil his plans for a prison break.
The first half an hour does a good job of drawing you in – Paxton is briefed of his mission, transported to the prison in cuffs and then shown to his cell, being jeered at the whole way. You’re then shown to the yard, which acts as a hub, where you can beef up Paxton’s muscles by playing mini-games and also call into your boss via the pay phones.
Enter an off limits area, like the boiler room, mental asylum, kitchen or infirmary and Paxton instantly goes into ‘stealth mode’. It’s Metal Gear Solid Lite, pretty much, involving creeping around on tip toes, sliding along walls, shimming along ledges and hiding in lockers. The map shows what direction the guards are facing to make it easier to get out of their sight and if you get directly under a video camera you can knock it out of position temporarily. The stealth sections start off easy with just one or two guards in each room while the later ones have more complex AI routines to learn. You do need a little patience and some trial and error is required. In some sections, like having to avoid search lights, I just legged it and hoped for the best…which occasionally worked.
The shadow and lighting effects are by far the best thing the visuals have got going for them. Characters have a rather angular look and the environments have a rather sterile feel. The fighting sequences showcase the best animation the game has to offer – Paxton puts a lot power into each punch with the joypad vibrating in synch to convey the force of each swing. But UFC: Disputed this isn’t – there are only two moves (light punch and heavy punch) with grapples/throws only available as a ‘finishing move’ once a rival has low health. There’s no blood, no weapons there’s no mass riots – you fight you one enemy at a time. A verses mode is available from the main menu if you just want to beat up a few cons, while in the main game taking part in underground fights earns cash that can be spent on tattoos. Incidentally, you can’t just go around punching people at random or attempting to knock out the guards – fights only occur with people you’ve got on the wrong side of.
This is neither a bad or poorly designed game. It’s just an unexciting and unoriginal one. I haven’t watched much of the Prison Break show, but I’m guessing that “unexciting” and “unoriginal” aren’t two words that fans would use to describe it.