The Art Of The Escape – My favorite prison breaks (and break-ins) in video games

Having played A Way Out more than a couple of times and having enjoyed it immensely every time got me thinking about my favorite prison breaks, which was when I realised that there has been at least one memorable prison break-in, too.

Beware of spoilers for Dishonored, Watch_Dogs, Assassin’s Creed 4, Black Flag, A Way Out, Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell- The Black List and Mirror’s Edge Catalyst.

A Matter of Honor
Corvo Attano, hero of the Dishonored-series, finds himself thrown into prison at the very beginning of the game, for a crime he did not commit. So, breaking from the prison to escape execution is the first mission after the intro and it is, actually, a fairly tense tutorial mission on stealth. So, this is my goal every time I play this mission: to sneak out without being noticed. Slip behind the back of a patrolling guard, keep out of sight hidden behind a pillar, use the high ground to go places, distract by throwing empty bottles… It is a lot of fun, really, even the ghastly pack of rats making short work of a couple of guards and fresh corpses.

What you need to succeed:
Not much, really. A lot of patience, studying the guards’ routes and routines as well as your surroundings (for you to find ways along the high ground) and good timing will do the trick.

Paying a visit to a friend
In Watch_Dogs, anti-hero Aiden Pierce, who is a most wanted man, at one point decides to get himself arrested in order to discourage a potential witness from identifying him to the police and the mob. Unfortunately, not only does he have to sneak through the cell block to get to his witness, that witness is also about to be interrogated by corrupt officers and could likely end up killed if Aiden doesn’t do something. Which he does. In a spectacularly brutal fashion, as always. After, all he has to do is sneak out. Unfortunately, by then his escape has been reported and police await him at his exit point on the roof of an adjacent parking garage. To escape, he has to get into a car and drive it off the roof and onto the tracks of the L-train with bullets flying all around. Spectacular.

What you need to succeed:
A phone, obviously, since there is some hacking required. Luckily, Jordi, Aiden’s go-to jack-of-all-trades fixer-“friend” pulls a favor and therefore Aiden’s phone is his even inside the clink. Apart from that, this is a stealth mission until you reach the witness, so patience and good timing are your friend, and once the bullets start flying, use whatever gun you can reach and the environment to your advantage. There will be a heavy on the last round, so you need to lure him into that comparted area left of the door, where you can hack-explode a fuse box in his face. You will also find ammo to stock up in there.

Chains and Oars
When it comes to the protagonists of the Assassin’s Creed-franchise, when I think “smart”, two names come to mind: Ezio Auditore and Edward Kenway. Both are reckless, both are curious, both have swagger and both are pretty smart. Yet, while Ezio is smart and lucky enough to not get himself caught, Edward is, in one mission, let down on his luck after having skillfully snuck past dozens of guards on a sugar plantation to catch a glimpse at the sage the Templars have captured. He is knocked out and thrown into the brig of a ship about to set sail for Spain, along with a couple dozen more prisoners. One of them – actually Edward’s “chain-mate”- is Adawale, a runaway slave. Using teamwork, they manage to break free and proceed to free the other prisoners too, before escaping aboard what will become the Jackdaw.

What you need to succeed:
First, you need a friend, who comes in the guise of Adewale, to initially free yourselves from the chains holding you down. Then you will need stealth, good timing and good climbing skills (I misjudged my jumps a couple of times and fell onto the deck, therefore blowing my cover) to take down the guards on the ships (yes, there are various you need to get to) undetected, if you can manage, and free the other prisoners who will then fight by your side.

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Oops! Leo got caught in A Way Out.

A Way Out
Most of the time, prison breaks seem pretty straightforward: There’s the exit, now sneak or fight your way through the complex and get out. A Way Out takes a different approach. Not only do you need a real-life buddy to play with, since this awesome game is co-op only, you will also find that prison breaks take more than being good at sneaking and timing it right. They need brains and planning. So, convicts Vincent and Leo need to work together to go ahead with their escape plan. One of the most memorable sequences during that prison break-in-the-making -and the entire game, actually – is when both men need to unscrew the toilet in their cell to get through the hole and behind the wall (as demonstrated by genius prison break mastermind Michael Scofield in the Prison Break-tv-series), while two guards are patrolling outside. One needs to constantly keep an eye on them while their buddy is working the screw-driver. We got caught many, many times, I tell you!

