"Movie classic goes under the oft disappointing movie to game conversion process"
The Great Escape is viewed by many as one of the greatest films in Hollywood history. It features a young Steve Mcqueen trying to escape from German prisoner of war camps at the height of World War II. SCI together with Pivotal have taken this movie and created a stealth/action game, but unfortunately it is no where near as classic as the film.
Creating a game from one of the best films of all time was always going to be a tough task. Not only did the developers have to live up to the legendary status this film enjoys, they had to follow the storyline and create a fun game, two out of three aint bad. The fact is this game isn't fun, its frustratingly hard and players with probably throw in the towel long before the story concludes. The story begins aboard a British bomber flying over Berlin, after a few interactive sequences where a player is tasked to shoot down some German planes and destroy a codebook. The main storyline begins and from then on it at times really is a strong lesson in frustrating gameplay.
One area the developers have to be congratulated on is the storyline and how it is conveyed to the player. People who have seen the film should get quite a kick out of being able to see some famous scenes played out. The cut scenes are performed in engine and the voice acting is quite good (however Steve Mcqueen was not used to voice his character). The storyline is played from four standpoints with the four of them eventually meeting up in a heavily fortified German camp. The Germans feel they are a great threat at escaping (after numerous tries) so what do they do? Put them in the same camp to co-ordinate with each other.
Most of the missions are fairly stock standard and the game is very reminiscent of Prisoner of War. Tasks basically conclude with escaping an encampment or escaping from German infantry. Players can expect to be asked to perform actions such as finding German clothing and forged papers or answering a telephone before camps elsewhere in Germany can get the word out that you've escaped. The goals are fairly interesting but other then a few out of the ordinary goals, there isn't much variety. This is probably due to the fact that using a film licence has restricted the developers heavily in terms of storyline and tasks.
To assist in this some weapons are available however the focus is very much on stealth rather then action. Weapons such as pistols can be used at times and NPCs will assist with providing weaponry at times as well. For instance in one area a prison inmate will give you a file so you can escape from your cell. Other environmental aids can include gun emplacements. During one level I was able to take command of a German turret, however using such a powerful weapon is obviously going to alert the entire camp so they must be used carefully.
The AI is strong and tough and each mission can take some time to complete. As well as the actual units, they will have options such as using searchlights to discover your position, call in a few reinforcements or gun you down. If a German soldier gets a gun targeted towards you at point blank range then no matter how much health your character has he will give up and you will have to start again. Later in the game you meet up with the Gestapo, who are even tougher then the general foot soldiers.
The Great Escape is set across the entire second world war and as you'd expect features varying environments and other environmental effects. Players will travel through varying weather conditions, snow, sunshine etc but also missions are set both in the day and night. The story begins in a fairly basic POW camp but as you progress further and further, you are labeled a trouble maker and it will become increasingly harder to escape.
Whilst the graphics of The Great Escape aren't some of the best ever seen on the Playstation 2, they do the job except for one slight problem. There is only one word for the frame rate and that is abysmal. Once a player moves into an open area, they will notice a fairly hefty drop in frame rate and the final mission (which features the famous motorbike ride to freedom) is almost unplayable. The challenge didn't come from the AI trying to stop me, it came from keeping the bike going with a jerky frame rate. The famous tune is included, as well as a cinematic soundtrack which is one of the more impressive aspects of this title.
The Great Escape is a hit and miss conversion from the classic film. Whilst it features an authentic storyline and a branching four way storyline, the frame rate is the true let down with this title. If you really want to play The Great Escape, look out for the Xbox version but for Playstation 2 owners, unfortunately this title is destined for the bargain bin. At full retail price its a rental at best.