Ah, dear sweet heists. They always make the best movies and games–The Bank Job and The Italian Job each were amazing movies, and Grand Theft Auto V’s heists mode still brings a joyous smile to my face; there’s no doubt about it, it’s fun to scheme and try to make off with lots of money that doesn’t belong to you. (At least in games; I would assume that in real life, the adrenaline rush is somewhat marred by the frustrating presence of bullets and tear gas–but maybe that’s just me). The Masterplan seeks to deliver such an experience, and boy does it deliver.
The Masterplan is a top-down real-time strategy game, but not in the normal sense; in most RTS’ you spend your time attempting to control tens if not hundreds of individual units and tasks. In The Masterplan, you control up to six minions. You start with just two and must work your way up the crime ladder by finding notes laying around during heists which hint at other heists and which are accessible by getting in your heist car from your hideout. At your hideout, you can purchase more weapons and hire more goons. But once you get in the car and the map is pulled up, that’s when you get to choose your fate.
I spent a lot of time in the minimart mission because relatively quickly I developed a system to get all the money out of the heist (some $5,100) and not kill anyone. Just as quickly, however, either my skill or system deteriorated and on numerous occasions I was forced to run from the minimart carrying just $2,000 and a dead body (I was struggling, okay?). In no time at all I identified the necessity of hiring more thieves whom I could use to protect outside of the store–after all, while holding up the clerk and two customers, my only problem was that sometimes people would walk by the store and see me holding a gun to a man’s head and just assume I was robbing it (rude, right?)–but I could not afford it, having spent the entirety of the last heist on ammo I really didn’t need. So I continued to raid the minimart, getting only small fractions of the full stash. But finally I’d saved up enough for another hired gun.
Strangely enough, that’s when things got worse. Soon after starting the game, when I had only two guys to control and no elaborate weapons, I was frustrated with the clunkiness of the controls. When I added a third man to manipulate, the controls became almost intolerably dreadful; what had irked me before became exponentially poor. Everything in The Masterplan is done via clicking, except for a few exceptions–zooming in and out, equipping a dequipping weapons, and scrolling through the map, the last of which is done via WASD. Now, don’t most RTS’ throw scrolling onto WASD? Yes, but this isn’t an RTS in the classical sense. See, your typical RTS units are somewhat autonomous–you don’t have to spell out every step, every time, indefinitely; you can set them to modes to defend points, attack points, and harvest, carry and deposit materials. In The Masterplan, there is no option to set modes to keep the characters moving. I can’t click “defend” and have George Green shoot back at cops automatically in between actions which I designate to him, or click “rob” and have him attack the safe and pick up the money, then return to his previous state. Instead, I have to tell him to get to a particular position and angle him just right (via clicking in the opposite direction, moving him there, then turning him around to the correct direction by having him walk that way) hold up a gun, then point it at everyone. Then I click another character, Bob, let’s say, and then select his drill, then click the safe, and wait for him to break the safe. Once that’s going, I select Ingrid (random name, obviously) and send him to the cash register to perform the same progress. I click Bob, click all the little money piles, and bring him back to the front. Same with Ingrid…now that is just clunky. I should be able to click on a character, then click “rob” (even if I had to first define what “rob” meant, like setting up a macro), and control the crowd. My characters should automatically shoot back with their guns when being fired on by a cop, and not just stand there dumbly, or, even more stupidly after I tell them to attack, rush the cops with a drill. I mean, what the hell? What makes sense about that? I don’t want to imagine the chaos of managing six characters. I think that instead of covering every angle, holding every NPC hostage, stealing every dollar, that you will, rather, be trying to break open a safe with one character as the five others happily stand as they are being murdered by cops. It’s not a bug, but I will absolutely call it game-breaking.
On a happier note, the art and sound are fantastic. They really are unique (no more “retro” style graphics, thank goodness) are charming. The Masterplan feels like a comic book, and it delivers a feeling unlike The Italian Job or a GTA V heist–it feels as intense but much less real. The result is something extremely enjoyable–at least until you expand your crew. At that point, you might as well light your keyboard on fire.
Overall score: 3.5
You can find The Masterplan here on Steam.