". The bank robber, Porter, can pick up anything to small machine-pistols (and, in an odd decision to recycle fantasy prefixes on the weapon types, a rusty Uzi) to hulking assault rifles while the crooked cop, Chekov, has a greater command of henchmen but prefers to provide covering fire with handguns. The last of the trio, Angel, a female brawler pulled from death row, simply kicks a lot or arse. Via violence. The three serve individual purposes, embodied by everyone having separate skill branches which they can level up through RPG-like methods."
Gaming and trends are common enough bed-buddies, but pairing the two up sometimes leads to buck-toothed, big-eared children that look like they've been sired by siblings. Right now, we're stuck in the middle of an MMO trend (thanks for nothing, Korea!) which has lead to everyone who knows a little bit of C basic trying to whack out their very own World of Warcraft clone. Even the little guys who don't have the servers to try and field a full MMO try to get in on the act by relegating would-be meat players with AI-driven computer clones instead. Escape from Paradise City attempts this once more when it arms you with an army of faceless thugs and charges you to take over a rotten, crime-infested city.
Things don't start out well with the introduction of generic plot #04: pull criminals out of purgatory and have them work towards obtainable McGuffins. In this case, three of them: a bank robber, a pit-fighter and a corrupt FBI agent.
What does work is how you need to utilise each of these felons to achieve the lofty goal the government has set in order to purchase the ne'er-do-wells freedom, which is to simply take the city apart, block-by-block until all the rival gangs have been killed, kicked out or subjected to your iron-fisted rule. To do this with any measure of success, the three protagonists will have to be shipped into the suburbs that most suit their fighting styles. The bank robber, Porter, can pick up anything to small machine-pistols (and, in an odd decision to recycle fantasy prefixes on the weapon types, a rusty Uzi) to hulking assault rifles while the crooked cop, Chekov, has a greater command of henchmen but prefers to provide covering fire with handguns. The last of the trio, Angel, a female brawler pulled from death row, simply kicks a lot or arse. Via violence. The three serve individual purposes, embodied by everyone having separate skill branches which they can level up through RPG-like methods.
It’s very much your old-school click-and-hurt set up that Diablo pioneered so many years ago, but what makes things different here is the slight RTS flavour. Rather than gun it alone through the crime-soaked streets, you can hire thugs from bars or summon lackeys to your side through a selection of special skills. With or without a small personal army, the idea is to take command of the differing suburbs of Paradise City neighbourhood by neighbourhood. You do this by deposing of the controlling forces already camped within your targeted area, be it street-gangs, Mafioso or biologically engineered mutants. Once you own a block and have convinced the people once running it to call you ‘Boss’, you become blessed with certain advantages.
Business-heavy blocks pay you protection money, the more run-down areas give you access to firearm stores while violent slums give you the best place to hire thugs from. Specialist areas also come equipped with training centres which let you or your gang build up even more skills. The more valuable the area, the more sought after it is, meaning that even after you capture it for your own means, you still have the added worry of rival gangs charging in and trying to retake the area. This can be a problem if you’ve not left enough meat to defend the site without your presence as, odds are, you’re several blocks away fighting for new turf when this happens.
Which brings the skill-sets into sharp focus. One skill lets you summon a car to come pick you up and take you to the defending area, but the better skills to use are the summoning of troops to the besieged area. While the normal neighbourhood defenders can and do easily fall to decent attacks, summon in a few healers and a few bruisers and the tide can easily be turned without you needing a look-in.
If it all sounds like a slightly more complex version of Bullfrog’s cyberpunk opus, Syndicate, that’s because it more or less is, right down to the better viewpoint being a slanted, top-down look as opposed to the clumsily-included third-person setting which doesn’t give you the scope to play general quite as much as you would like. Sure, it has foul-mouthed street scum instead of dispassionate cyborgs in leather trenchcoats, but a lot of what makes the game so much fun can be directly linked back. That the game never lets you rest by having enemy groups nibble away constantly at your boarders also stops the experience from getting flat. There’s always a new sector with a cool trainer a few blocks over, or that weapon shop with the sweet Kevlar body-vest is just a few streets swamped with knuckle-duster-wielding monkey boys away.
Ploughing through these streets and bossing around AI controlled scum is a pretty good way to go if you want to recapture the feel of an MMO for the friendless. There’s a real sense of accomplishment behind becoming the gangland boss of a sizeable city through force of arms. Now, if you’ll excuse me, there’s some greasy little street scum trying to barricade a corner of my territory and I have some kneecaps to break.
I always thought Don EmP had a good ring to it.
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