The Masterplan

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The Masterplan review
Ewan Wilson


Stick to the plan


Joey Green has barely broken out of prison and he’s already suspiciously nosing about the local convenience store. The last customer leaves and Joey’s brother closes the door and bars anyone else from entering. Joey reaches for the pistol hidden away in his jacket pocket. It’s only a toy gun, but the store clerk doesn’t know it. With the clerk’s hands held high, Joey’s brother can slide behind the shop front and empty the cash register. The brothers are out, cash-in-hand, before the cops can be called. It was hardly a master plan and the take was pitiful – but a crook has to start somewhere.

The Masterplan is based around a series of heists, each of which ramps up in terms of the stake up for grabs and the tactical complexity involved. You control a group of criminals from a top-down perspective, moving each of them around like you would a unit in a real-time strategy game. One up from the convenience store is a local bar and a mini-mart. Both of these joints involve camera systems connected to television sets hidden away at the back of the building, so fumbling with a toy-gun at the counter won’t get Joey and his brother far. Instead you’ll have to be patient, waiting for patrols to pass and dodging surveillance cameras.


Hidden somewhere in each level is information that will open up additional heists. Soon you’ll be robbing jewelry stores, casinos and banks. Each heist is a jump in scope and complexity, and often requires an investment in more advanced equipment and additional team members. You can hire extra goons for your crew and purchase weapons at your hideout. Drawing your weapon on folks will make them freeze, while keeping it trained on them brings them under your control, meaning you can force them to line up against a wall for convenience or, if they’ve a key, even unlock doors for you. A single triggerman aiming at a guard gives you just enough time to knock them out with your other goon. Two gunners watching is enough to control a whole crowd of people indefinitely, which frees up your third guy to sneak around gathering up all the cash in a duffle bag.

There are a lot of ways a heist can go wrong. If you can’t control the crowd or a guard gets brave, the cops will be called or you’ll end up with a blood bath on your hands where the clean-up cost will outweigh the take. A lot of the time these chaotic scenarios will simply be frustrating and cause you to hit the retry button. However, occasionally you’ll slip up late in the game and decide to shoot your way out. These moments feel thematically gratifying. On the flip side, eventually you can acquire a disguise, something which helps alleviate the ramping complexity of the heists. Dragging half a dozen unconscious guards into a locked janitor cupboard can now be bypassed by simply slipping inconspicuously between rooms to pick up the important keys and destroy surveillance equipment. There’s nothing quite like breaking and entering like a ghost and leaving the entire establishment bone-dry without a shred of evidence or a single witness.


The controls can often be finicky; there’s weirdness with the physics of opening/closing doors and sometimes the path finding won’t work as you’d like. However, The Mastermind’s biggest control problem is in regards to simultaneity. In the early Rainbow Six games for example, you could issue commands to multiple team members and then execute them all at the same time, but in The Mastermind you’re forced to switch between characters in real-time. You can slow things down by pressing the space bar, which helps, but controlling each character simultaneously still requires a massive amount of multi-tasking (imagine controlling more than one character in a MOBA). There’s a good chance this will funnel you towards only controlling one criminal at a time. Leaving additional members outside with their hands in their pockets is a viable strategy, as you’re much more likely to slip up trying to watch over everyone. Another frustrating problem crops up as a result of the lack of inventory space. This limitation makes sense in that it highlights strategic choice in terms of equipment, but it also makes things incredibly tedious later in the game when you’re juggling four differently colored keys that take up half of your inventory space (advice for the aspiring criminal: invest in a key-ring).


Making good on your master plan can be difficult. It requires a great deal of patience, as well as a good few retries. When you do pull it off though, you’ll feel unbelievably cool. The Masterplan isn’t content on just simulating that one scene from Michael Mann’s Heat, it wants to involve you in the entire suspenseful process. Just as Joey Green wants nothing more than to stick it to “the man”, you will also want to overcome the great odds and levels which conspire against you. The Masterplan succeeds in making everything from the triumphant heists, close scrapes and complete wash-outs, interesting – you’ll just have to work for them.


fun score


Some smart tactical systems, several ways to approach a heist, successes and failures are equally memorable


Some control issues, not enough inventory space, can be frustrating