The allure of a criminal enterprise is something many people find enthralling. The reason behind that can be attributed to our innate desire for risk and reward. The Masterplan, developed by Shark Punch, hopes to tap directly into that sense. It allows you to rob a host of environments, from arcades to banks. You do this by either devising a full-on stealth-focused plan or attempting to go in guns blazing and take out every enemy within sight. While some previous games have attempted to recreate the thrill of a virtual heist, they have fallen flat on multiple occasions. The Masterplan hopes to rectify that by introducing their personal interpretation of a good old fashioned heist.
While some games have taken a more realistic approach to their robbery aspects, The Masterplan features a top-down view with slightly oversized characters. This view makes the environment you are robbing feel like an actual map as you can plot your movement from room to room while scanning the entire location. The map/level design is the sort of addition that some may overlook as a basic visual style, but it really helps bring together some of the strategy needed to successfully complete a level without your fellow gang members dying. The lighting is also a huge highlight of The Masterplan. As your characters creep around corners, you will see shadows of upcoming textures begin to reveal themselves. It helps round out a very solid environmental design.
Before heading out to your heist, you get some time alone in your hideout. While in the hideout, you can do things such as purchase some more weapons and see notes left for you while you were gone. The weapons in the game can range from a silenced pistol to a shotgun, but don’t expect to be able to purchase them immediately. During your heists, you will find weapon fliers hidden throughout the building that you must pick up and bring back to your hideout in order to unlock the weapon for purchase. This makes sense, but it would be nice to purchase some of the weapons a bit earlier, such as the silenced pistol, which is incredibly useful and would have been great to have access to from the beginning of the game. Then again, using a weapon can lead to less money as you are charged a “cleanup” fee at the end of each mission that is based on how many people you killed, with one kill cutting your overall pay in half.
When it comes to the members of your gang, permanent death is a thing to look out for. While you can restart heists during the mission, there will be times where a fellow member goes down after some money has been acquired. This is the time where “no man left behind” must be forsaken and you leave a fallen compadre at the scene of the crime in order to ensure you leave with more of the loot. In this instance, you can replace your “goons” by hiring more using the money you have acquired. The criminals you can hire will come with different weapons and varying statistics and specialties.
As you complete your pre-heist shenanigans in the hideout (you can make the characters use the toilet. Real innovative stuff), you decide what location you want to rob. As mentioned earlier, there is a diverse array of buildings for you to rob. Have you ever seen an arcade and thought about robbing it? No? Well maybe this game will change your mind as you get the opportunity to do just that. Apart from that, you also get a nice little bank to invade, which ends up being one of the toughest heists to take part in. With the huge selection of locations available, it is hard to find yourself tiring of robbing each and every location you come across. The levels become infinitely more entertaining when you figure out the perfect plan that sees you getting past every guard and squeezing out every dollar possible. Unfortunately, executing that plan can be a bit of an issue.
The Masterplan’s in-heist gameplay is, without a doubt, the most frustrating part of the entire experience. While looking over the map and devising a plan is fun, it is tough to set that plan up perfectly due to the confounding controls. The controls are based all around the right and left mouse click, with the left selecting your goon and the right controlling pretty much everything else. At first, you catch yourself constantly trying to move with the left click. It feels a bit like a point and click adventure, except you are under pressure to make every move a smart one. Thankfully, that is a habit you break after a few hours.
When it comes to other UI/control problems, those issues that persist are not something you just “get used to.” You can open up each character’s inventory by clicking on said character with the right click, which is also how you pick up items. Because of this, you will run into multiple situations that bring about a host of frustration as you struggle to tell your character you want to pick up the money in front of you as opposed to just opening up their inventory.
Another incredibly frustrating aspect is when you are expected to perform a hold up on your enemy. In a perfect world, this would have you throwing your gun up at an enemy and them following your commands. But in The Masterplan, you must keep your visual cone on the enemy or they will go crazy and call the cops. Doing so is much harder than it sounds, as you will find yourself needing to order enemies around to unlock doors they have the key to. Once you order them to unlock the door, they tend to move outside of your visual cone. Establishing constant sight on them feels next to impossible, as you must hold down right mouse button on your character to rotate where you aim. Being unable to use the right mouse button can lead to frustration, which can ultimately lead to your entire plan falling apart.
In hopes of combatting these control issues, there is a pause feature that will allow you to queue up a host of actions. This helps a tad, but some issues do arise when everyone tries to move at once, leading to your goons awkwardly running directly into each other and screwing up your entire plan. Ultimately, this queue feature helps in a few situations, but when it comes to the gunplay and picking up things around you, the controls work against you. While successfully executing a heist is an incredibly satisfying feeling, the poor inventory UI and movement controls will make you throw your hands up in the air in pure disgust.
The Masterplan presents a very unique and welcoming vibe for all who have dreamed of robbing a building establishment. It has some solid visuals that help build a strategy as you navigate through door after door. Unfortunately, that strategy can quickly combust if the mouse-focused controls slip up on you and you find yourself frantically clicking on everything within sight. While a majority of The Masterplan is well done, the bad controls and UI dampen what could have been a true steal in the year of 2015.