Sirius’ Escape from Paradise City has just been completed and so expect the final product to be very similar (if not the same as) the preview code I got to test run.At its core Escape from Paradise City is an unusual mix of the role-playing and real time strategy genres, yet this combination does suit the title. Imagine the environments of Grand Theft Auto, the point and click mechanics of your average RTS title and a levelling system akin to Deus Ex and you now know what the game’s all about.There are three main protagonists in Escape from Paradise City; first we have Porter, an ex-hitman blackmailed into working for ‘The Man’ or rotting in he joint, Angel, a lovely girl – bit nifty with a blade – also forced to work for the man or face the electric chair and then there’s Boris, your clichéd Russian gangster complete with band of henchmen. Apparently the game is meant to have taken heavy influences from Luc Besson’s classic La Femme Nikita, yet I am yet to see any parallels between them. Whereas Nikita has a deep, involved and complicated storyline, Escape from Paradise City offers a more tongue-in-cheek scenario with our three antiheroes roped into doing a government’s dirty work before trying to get the heck out of Dodge. Hence the name of the title.Primary presented in a top down view, the game mechanics mirror your typical RTS title: point and click to move your character and also to choose what actions they perform. It’s pretty easy to get into and just in case you need any guidance you are constantly reminded of your objectives by the ‘helpful’ NSA agent Kovacs, given regular tips in the form of help bubbles and all of the buttons on the HUD have a brief description of what an action does and lists a hotkey a*igned to said action.For a more GTA styled game you can also switch the camera to a third person view complete with its own control scheme. In this viewpoint you can control your character with the traditional WASD form of movement. Both styles of play give the game a distinctive play style and should please advocates of both game types. I found myself staying with the top down view most of the time, but only because it suited my play style.In terms of overall presentation and style, Escape from Paradise City doesn’t really offer up anything spectacular. That’s not to say that it isn’t well executed – far from it. After all, if it ain’t broken, what’s the point in trying to fix it by overcomplicating matters? From what I have played already in the single player mode each character is introduced with a brief back story before easing the player straight into the game proper. The learning curve is pretty low and there’s also a choice of difficulties if you feel things are too easy or not challenging enough.Despite the numerous nods in GTA’s direction with Escape from Paradise City, the game does not incorporate a lot that the former is known for. No excessive use of profanity, no carrying around a mini a**nal with you when you take on missions, no car-jacking and absolutely no ladies of a certain profession prowling the streets. Flying solo can only get you so far in this game – even with the bonuses provided from levelling up and boosting stats. No, you’ll need to make use of the many ‘powers’ afforded to you in each level at the cost of some influence that you have gained. These bonuses can include sneaky looks at parts of the map you haven’t yet visited, hiring goons to do some of your dirty work for you and even paying off opposing ‘gangers’ so they will leave you alone for a while.Speaking of levelling and stats, this proves to be a large part of what you have to work on in-game. It determines what type of character you can develop into (although I admit that the branching options are fairly limited) and what your strengths and weaknesses are. For example, you can mould Porter into a quick and agile marksman and decide to forgo henchmen altogether, or you can create a more rounded individual who relies on his underlings to make up for the lack of power. In any case, the decision is up to you.There is also promised to be a multiplayer online mode for the game in which players can battle it out against each other to rack up the most amount of kills in their neighbourhood. If this is implemented right, the deviation for the usual mindless killing fare and a strong focus on tactics and henchmen may prove to be a winning combination. This is especially true in modes where players need to take over an opponent’s strongholds such as bars and safe houses.Graphically the game doesn’t break any new ground and players looking for visuals and large cityscapes on the scale of the Grand Theft auto series may be disappointed, but Escape from Paradise City doesn’t aim to be another GTA clone. It strives to be much more involved than that. Having said that, the game does showcase some impressive lighting effects during its day and night cycles, some particle effects that are pleasing to the eye and constant bustling crowd of intelligent NPCs. The audio and sound effects are pretty solid too with characters constantly commenting on their immediate surroundings and trash talking the enemy they are currently pounding into the pavement. You can sometimes get so fully immersed in the experience that you sometimes fail to realise how closely the background ambience resembles that of a real cityscape!All in all, things look promising indeed for Sirius’ title. Although it may not have the polish of newer PC titles, it is unique enough to offer a fresh experience for gamers looking for a break from the usual torrent of urban-themed titles. Only time and the fickle PC gaming population will tell if this game becomes a hit. Hopefully it will be as players will miss a potential gem if they overlook it.
Founder and Editor of PC Invasion. Veteran PC gamer of over 22 years.