OK, it doesn't scan as well as the first version, but at least this one is printable. It also introduces the first of three points I want to make up front about Escape from Paradise City:
This is, for me, the critical failure of Escape from Paradise City: it doesn't give the player an investment in achieving victory. If you're the kind of person who enjoys the triumph of Good over Evil, then you're not going to like this game because you're not the kind of person who would accept its "the ends justify the means" game play. By the same token, if you're having a Scarface moment and really want to get your evil on, you're not going to be satisfied with killing a few opposing gang members and beating the local neighborhood bosses into submission over & over again.
I think most people would agree that sometimes, being bad can be fun. For example, I used to play a great play-by-mail game called It's a Crime. Each player ran a different street gang and tried to take over as many city blocks as possible in order to stake out your 'turf'. You could buy guns, fight other gangs, buy & sell drugs for cash, use drugs to improve morale, firebomb buildings for insurance payoffs, make money off of armed robbery, auto theft, and prostitution - heck, the single best week I had in all the games I played came when my gang successfully took over a very hard block by firebombing the local police station. Some people probably would have found the game offensive, but it was fun to be evil, and fun to play as hard and dirty as you could in order to become powerful and take down your rivals. Those kinds of acts are what I mean by embracing the M rating.
The characters you play in Paradise City are thugs. All of them got forced into this job by a sinister NSA agent (that is so wrong, I'm not even going to touch it…) who is essentially blackmailing all of them into doing "the right thing" whether they want to or not. They shouldn't be doing the right thing, though! They are thugs, not heroes! They should be taking this criminal empire over, not bringing it down!
Without that investment, the game lacks the ability to motivate players to keep playing, and that's a shame. The voice acting is generally pretty good, if occasionally a little overdone. The missions are challenging and for the most part have enough variation in conditions to keep the game from feeling too repetitive. The city itself is magnificently grungy - it looks and feels perfect for the game. As your characters advance, they can choose to buy skills from six different skill trees, each of which give them various advantages in game play. This gives you a lot of game play options and normally would mean a decent amount of replay value.
I can think of any number of games which failed because of poor execution of a good concept. Paradise City is a rather decent execution of a flawed concept. It could have been so much more if the designers had embraced the M rating. After all:
The mind is its own place, and in it self
Can make a Heav'n of Hell, a Hell of Heav'n.
What matter where, if I be still the same,
And what I should be, all but less then hee
Whom Thunder hath made greater? Here at least
We shall be free; th' Almighty hath not built
Here for his envy, will not drive us hence:
Here we may reign secure, and in my choyce
To reign is worth ambition though in Hell:
Better to reign in Hell, then serve in Heav'n.
- Satan, Paradise Lost by John Milton