Developer: Monte Cristo
Release Date: April 23, 2007
In a reverie, do you view yourself as a furtive and cunning person willing to go to extreme lengths to nab an extravagant and lucrative prize? Do you long for intense action, coupled with audacious escapades? Of course, you could always forego all of this and just do the real thing, but who knows where that may land you? If this all sounds well and good, then Th3 Plan may be for you. The absolute best thing this title has going for it is that it'll only set gamers back $15. Of course, this doesn't discount the rather obtrusive problems by which this game is plagued, but no one's perfect, right?
Though it's not actually based on a movie license, Th3 Plan is like the byproduct of a movie license gone horribly wrong. It plays like an awkward adaptation of a heist-movie-turned-video-game; it's something you'd rather be watching instead of actually playing, since it's not a whole lot of fun to play.
Th3 Plan starts off with (naturally) a heist. A few guys — Stephen Foster, Alan Siegel and Robert Taylor — devise a plan to steal two Rembrandt paintings, but the excursion doesn't turn out as planned. Alan gets caught during the process, Stephen manages to secure one of the paintings and selfishly take off, while Robert is left to find a way out of there on his own. You'll witness this tragic scene unfold in awe and disbelief, all through comic book-styled, hand-drawn cut scenes. Unfortunately, these comic book-esque scenes feature very limited animation, so it's hard to follow who's talking at any given time. Five years later, Alan (henceforth known as his in-game pseudonym, "Poker") is in the slammer, when he receives a visit from Robert ("The Mind"). The Mind is looking to get back in on the burglary action, and he wants Poker to join him. Cue the first level, where you have to bust out of jail and meet up with your third accomplice, Valerie Carrera ("Cat"). Along the way, you'll also be accompanied by four others, but you're only able to control three characters at any given time.
Following this, you'll be given various missions and levels with fluctuating difficulty and objectives to complete, though most of the time, it involves some form of robbery. The gameplay is truly a mixed goodie-bag of fun times, as well as downright frustrating and cyclical. At the start of a level, you'll be shown a list of objectives necessary to complete your mission. Once you complete an objective through a myriad of stealthy actions, you'll be notified that you must move onto the next one. The first problem with this is the complete lack of direction with which these objectives present you. Some of the objectives are vague and poorly construct in a manner that is not discernable to the player. Your current objective's checkpoint is shown on the in-game map, but the aforementioned difficulty in figuring out how to reach it and ultimately complete some objectives can be problematic.
With all of this heist action, of course, you're given (and also receive) a plethora of different utilities and items to aid you along your mission. Each character has unique, preset skills of which only s/he can take advantage. Some of these include hacking into computer terminals, utilizing a woman's innate sociability to distract someone, lock-picking and, as expected, pickpocketing unsuspecting people.
The main component to Th3 Plan's gameplay, though, is controlling three characters in unison. By doing this, you'll solve puzzles and complete objectives in a non-linear fashion. The screen is split into three quadrants, one being the main view, taking up the largest portion of the screen, and the other two being peripheral, both given equal space toward the bottom of the screen. Each screen houses a single character; the main one is controllable via the standard game controls, and the other two can be controlled by pressing R1 or L1 to move them about and perform actions — all in real time. You can also cycle through the characters' screens by pressing the R2 or L2 buttons. Characters move and control like tanks, though; they're really not agile, and everything feels sluggish — especially the camera. The camera will likely be your biggest opponent in this title because it frequently gets hung up on walls, tight spaces and odd angles. Basic commands can also be input via the d-pad, such as instructing characters to follow you or stay put. Surprisingly, this all works in a tangible manner, but it still doesn't rid the game of its flagrant monotony, vapid story and archaic visuals.
Speaking of visuals, they're not pleasant. In every sense, Th3 Plan looks like a late N64/PSX era title, and at times an early PS2 game. It's just extremely poor, with blurry, lifeless textures, low-poly models, and plenty of aliasing.
It'll likely take a little while for players to get acclimated to the game. It took me an hour to figure out that you can cycle through your available items by pressing up on the d-pad. I'd credit that as my own lack of reading comprehension, but I really can't recall the game taking the time to explain that mechanic. At the start of Th3 Plan, you will be bombarded by a torrent of manuals detailing controls and gameplay, but that pesky item-cycling managed to elude me. To add insult to injury, the actual gameplay controls can be convoluted and tough to correctly exploit. Do yourself a favor — if you must play Th3 Plan, read the manual before diving in.
Audio-wise, the game's all right. The music isn't terrible and is about what you'd expect from your run-of-the-mill, mid-quality PS2 action title. The voice acting is, similarly, not its shining grace, but it really isn't too shabby, either. Sure, there are some inept lines and dialogue strewn about Th3 Plan, but it's nothing worth crying over. The main problem with the voice acting is when it cuts out at times you wouldn't expect it to. During cut scenes, it's present, but it's mostly non-existent during gameplay. This also brings up the problem that you can't skip text, which is troublesome when NPCs blabber on for what seems like ages.
Replay value is basically missing from Th3 Plan. You can go back and repeat missions until you attain enough cash to unlock co-op play (with up to three players) for that specific mission, but why even bother? If you have to unlock a feature that should've been included from the outset, there's a problem.
Is Th3 Plan worth playing? Even as a $15 budget title, it really isn't. From the inconsistent voice acting to the rudimentary visuals, the tedious gameplay, and the lack of replay value, you have better things with which to occupy your time. What you're left with is a dull-looking, repetitive heist game that plays out poorly. Do yourself a favor and don't pick up Th3 Plan. Instead, grab one of the PS2's innumerable classics, all available for bargain bin prices nowadays.
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