What you need to succed:
A real-life buddy with a microphone to play with, a screw-driver, sheets, a flash-light and a wrench. How you get them, I won’t detail here, but rest assured, it is great fun.

Faking it
In Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell- The Black List, spec ops agent Sam Fisher is required to enter a very special prison undercover to get to a witness. That prison is Guantánamo and, as I mentioned, he is there undercover, so the guards do not know who he is either. Getting the deed done is not that hard, actually, it is the task of then escaping the camp and getting to the Paladin, the team’s flying HQ, that had me cursing quietly while on the edge of my seat. Fisher needs to sneak out past guards and guard dogs, fences and search lights. It is also a night mission and you will therefore have to move slowly and carefully. It took me a sweet long time to succeed and, to date, it is the one mission I remember best, apart from the Hawkins Sea Fort-mission, because I thought it was ultra-hard. Even the last mission was a piece of cake in comparison.

What you need to succeed:
Serious stealth skills!

Deeper Underground
Faith, heroine of Mirror’s Edge Catalyst, is a Runner, a semi-legal courier under the tutelage of surrogate father Noah Kekai. When he is arrested and imprisoned in a scientific installation running experiments on the inmates, she vows to free him. This being Mirror’s Edge, the focus is heavy on parcour, which is how Faith gets to the installation, that is hidden deep inside an underground maze of gigantic tunnels. Once inside, she needs to sneak through the bleak complex and overcome many obstacles, until, at last, she chances upon a woman who is willing to tell her where Noah is, in exchange for Faith freeing her and the others. Faith does as requested and, while the others flee, finally catches a glimpse of Noah, who is being interrogated by their arch-nemesis. Alas, this prison break does not end well. Faith is this close to saving her surrogate father, but in the end he succumbs to his injuries and dies in her arms.

What you need to succeed:
While navigating the maze and the installation, you will have to first plot your route up and really know how to get from place to place. More often than not, timing is key. Apart from that, quick thinking and good reflexes will be required once Faith is discovered by the guards and has to make a run for it. I love how this game has you plotting escape routes and assessing possibilities for evasive action on the fly.

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Coldridge Prison is a bleak place, but, actually, there are not that many prisoners inside the cells. On the other hand, it’s execution day, they are probably in the yard with most of the guards.

Stay of Execution
This has got to be my favorite prison break-style mission. In The Brigmore Witches – the second Dishonored-DLC, you again play as the infamous assassin Daud, murderer of the empress Jessamine and countless others. This mission sees him breaking into Coldridge Prison to free Lizzy Stride, the leader of the Dead Eels-street gang. Since Corvo broke out, security has been upgraded and the complex been put under martial law, meaning unauthorized visitors will be shot on sight. Also, Overseer music is being played on loudspeakers in the yard, which means Daud is unable to use his supernatural powers there. Once inside the prison, Blink and all the other Powers will be available once more. Daud has to find Lizzy’s cell and open it via the main control then carry Lizzy to safety. During the mission, the high ground is your friend. Guards are less likely to spot you there and you will be out of reach of electricity traps that will otherwise kill you in an instant.

What you need to succeed:
Sleep darts, patience and quick reflexes will aid you in your quest, since you will often stumble across guards unexpected. Stun mines also help. Don’t forget to listen in on the guards’ chatter, as there is a clue hidden in the interrogation room.

And this is it, my favorite prison breaks! Of course, I know there are more prison breaks out there, I have played some more myself, of course, from Arno’s break from the Bastille in Assassin’s Creed Unity to B.J. breaking out his comrade in Wolfenstein – The New Order, but I want to know your favorites! Leave it in the comments, if you like, I’d appreciate it.

Keep on playing!

Cheers

Vanessa

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