Escape From Paradise City

Take me home.

When it was the titular town of Guns N' Roses' 1987 tune, Mr. Rose sold us on Paradise City as an idyllic rocker's resort. The grass? Green. The girls? Pretty. What more did you need to know? Axl's promise of fertile, babe-abundant terrain moved millions of records for the rock group and the fictional burg's fictional tourism flourished in kind.

But not unlike other '80s acts (direct your glares toward Van Halen, kindly) Rose & Co. have come and gone, resting on their long-haired laurels with just a greatest hits and live album in the past decade and a half. Sans Axl's melodic endorsement, Paradise City plummeted from its prime. Crime crept in, uprooting lime-colored lawns for cratered concrete. Mob men took hold of hotels, bars, and other businesses in Paradise. And the pretty girls? Shipped off to streetwalk nearby San Andreas, we'd imagine.

You won't find harlots to hit up for extra health in Escape from Paradise City, but the title does solicit other genres for design decisions. Marrying the scene and setting of Grand Theft with World of Warcraft's system and structure? A curious couple, but Denmark-based Sirius Games is set on developing devotion between the two. Not by integrating grand autos and crafty wars, no, but by bringing a strategic, real-time RPG to retail.

Paradise heists familiar features from each aforementioned hit, but of the larcenies it relies mostly on Blizzard's multi-million-selling mechanics. There's point-and-click combat. Side quests. Skill progression. Ability cooldowns. Azeroth is swapped for asphalt, police in place of paladins and Murlocs for mobsters, you might say. But a persistent world Paradise ain't. Instead, you'll alternate between three former felons blackmailed from jail in single-player. A passable premise (and likely Schwarzenegger script at some point), you're dispatched to do the government's dirty work: find out how the hell this seedy syndicate has kept Paradise under lock and key for so long. Welcome to the jungle, indeed.

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How do the anti-heroes go about it? By swiping back some of the turf for their own gain, naturally. The campaign is all about taking territory; stages are divvied up into as many as a dozen distinct neighborhoods up for grabs. Some boast a bar, others a low-rate motel or convenience mart, but all are kept in check by a neighborhood boss. Scum and organized gangers also mill about: the low-lifes you'll left click through for experience points and a handful of coin (intargetable pedestrians don't offer the same benefits, unfortunately). Harass these hoods, and you'll be tough enough to make your way toward their leader's apartment hideout.

Once you've bullied the boss, and he'll spread word to nearby businesses of your new hegemony. From here, Paradise's urban spoils are unlocked. Funds trickle automatically from the hotel to finance your tab at the bar for stat-boosting drinks and other items (a sake bomb that improves your movement speed? Recipe, please). The store clerk unveils a secret cache of shotguns, weighted baseball bats, pistols, brass knuckles, armor and accessories. All in all, it's an at-your-pace progression that lets players pick off precincts one at a time to grow their avatar.

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The characters themselves, in lieu of genuine classes, take varied approaches to combat. A Clooney lookalike, Nick Porter prefers ballistics. Lethal latina Angel Vargas wields clubs and other melee munitions. And Boris Chekov (distant grandfather to the Star Trek doctor, no doubt) pulls pistols while enlisting henchmen for support. Altogether, a cast akin to that of a classic beat 'em up: a no-nonsense action hero, spunky femme fatale, and the dwarflike, rotund strongman to round out the group.

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