The Great Escape Review
publisher: Take 2 Interactive
PII 450, 128MB RAM, 16MB Video Card
|ESRB rating: T
release date: Jul 23, 03
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Here it is; another one of those summer titles that continues the license of a "trendy" Hollywood motion picture. Over the years, we have encountered countless movie-licensed games, very little of which have brought any originality to the gaming scene. Action Trip recently got the opportunity to check out The Great Escape, based on the classic 1963 action flick starring Steve McQueen. After seeing what the main game features offered, I was honestly keen to try it out. Simultaneously released for PS2, Xbox, and PC platforms, The Great Escape can be described as a classic third-person action sneaker with continuously varied gameplay. Now that I've played through the entire game, I'd like to share my full impressions with you folks.
The game's plotline expands upon the events that took place in the movie. In case you haven't seen this classic of American film, here's the run-down. The movie is based on a true story, which follows a massive Allied escape from the German POW camp Stalag Luft III. The game doesn't offer you to participate in this huge break out until you've completed a number of missions that create sort of a back story for three key characters - MacDonald, Hilts (the character played by Steve McQueen in the movie), and Sedgewick. As the game progresses, you'll be playing with each one of these characters in turn.
The good thing about the game is that it doesn't take you too long to get a hang of things. Following the stories of three unique characters, players are required to go through a series of tasks in each mission, in order to flee from miscellaneous prison camps. During the game you'll always need stuff like lockpicks, hacksaw blades, ropes, wire cutters, and other handy gadgets that can help you to reach the ultimate dream of every POW - freedom. Collecting items and using them on the spot is extremely simple and the controls aren't too hard to master. Gameplay wise, The Great Escape is comparable to Codemasters' title Prisoner of War, which was released last year for the Xbox and PC. While Prisoner of War doesn't offer players to switch characters or ride vehicles, it still boasts many qualities that make it a lot more exciting than The Great Escape. Striving to add in a wide variety of features, the developers of The Great Escape have, unfortunately, slipped up on other significant gameplay aspects.
In an attempt to broaden the whole experience, the developers have increased the number of things you can do throughout some of the missions, such as driving vehicles, slipping into a German uniform, using various methods of distraction to avoid being caught by the guards, and so on. The simple fact is that we've seen these things many times before, and it's highly unlikely that even the average gamer will be fascinated by them. Somehow, as you complete task after task, you're liable to lose your interest in the game very quickly. Even though most of the game revolves around sneaking and creeping past enemy soldiers and officers, there will be a couple of situations where you'll have to rely on the characters ability to shoot, drive, or simply run like hell. Sadly, it's patently obvious that the programmers focused heavily on the stealth elements, leaving the other aspects like combat, weapon balance, and AI inadequately unattended. Okay, so now let's refer to all these one by one.
The weapons can save your skin in various points throughout the game. It's just a darn shame that it's almost impossible to use them. Aiming, for instance, is handled pathetically. In third person, your character can obstruct the crosshair, which often makes it extremely difficult for you to bull's eye any targets that are rushing your way. You'd think, of course, that switching to first person might improve the situation. Regrettably, it does not. In first person view, your movement is hindered and you'll have to switch back to 3rd person view to avoid getting hit. As an alternative to shooting your way out of the place, you can always turn to using your bare hands. You can either punch a guard in the face, which may not be the swiftest idea since the action could easily raise the alarm (And shooting your gun doesn't? Wow! - 2Lions); or, you can always resort to the old choking-the-enemy-from-the-back technique. Although the choking thing may be helpful in certain circumstances, the punching handles clumsily and it's never a good solution to your problems (hear that Six?) (Lies, Lies, LIES! Some people just deserve a good beating! - Six).
The Great Escape allows players to operate a number of vehicles from the WWII period - like cars, APC's, motorbikes, etc. Although they make for a welcomed addition to the slow-paced gameplay, the vehicles will be available only on a few occasions, most of which are over very quickly. Each of the vehicles handles differently. When you drive the motorbike, for instance, the physics and handling are similar to any of the arcade racers out there. Riding the bike is usually a hazardous endeavor, especially when you're attempting to avoid enemy guards, tanks, and land mines. To this end, you will be able to kick oncoming soldiers and bike riders and even perform wheelies. The sad thing is that you'll be able to ride the bike only in the last two missions... all together now: "That sucks!" Fair enough, since you'll be bored, the inclusion of vehicles will come as a nice change from sneaking about and dressing up as a Kraut.
Going through the assignments isn't exactly a piece of cake. This was largely due to the AI - and I don't mean that in a good way. At first glance, enemy sentinels appear to react intelligently. After a while though, it's easy to observe that the guards just keep on you like glue, often arresting you even if you haven't done anything wrong. In addition to this hitch, I noticed some screw-ups in the friendly AI routine. Namely, you cannot order your companions to run - which would be a most praiseworthy addition to missions that have a time limit. Also, on occasion, a friend of yours may start going in the opposite direction regardless of the instructions he was given (!?!). Overall, a disappointing job on the AI.
Generally, the graphics seem way too poor and unpolished for today's standards. So, I guess we have another puny console port on our hands. And, you all know what that means... Yep, scantily presented textures, low poly count on the character models, and outdoor and indoor areas that simply cry out for additional surface features. Also, the skins on most of the character models look downright awful... even laughable at times. For example, I sneaked up close to one of the guards, who was asleep; his eyes looked like they were hastily painted over, instead of actually giving off the impression that the dude is snoozing. This was some of the worse "skin-jobs" I've ever seen in a video game. To make matters worse, certain characters appear more like hideous monsters rather than humans (a big thanks to 2Lions for pointing that one out. Lord knows he's seen enough monsters in his day - Six). Character animation is not bad, but it's not brilliant either. It's actually hard to tell, when you're facing characters that don't even look like human beings. The level design is satisfactory. Then again, the designers didn't have much to improvise on given that almost all areas are located within the confinements of German POW camps.
The audio is okay, and was clearly tended to a lot more than the visuals. Character voicing is brilliant and the dialogs are a pleasure to listen to. The great mishap, however, is that most missions lack music themes in the background. Granted, some moments in the game are better off without any tracks; and yet many sections would've had a catchier atmosphere with cool cinema-like music.
There are several ways you can approach this game. If you happen to be a huge fan of the flick and Steve McQueen's character, it's safe to say you might have fun for a while. The sad thing is that many experienced gamers are well aware of a strong presence of WWII inspired video games on the market today. If you couple that with all the weak elements mentioned in this review, The Great Escape doesn't promise a long and prosperous future among contemporary PC games.
Good voicing. Some missions can be fun. A variety of characters to play with. The gameplay varies often enough. Steve McQueen still kicks ass long after he's dead.
Another bad console port with poor graphics and screwy gameplay mechanics. Annoying glitches in the AI. Soon becomes very dull. No music (except in a few missions), and, more importantly, no replay value.
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