|System: PC||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Sirius Games||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: CDV Software||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Oct. 26, 2007||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-8||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Mature||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Nathan Meunier
What do an ex-con, a street brawler, and a crooked FBI agent have in common? Rather than facing imprisonment, a death sentence, or exposure, the unusual trio is enlisted by a secretive government agency to infiltrate and take down the gang bosses who dominate control over a crime-infested city in Escape from Paradise City. Developers Sirius Games offer an edgy, refreshing take on the hard-boiled crime genre which combines quality RTS and RPG elements in an action-packed struggle set in a gritty cityscape. Quite literally, it's a killer combination.
The game features a misfit cast of characters made up of thugs, gangsters, average citizens, business owners, crime lords, henchmen, and even some with elements of the supernatural. Throughout the story, players will control three unlikely heroes - each at different times during the game - as they face off against the dregs of humanity. Retired bank robber Nick Porter is living the good life off the fruits of his labor when he's caught by the NSA. He's given little choice but to help them out or spend life behind bars. The street-tough Angel Vargas is on death row for killing another inmate who attacked her. She's given a second chance at life, and an opportunity to put her hand-to-hand fighting skills to good use, when a special agent recruits her for an undercover stint in the city. Corrupt police detective Boris Chekov found a lucrative business in bribes and abuse of power, yet he's forced to join the fight to recover the city when the NSA threatens to uncover his double-dealings.
Each of the characters has their own skills and fighting styles to utilize to your advantage. Nick specializes in automatic rifles and distance weapons, Angel drops thugs with her brass-knuckled fists in hand-to-hand street combat, and the obese Boris lumbers around ramming his pistol in the faces of those unlucky enough to tangle with him. Their three intertwining stories unfold across 16 chapters set in Paradise City. The RPG aspect of Paradise City comes into play as you gain experience and your characters grow tougher. Aside from seeking out more powerful weapons and items, you'll develop your characters by boosting their stats when they level-up and upgrading their skills using a unique trait tree. Traits bestow special abilities ranging from powerful attacks in combat, to stealth movement, and even the ability to hire additional henchmen, among other things. They'll come in handy when things get rough, and they do.
Players will be dispensing some vigilante justice on behalf of "The Man" as they reclaim neighborhoods from crime bosses and recruit their own henchmen to patrol the streets. In each chapter, you'll control one of the three characters as you work to take the power back and restore some semblance of order in different areas of the city. Though missions vary as the plot progresses, the game flow frequently follows a pattern of either taking over gang occupied neighborhoods until you have enough strength to overwhelm the final area boss or completing specific goals which allow you to advance. Every area is zoned into a handful of individual neighborhoods, each controlled by a gang boss. Crossing into enemy territory means you'll have to deal with mobs of rival "gangers" before reaching the neighborhood boss and "convincing" them to join your side. This involves beating them to within inches of their life. After they've seen the light, they'll run around to various businesses in the neighborhood to let them know who the new boss in town is.
Recapturing a neighborhood gives you skill points, experience, and a steady source of income for use to grow your influence. It also introduces a unique resource management and strategic element to the game which adds to the fun. The more turf you control the more money, henchmen, and power you'll have at your disposal. Bribing the mayor of an acquired neighborhood allows you to then recruit your own gangers which can be used to defend the borough or sent out on raids to assist in your hostile takeover of other neighborhoods. Even once you've secured an area, there are still small pockets of random thugs scattered around the map which you can take out for extra money, experience, and special items. In alleyways, you'll often find citizens with errand requests and seedy-looking skill trainers who'll sell you special abilities.