I love heist games. Well I should say that I love the idea of heist games because none have really really put all the pieces together to create a truly sublime heist game. My two favorites so far, Payday and Monaco, both did a lot of things right but they never quite captured the feel of pulling off the perfect heist. Enter The Masterplan, which aims to do just that, and for the most part succeeds.
Like any heist game, The Masterplan focuses on a series of escalating missions where you are tasked with greater and greater challenges and rewards. There isn’t a huge narrative focus but there is a through line where you find “tips” for future heist locations. The beginning marks of convenience stores and diners give way to banks and guarded compounds, leading all the way up to an assault on Fort Knox itself.
Gameplay is all from a top-down perspective with an RTS-style command system for your crew. You can move them around and have them aim in certain directions as well as equip and un-equip various items with a couple clicks. You can also slow down time to deliver multiple commands, which is definitely necessary to pull off heists successfully.
The controls are a little clunky and there are a ton of hot keys that seemingly get randomly assigned on the fly. You get your standard 1-6 to quick select crew members but after that it’s impossible to remember, as it seems to change with every mission. It’s not necessarily a problem, it just results in a lot of clicking. The path-finding in the game is also poor, with picking up items in the world, closing doors, etc. resulting in your character oftentimes running in circles like a dog looking for a place to sleep. The Masterplan is generally a slow paced game so it’s not too big of a deal but it can cause problems when you are trying to be precise.
While the controls leave something to be desired, the rest of the game works very well. By having full control over various crew members – this is an entirely single player game – you can easily set up perfect heists and plan ahead every action. The most interesting mechanic is threatening enemies. Unlike most games, your gun is used much more for intimidation than actual shooting. Pointing your gun at someone gives you full control over them, letting you access their inventory or command them to do something. As long as they are threatened they will stay under your control, although anyone other than a regular civilian requires more than one person pointing a gun at them.
The threaten system makes it pretty easy to control a situation if it goes bad but also works in a “best defense is a good offense” kind of way as well. The recipe for success usually ends up being find the keys – of which there are multiple colors – and then intimidate everyone and lock them in a room so you have free reign of the building. It’s a fun system to implement and gives a really great sense of accomplishment. The only real downside is that the game never really evolves beyond this point. What works to solve the opening few heists works for almost everything, it just gets more challenging and gives you different equipment as you go along.
Just because the strategy is pretty straightforward doesn’t mean it’s not fun, nor does it mean it’s easy. Every mission I’ve played I’ve thoroughly enjoyed and the game even gives you a results screen letting you know how much loot you got away with compared to the total possible. If you did your work right you’ll be maxed out but if you didn’t, it’s easy to go back and explore more or try a different strategy. You earn money even when you replay missions so you might find yourself doing so just so you can hire more guys or buy more equipment.
With 20 unique missions to complete, there is plenty do to in The Masterplan. While the strategy is ultimately the same from mission to mission, the increasingly more complicated scenarios help to keep it fresh throughout. The Masterplan also offers enough new ideas for heist games to make it feel like something truly unique. If you’ve been looking for the game that let’s you pull of the perfect heist, look no further.
SCORE: 8.5 out of 10
A code for The Masterplan was provided to Pixel Related for this review