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Prisoner of War Review
developer: Wide Games
genre: Action Adventure
PIII-500, 128MB RAM, 16MB 3D accelerator
|ESRB rating: T
release date: Sep 30, 02 (released)
|» All About Prisoner of War on ActionTrip|
Codemasters has been pretty busy in the past year or so, releasing a wide variety of titles for the PC and next-generation consoles. Their latest 3rd person sneaker, Prisoner of War, finally made its way to our office and we got a chance to check out both PC and Xbox versions. While the game may not appeal to players who prefer action-packed shooters, those of you who like sneaking, crawling, wall-climbing, camouflage, and creeping about German POW camps in the middle of the night, will get a kick out of this one (Who in the hell likes to creep around German POW camps?! Oh wait - you do, Vader - ed).
It all starts when your plane goes down after an unsuccessful reconnaissance mission. Captain Stone (you) parachutes straight into German territory and soon becomes incarcerated within a nearby POW camp. Even with all the tight security around the camp, Stone is desperate to make a break for it as soon as possible. After a disastrous escape attempt, Stone is transferred to Stalag Luft - a POW camp with tighter security. The plot will continue with a bunch of unexpected twists that usually come about when Stone manages to perform a particular task. But, the most important thing about the story in Prisoner of War is that it manages to hold your attention and even add to the gameplay dynamics. Each completed task triggers a progress in the story.
Starring Sly Stallone as the clumsy goalie.
I call! Full-house, bitch!
Your missions throughout the game will not be easy at all. Using every possible advantage that can be found in the environment you are able to hide your position and remain undetectable to German guards. Stone can conceal himself behind bushes, he can crawl through tunnels and underneath barracks, and hide under beds to avoid being caught. The cool thing is that throughout the game you can obtain certain items to help you camouflage Stone so that he can creep past the guards at night. The boot-polish is something you'll be using quite frequently during your midnight strolls through the prisons. But that's not all, if you're in a top-security POW camp it's likely you'll need more than a smudge of boot-polish on your face. This is when you get to pinch a German uniform, thanks to which you will blend in with German sentries.
Before you risk your neck for some hair-brained scheme you're going to have to take the time to carefully plan your route through the camp. Since it's going to be pretty hard to know your way around at the beginning, it would be advisable that you patiently explore every possible way to get into a desired zone. This means you must consider which time of the day is best suited for carrying out the appropriate task - after the morning roll call, exercise, lunchtime, after the evening roll call, or lights out. Broadening the gameplay, the developers have also included several additional elements that can help you kill time while you wait for the suitable moment for your endeavor. These sub-tasks usually denote looking for available currency. BTW, currency doesn't include dollars or reichmarks, but rather practical stuff inmates are in need of (cigarettes, liquor, extra food, and so on). These can be gained by playing betting games with some of the prisoners; obtaining certain items for someone, knocking down cans with rocks, etc.
Instead of waiting until nightfall, some quick duties can easily be completed during the day. However, the risk will be far greater then, because guards are numerous and more attentive. This doesn't mean that they'll all be asleep at night - quite the contrary. Some of them are particularly keen and will spot you in no time (even when you're wearing your improvised camouflage outfit - a cap, boot-polish, and shades).
The AI will keep you on your toes at all times. Guards can hear and see absolutely anything and it will only take them a few seconds to raise the alarm and shoot you on sight. Luckily, when Stone rubs his face with boot-polish he becomes virtually undetectable at night (These developers obviously have a boot-polish fetish - ed). And he can use stones to distract the guards. Plus, he is very fortunate to have heavy rain (which can btw keep teeming for days) on his side. This allows him to slip past the sentries even if he's holding things like crowbars, bellows, and such. Even with all that, the guards won't be easy to outwit. Choosing the right path across a POW camp swarming with German officers and soldiers is always a major challenge (something like planning your way through one of the missions in the Commandos series). Also, enemies can hear any sound Stone makes. If he accidentally moves a stool, lamp, or trash can, the guards will surely get suspicious and run to see what caused the noise. German officers are particularly sharp-witted, so it would be wise of you to steer clear of their patrol zones. All things considered a pretty nice job on the AI there.
And he flew off into the sunset...
It's raining cats and German Shepherds.
Sadly, the gameplay in the PC version lacks several tunings in terms of camera movement and general controls, since the game was initially developed for the Xbox and then ported to the PC. The developers did a bit of a sloppy job while optimizing the ol' mouse and keyboard control system. It's not tragic, but it could've been a helluva lot better. In short, no matter how you set the keys, the controls can act really weird and that may significantly influence the gameplay at certain points. What's even worse, the camera can sometimes shift for no apparent reason and before you manage to set the appropriate point of view, you'll either be shot or put in detention.
Prisoner of War has plenty to offer in terms of eye-candy. To begin with, the models are nicely animated (this goes for both sentries as well as inmates). Realistic weather effects make things a lot more interesting, and so do the day and night cycles. At night the camp is lit with security reflectors and guard flash lights, which adds a special spark to the suspense when you're out there trying to sabotage German operations. Of course, other details can be found as well; like Stone leaving footprints on the ground, visible breath from the characters when it's cold, etc. Other praises go straight to the level designers, because those levels really got close to looking like a real-life POW camps.
Sadly, every cloud has its silver lining. The background lacks richer textures and most of the objects could use an additional reflection or two. But, one of the most apparent flaws is the poor variety of guard skin models. After strolling through some of the camps you'll notice that you're incarcerated in a German POW camp that's packed with clones of the same model. An occasional fat sentinel appears, followed by a few officers here and there, but that's about it.
The audio aspect of the game also has its ups and downs. On a good note, the music is excellent and fits well with the on-screen action. Regrettably, the dialogs are not all that convincing. Most of the German troops and officers have exceedingly bad voiceovers that can be truly annoying on occasion. Additionally, I would like to bring up a couple of exaggerations, which kinda spoil the authenticity of the WW 2 ambiance. While trying to re-capture the atmosphere of a World War II POW camp, the developers have disregarded some major facts. The main character Stone is a wise-ass with a bad attitude and he actually makes fun of the German guards to their face. Fair enough, a game (or a movie for that matter) doesn't have to be accurate all the way. But, there's simply no way the German army didn't have severe punishment for shrewd and sarcastic remarks. Hm, maybe it's just me...
To put it briefly, Prisoner of War is a very good 3rd person sneaker filled with action, suspense, and with enough missions to hold you attention for several days. The game requires you to burn a few brain cells, by utilizing Stone's skills the best possible way in order to escape from a camp. I even considered it a bit TOO hard on a couple of occasions. There are a few visual drawbacks and some control issues that take some getting use to, but all of that shouldn't really stop you from experiencing this decent action/adventure game.
8.0 Very Good
Good story. The mission structure is excellent. Using tactics and sneaking skills against the powerful AI is quite a challenge;
Can get a tad too challenging for an average gamer. Poor textures and reflections in the background. Repetitive skins on the German guard models. Bad voiceovers of German soldiers. Control and camera issues take some getting use to.
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