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The Great Escape Review

Developer: Pivotal Games Publisher: Gotham Games
Release Date: July 22, 2003 Also On: None

Whoever thought that a game made in 2003 would be based on a Steve McQueen 1963 POW film, based on a book, based on actual World War II events? That’s right, none of us saw this one coming. The same can be said for the quality of this game, no one could see a good game come out of this, but the unexpected happened.

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Although it has The Great Escape license, the game doesn’t follow the story of the movie until the latter part of the game. In the film, hundreds of Allied air force POWs were sent to a camp designated for the most experienced escapees. The Nazis believed that this newly built camp was inescapable. The Allied soldiers’ plan was to escape 250 prisoners on one night, using an underground tunnel as the escape route.

While the movie focused mainly on the events at Stalag Luft III, as I stated, you do not even encounter it until you are several missions into the game. Instead, you will play missions as MacDonald (Mac), Sedgewick, and Hilts (McQueen’s character) in the beginning of the game. It gives you a story prior to their imprisonment at Stalag Luft III.

The core of The Great Escape is most definitely stealth action. This could almost qualify as a Splinter Cell, if the lighting were slightly better and the character models more improved. Your character is controlled from the third-person perspective and can either run/walk, sneak, or crawl. Throughout the game you will be provided with weapons, such as pistols and other guns, along with other, non-fatal weapons, such as a wrench, a bottle, etc. I strongly recommend that you avoid using weapons, since they will alert the guards and if you kill a guard, the alarm will be raised. Another cool part of the game is the addition of vehicles (though limited), whether it is a tank-like vehicle (w/o the mortar shells) or a motorcycle; you will be pleased with the varied game play, but frustrated with the controls.

As a stealth-action game, The Great Escape fairs relatively well. The guards are ubiquitous, but that can be overcome by their brainlessness. To say that the guards are intelligent would be a huge over-statement, but they can easily find you sneaking around, not because they are smart (they have the same set path for God sake), but because they have some kind of sixth sense. Well, the developers didn’t purposely do that, but what I am trying to say is, sometimes guards can’t see you if you stand in front of them and sometimes they can see you when they have their back to you. True, sound does play a major role in this game. If you run past a guard while his back is turned to you, he will of course hear you and turn around. Hopefully for you, once he turns around, you are already gone. If you are, he will act as if it were the wind and walk by. If he finds you, he will holler like a banshee, bringing all of the guards in the area after you and either you get arrested, killed, or escape their grasp.

There are two different levels of alert that the soldiers can be on, yellow and red. If they are on yellow, they have spotted you and are coming to arrest you, but don’t intend to shoot on sight. If you reach the red alert level, the guards will shoot to kill and make it much more difficult to get away. The only way that you will get on red alert is if you use physical violence or a weapon against a guard or enter a restricted area. One of the best ways to fend off hordes of guards is to strangle them one by one. The way that you do this is by, approaching them from behind and repeatedly pressing the right trigger button when the “hands� action icon appears. Like in Splinter Cell, you will have to drag his body to a place where he can’t be found. Another very useful feature is the “stealth camera�, which allows you to look around corners, over boxes, and through keyholes using the directional pad.

The most exasperating part of the whole game is the targeting system. It took me at least an hour to actually get used to equipping, targeting, and firing a weapon. The main complaint would be that in order to shoot, you must stop walking or running. It is not very pleasing to realize that you could be dodging every bullet if you could shoot and run, but the game doesn’t allow you to do that. To counter that argument, I do like the fact that it auto-targets the nearest enemy.

Character models are anything but good. I will give them credit; Steve McQueen does look like his real-life self, but the rest of the characters are simply not up to Xbox standards. The bulky and lifeless body of each character is not what I’m looking for in 2003, but it is suitable. Animations are clumsy and body parts sometimes go through doors and walls, which once again, is inexcusable. Lighting plays a major role in the game, more like darkness does, since you want to stay out of the light as much as possible.

The Great Escape features sounds from the movie, including both music and some small actual speaking from the movie. Voice acting (that of which is not from the movie) is done relatively well, but in some instances it is not, especially in the first level. Making as little noise as possible is vital in achieving your mission and even the slightest noise can alert the guards. When you do alert the guards, the music will become tense and you will know that the coast is clear once the music settles down.

All in all, The Great Escape is a surprisingly fun game. I truly recommend it as a rent to everyone, but I do caution you if you are thinking about purchasing it. The only people that should consider buying this title are ones that are fans of the movie, Steve McQueen fans, and/or anyone who wants to escape from a Nazi POW camp.

Graphics: 6
Sound: 7.5
Gameplay: 6
Creativity: 7
Replay Value/Game Length: 8
Final: 7
Written by Kyle Review Guide