Prisoner of War - PC - Review

After plowing through wave after wave of Nazi filth in Allied Assault Medal Of Honor, and battling through level after grueling level of Return To Castle Wolfenstein I felt confident that I was up to the challenge of Prisoner Of War. Then I realized that POW is not an FPS. In fact there isn’t much shooting at all in POW, because the game isn’t a shooter at all. POW is a third person adventure sneaker. What does that mean exactly? Well gameplay consists of sneaking around, and hiding, and tricking the snot out of German guards.

While flying a reconnaissance mission over World War 2 Europe Captain Lewis Stone and his copilot are shot down. The Captain must use stealth and cunning to find an escape. This can be accomplished any number of ways depending upon the strategy you decide to take. Climbing walls, talking and trading with fellow prisoners and evading guards to avoid attracting attention to yourself.

The evading part was a bit tedious at first. I must admit I was ready to pick up a rifle and clean house. It is the stealth aspect of the game however that sucks you in and creates enough tension to make POW fun to play. Unfortunately the control method within the game is very awkward and detracts from this titles enjoyment.

If you remember Thief and you loved it, than you will probably like Prisoner Of War. The game is played in a third person point of view. The camera angle is over the shoulder and can be manipulated with the keyboard depending upon what control configuration you choose. You can also flip to a first person perspective in order to get a better look at things. I found that the camera is very fond of Captain Stone’s backside, which is not such a good thing. Especially when you are trying to get a look at some patrol and all you see is the back of the Captain's jacket.

You must snoop around the camp completing different goals so you can progress through the game. There is a clock on the screen that you must keep an eye on because reporting to roll call or mealtime on time is essential to success. For instance if you are halfway through a mission and have obtained illegal objects, but fail to report to roll call on time you will be caught and all your items will be confiscated. There are hiding places where you can stash items so you can retrieve them later on. The limited amount of time makes completing goals a race against the clock. If you however finish something ahead of schedule you can skip to a later event in the day.

A journal is kept so you can keep track of mission goals and where you’ve stashed your goodies. There is also an option to ask for helpful hints from your inmates, but you must pay for it.

Manipulating the camera indoors seemed impossible which really hampered gameplay as some missions require you to search for items. This is rather difficult to accomplish when you cannot move the angle of the camera. When lurking around outdoors it is necessary to crouch and hide from guards so you don’t get caught. If you crouch behind a dark stone wall and try to swing the camera you’ll get a nice pixilated close up of the wall. This is very frustrating.

POW plays like a console port. There are no quicksaves which is absolutely a shame and unforgivable with this type of game. Often I would get far in a mission only to be discovered and lose all progress. Then I’d have to wrestle with the controls and replay the entire excursion and by the third time all sense of fun vanished. If there were a quicksave option this game would be much more fun. There is a save option available, but you must trek all the way back to your bunk in order to do so. This makes no sense to me.

The sound in the game is very good. The music is of a cinematic quality that impressed and added to the edge of your seat tension that POW tries to create. The voice acting isn’t bad, but all the characters are played over the top like a bad black and white war flick complete with whiny stereotypical Nazi voiceovers. While at times humorous I found that it detracted from that sense of realistic claustrophobia one should feel when imprisoned.

The graphics are decent, but not spectacular. I must add however that the in-game weather changes really add a nice touch to the ambiance factor. POW does manage to offer some fun once you’ve mastered the controls, but there are several bugs that plague the games launcher that had me mumbling obscenities for the first couple of days. This game has some nice moments, but overall I’d have to recommend it only to gamers who are very patient and like repeating portions of a game over and over. Or adventure fans who are ready for a change of pace.

Gameplay: 7
It takes some time to get used to the control of this game. It plays more like a console port than a PC offering. Once you get past the clunky commands and the infuriating bug contained within the launcher some fun can be had.

Graphics: 8
For the most part the visuals are better than average, and you'll feel like you are in a prison camp. The weather effects made a subtle difference and really added to the ambiance and mood factor.

Sound: 8
Overall the sound was well placed. The musical score was very nice with cinematic overtones in a few tight spots that really helped to build much needed tension in a game that depends so much on stealth.

Difficulty: Medium
This game is not hard, but tedious. The fact that there are no quicksave options is what creates the mindless tedium of replaying a sneak job over and over until you get it right. If the control were more intuitive this would have been more forgivable. However the control is like trying to train an elephant to tip toe on its hind legs. Okay maybe I'm exaggerating a little bit.

Concept: 9 
Breaking out of a POW camp is a very cool concept. The fact that you must use stealth above blazing guns is a good diversion to all those shooters and RPGs out there right now.

Overall: 7.5
If you’re a Thief fan you will dig this game. POW would've gotten a higher score however the lack of a quicksave, clunky control and a nipping launcher bug resembled a bee sting in a heatwave. Oh so annoying otherwise this could of, should of, would have been a refreshingly welcome addition to the genre. Hopefully the developers will release a patch that fixes a few of the games issues, and includes a quicksave feature.

Good

Gw
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