Platform: PlayStation 2
Category: Action Games
Developer – Monte Cristo, Eko Software
Publisher – SVG Distribution
From publisher Monte Cristo and developer Eko Software, Th3 Plan arrives on the Playstation 2 as one of a long list of tactical action based videogames. In many ways this title reminds me of the movie the Italian Job has it has a similar feel to it. Your main objective is to orchestrate a major artwork robbery using three (hence the '3' in the title) characters who just happen to be professional thieves. Th3 Plan reminds me of an of old sports cliché which states “it is what it is". For the price of a new release (between $15.00 to $20.00 USD), Th3 Plan is good little addition to your PS2 library as it won't hurt your pocketbook. However don't get your hopes up thinking this game is anything similar to Splinter Cell or any of the other notable stealth based games. If the game was in the $40-$60 range I would be telling you to save your money as there are just so many better options available in this genre. Bottom line, even with Th3 Plan's shortcomings it manages to have some strengths which make it worth playing if you are a fan of the genre and haven't made the next-generation jump yet.
As far as the visuals are concerned, they are lacking and it is certainly one of the sore points for the game. I readily admit that in this day in age we are spoiled with sharp next generation graphics and crystal clear animations. In that sense, you have to remind yourself about the PS2’s limitations when giving Th3 Plan a spin. All that aside, it's difficult to get past Th3 Plan's overall poor visuals. The environments are dull and do little to enhance the gameplay. The colors are unimpressive, the lighting effects appear non-existent and the characters do not offer a lot of detail nor do they do not move as one would expect. They also appear jittery at times. In some instances, my characters were walking through walls and there are other noticeable instances of clipping throughout the game.
Additionally, I was not fan of the cut-scenes, which are depicted via hand-drawn art work that reminded me of a bad "A-Ha' video from the 1980's, sans any movement. Unfortunately, most of the story unfolds in the cut-scenes and it becomes incredibly annoying as the text is unavoidable and ill-placed at times. The artwork is somewhat of a 'cop-out' in my opinion and was a cheap way for the developers to avoid putting much work into the cut-scenes. You almost get the sense the budget for this game did not allow for developers to create any quality cut-scenes. In any event, I found the cut-scenes disappointing and took away from Th3 Plan's overall gameplay experience.
Considering the price of the game, I wasn't expecting anything stellar however some of the visuals were sub par and somewhat of a let down. The game almost comes across as if it was a port game from the original Playstation. Simply put, compared to other stealth and tactical games, Th3 Plan fails to live up to expectations.
As with the visuals, there are a number of concerns which surface in the sound department. First, the voice-overs are somewhat comical, but not in a good sense. Most of the voice-overs occur during the troublesome cut-scenes and it's difficult to take anything that is being said seriously. Second, and somewhat related to the first, is that I also had issues with the blend of text and voice-overs in the cut-scenes. Sometimes the characters would be speaking and then all of the sudden; you have to read the characters dialogue on the screen. If anything, I found the text distracting and they should have maintained dialogue throughout each scene. Again I suspect there may have been some financial reasons for the poor execution of the cut-scene dialogues. The third thing that bothered me was how the soundtrack was rather lacklustre and dated. Aside from some of the menu tunes none of the in-game music will leave a lasting impression and it does little to add to the gameplay. Considering it is a budget title, I wasn't expecting to hear Sum 41 or Pearl Jam, however I was expecting to hear music I would typically hear in any movie that follows a group of guys planning a heist (e.g. Ronin) but sadly this is not the case. Finally, as far as in the in-game sounds are concerned, they do deliver however nothing is spectacular or original.
Th3 Plan’s story starts out with a group of professional criminals attempting a heist of two high end pieces of artwork. Eventually the robbery goes sideways; several thieves are betrayed thus leaving one of the thieves trapped in the building. Five years later, two members of the band of thieves assist another in a prison break and the rest of a tale is a story of revenge.
Your team consists of seven characters but you only use three at a time. Using the three characters is arguably the best selling feature of the game and something I quite enjoyed. Each character has unique skills such as hacking, explosives, sniping, pick pocketing, etc. Throughout the missions your screen splits into three sections with one character occupying each screen. The character you control occupies the majority of the screen and you can also switch between characters at any point. Switching characters is very easy and is strong point for the game. For the most part you won't have to frantically switch between characters however the instances where you will find yourself switching you will find that it is very simple. Several of the objectives within the missions have you using all three characters, however there are many objectives which leave you wishing you didn't have two other idiots to look out for.
As indicated above, Th3 Plan consists of several missions and within the missions there are specific objectives your team has to accomplish. The objectives are straight forward and are nothing too complex. With a lot of trial and error it doesn't take too long to figure out how to pull off each one. At first the objectives seemed to be at the appropriate difficulty, however as the game progressed they did not become increasingly more difficult as I expected. Overall the AI is not an issue in terms of difficulty, I just found the objectives became a little too vague and unclear as often I would find myself bumbling through them. That being said it was only a matter of time before I would figure out a quick and easy way to conquer the feat. Inevitably after you accomplish the objective, as I did, you will kick yourself for how easy it could be. The developers could have done a better job clearly detailing what needs to be accomplished in each objective. Perhaps, a tutorial or training mission might have been of some benefit here.
Th3 Plan's story is lacking somewhat in the action department as there is little to no shooting involved throughout the majority of the first half of the game. It is almost as if the developers recognized the game was a little on the dull side and added a shooter component to the tail end of the game. In any event, Th3 Plan is a slower paced game then some of the other titles found in tactical genre. Overall, Th3 Plan's story is short with only four main missions; however the lasting appeal is in pick pocketing cash which gives you the ability to relay levels in co-op mode. I should mention there is no multiplayer mode with the exception of the previously mentioned co-op mode after you have done some unlocking.
If you are looking for a new PS2 game, and your wallet is a little on the thin side, then Th3 Plan is not a bad bang for your buck. The key here is to have lowered expectations and take it for what it is. A budget sized game and at budget sized price.