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Prisoner of War - XB - Review

I have to admit that I’m a fan of World War II prison escape movies such as “The Great Escape” and found it interesting how the Allied prisoners devised various cunning and creative methods of escaping the camp right from under the noses of the Nazi guards.  In Prisoner of War, gamers get to experience what it is like being a prisoner hell-bent on gaining one thing: his freedom.

 

The game centers on Captain Lewis Stone who was a pilot on a reconnaissance mission over Nazi Germany when his plane was shot down.  Now in the hands of the enemy, Captain Stone finds himself a guest in a holding cell ready to be shipped out to the famous prison camp known as Stalag Luft. Cocky and courageous, Stone’s mind is set on escape.

 

Gamers start in a small holding camp at first.  Here you get to complete a few objectives that are used to get to know the controls and the environment.  Controlling Stone is quite simple and you’ll soon learn how to crouch and walk and interact with everything from prison guards to other POWs around you.  And like the real thing, you even learn the camp’s daily routines and come to know what guards patrol what area and where everything is.

 

After your brief stay in the holding prison, Stone is transferred to Stalag Luft where there are more guards and more prisoners that range from American, British and even French officers.  Talking to other prisoners open new objectives while others are there to assist you in your escape.  Looking around the camp, you might just come across some items you can use as currency to “buy” things from other prisoners such as useful items or even trust.

 

Stealth is your only weapon in this game and it does hurt to take your time taking a stroll around the camp so you can mentally map the entire area.  You have the complete freedom to do what you wish as long as you report for morning and evening roll call.  You’ll also find that certain mission objectives require you do them in the daytime or the night because certain objects can only be found in certain hours.  Get caught and you’re sent to solitary confinement--not to mention having some of your goodies confiscated and loosing a day or two. 

 

Realism is the heart of this game and it plays out nicely here.  When sneaking around at night, it’s always best to apply a little black shoe polish to cover your face and a homemade spyglass can come in handy to take a quick peek at the guards on the tower. Unfortunately, the guard’s intelligence level really isn’t that high.  While they’ll respond to noise (accidentally kick a can or climb up a chain-link fence too quickly and they’ll hear it and go on alert). But some might not even see you at all if you do something as idiotic as standing still.  Black shoe polish doesn’t mean invisible.

 

Not as beautiful as it should be, the graphics in Prisoner of War do not quite deliver the goods when it comes to characters.  Certain characters do look good while others somehow lack noticeable features (one prisoner didn’t even have an ear and I’m certain this was a glitch because the same prisoner shows up with an ear much later).  The environment do look decent, though, but the Xbox has seen a lot better than this.

 

A great score manages to hook the player into the moment and nothing is more intense then a dramatic soundtrack during a moment of uncertainty.  The voice acting is also pretty good in pushing the story forward and the Allied prisoners--even Captain Stone--sound perfect.  There is one annoyance in the voice-acting department and it falls mainly on the tough-looking German guards. It’s unfortunate but the guards don’t sound threatening at all, in fact, many of them sound quite the opposite with their unintentionally comical accents.

 

With not-so-great graphics but a strong storyline, Prisoner of War is the kind of game that would have been great had it not been for the poor guard intelligence and other small faults.  Still, this is a worthwhile rental that will keep gamers on their toes.

 

#Reviewer's Scoring Details

 

 Gameplay: 7.5
Stealth and wits are what this game is all about and the controls allow gamers to move around with great ease.  Aside from the ability to slide against a wall to take a quick peek or tap on the wall to catch a guard’s attention, you can also take a peep through the eyehole of mostly any door.  You can also hide objects you steal from guards or secretly obtain from other prisoners.

 

The game throws dozens of objectives such as sneaking into the infirmary at night to steal a few items for prisoners who ask for them or obtaining a tool that would be useful to you when you make your escape such as a crowbar.  Getting caught only results in loosing a day or two in the calendar and even the removal of an item you might have had in your possession during the capture.

 

Graphics: 6.6
Graphically, Prisoner of War is not one of the best looking games on the Xbox.  Many of the characters, especially the main character, look decent enough.  Yet the rest have oddly shaped heads or unusual facial features such as shrunken noses or really squared jaws.  This is a bit of a disappointment considering there is a lot of detail thrown at their clothes.

 

Detailed are the environments, however, and they do look really good in some spots like Stalag Luft’s heavily detailed mess hall or the infirmary in the holding camp in the beginning of the game. The camp does look intimidating and rather gloomy--a great job, really, of capturing the essence of what a prison camp looks like with its barbed wire fences and looming watchtowers.  Effects are also done nicely in the game, especially when it comes to the weather.  When it rains, raindrops slide down your leather jacket and in the distant gray clouds you can see the faint flashes of lighting.

 

Sound: 7.5
The cinematic score works nicely in this game, especially during the pulse-pounding moments in the game when you’re sneaking around at night.  When the tension builds in the game, so does the score.  The sound effects are also as good as the soundtrack in terms of working together with each situation.  Climb up a fence near a guard and the sound will catch his ear.  Accidentally kick an empty can and the sound of the clanking tin will alert them.  

 

The voice acting isn’t bad either and all the prisoners are dead-on when it comes to their perspective accents and Captain Stone himself brings up classic movie heroes to mind just by hearing his voice.  On the other hand, the Nazi guards sound more out of Hogan’s Heroes than the Great Escape.  Instead of sounding menacing, they sound downright hilarious.

 

Difficulty: Medium
The enemy intelligence is not high in IQ points because many of them can be so easily fooled that gamers will be laughing at the fast one they pulled on Franz the guard.  At night, guards with flashlights will not even see you run past them if you’re out of the range of their narrow field of vision. 

 

On the other hand, there will be times when the guards just seem to catch everything.  Guards on watchtowers might easily spot you from behind a building or can train the spotlight on you even after you managed to evade the ground patrol guards.  Running from guards is not even an option because they know where you’re going and are always a step ahead of you.

 

Concept: 7.0
Much of what we see in Prisoner of War has been seen before in games like Metal Gear Solid 2 in which you can slide against the wall for a quick peep around the corner, tap the wall to catch a guard’s attention.  There’s even the radar that tracks the movement and line of sight of each guard.  You can also toss stones to distract guards or toss stones at a collection of cans for a prisoner that has made a game out of it.

 

Overall: 6.9
Prisoner of War is a brilliant idea that somehow didn’t result in a brilliant outcome, but it still is worth your time if you’re looking for something different to play. If you’re looking for an interesting game rental, this game is definitely one you should consider.

Above Average

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