The Great Escape
Review by Old
A British/American Marriage
One of the reasons my English wife married me 42 years ago had
to do with my reminding her of Steve McQueencool, arrogant,
sassy, action-oriented, sexy, and strikingly handsome! So The
Great Escape, the film, became one of our all-time favorites
when released in 1963. It told the story, as only Hollywood can,
of the experiences of several of the hardest of hardcore prisoners
in the infamous Stalig Luft 3 camp, located in Germany during World
War II. Based on a true story, the film was gripping, climaxed by
the incredible motorbike escape of McQueen.
Watch the Movie, Then Play the Game
Movie-licensed games have generally met with poor success, particularly
in the eyes of critics. Based on my experience, the most faithful
and fun adaptation I've played is Harry
Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, followed closely
Thing, Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, and The
City of Lost Children. In brief, The Great Escape
ranks right up there with the best of them.
Following my pattern with games spun off from films, I viewed the
movie prior to playing the adaptation. This led, for example, to
The Thing (the game) to be viewed in quite a different light
than as a completely isolated play experience. So, too, with The
Not only is my likeness, Steve McQueen, complete with voice and
swagger, "digitally resurrected" (with permission of his
estate), but virtually all of the key scenes featured in the movie
are represented in the gameincluding the motorbike episode.
"There Will Be No Escape from this Camp" Kommandant
Much like the lesser, and rather different, game, Prisoner
of War, TGE's overall theme deals with prison escape.
But the scope and settings move well beyond the experiences of sneaking
past guards, digging tunnels, and avoiding searchlightsalthough
all of these are parts of the game. Here, as reflected in the enclosed
game pictures, we have almost half of the 18 missions played outside
the prison walls. This adds tremendous variety to what becomes a
quite compelling gaming experience. Much like the film, life is
far from dull in WWII Germany!
"Keep at It, Sir" Flight Crew to MacDonald
Beginning with MacDonald's harrowing experience during a night
bombing raid, leading to his eventual capture, we are introduced
to the four characters you play in the episodes:
- Flight Lieutenant MacDonaldintelligence and planning officer;
- Flying Officer Sedgewickgood with machines;
- Flight Lieutenant Hendlywheedles, barters and scrounges;
- Captain Virgil "The Cooler King" Hiltsstubborn,
tough, and excels at escapes.
You are assigned one character in each chapter and can't voluntarily
select among them. Although this seems a bit limiting, the specific
goals will require specific and different skills, with this episode
movement from one to another giving a very nice variety to overall
Settings range from the burning airplane to a castle, a train,
mountainous and rural terrain and, of course, the climactic motorbike
"It Is Forbidden to Be out at Night" Kommandant
Let's say a few words about the technical aspects and mechanics
of the game.
Coming on two CDs, with a fine 5×7-inch manual, TGE takes
about 1.6 GB of space on your hard drive. It installed smoothly
and didn't evidence any bugs, let alone crashes, during my entire
playing time of about 16 hours.
Even though we see signs of "consolitis" (a disorder
plaguing the PC versions of many multiplatform games), the condition
is not at all severe, only presenting the occasional control glitch.
Playing in a third-person, over-the-shoulder viewpoint (first-person
look-around view available), we find the following camera does a
nice job, and it rarely obscures our point of view by, for example,
putting us in a visually obstructed corner.
Each mission has multiple objectives, brought up by the Tab key.
With the mouse fully employed, you can punch, peek, engage in special
stealth moves, speak to NPCs, drive vehicles, and use weapons. There
are items to be located, trades to be made, thievery to be done,
conversations to be accomplished. An onscreen compass with health
bar, danger meter (guards coming close) and action icons helps to
guide you. Further, you are allowed a range of two to four saves
per mission, depending on selected level of difficulty, which selection
can be altered at the beginning of each mission. Thank you, developers!
"Once out of the Camp, You're on Your Own" MacDonald
The graphical renderings of the PC version may seem dated to somecertainly
not up to the level of the Unreal II or even Quake 3 engine,
for example. There's a move on now to be ultrarealistic with water
effects and facial features. TGE is not in the forefront
of this technology. Yet I found the depictions of the varied settings
fully satisfactory. The camp, farms and other arenas for your activities
look as they should look. Character modeling, except for McQueen's
Hilts, is generic. But the overall goal of creating a believable
and immersive alternate world is met, from this reviewer's point
Generally, audio is one of the strengths of TGEfrom
the ambient environmental sounds to the fine voice acting. During
one episode, you can hear a rippling stream, with the sound rising
and fading depending on your precise location. Even moving in a
stationary circle changed the level of noise.
Bernstein's rousing theme from the film is reprised, along with
melodies appropriate to the settings. As mentioned, voice acting
is convincingly done, including the McQueen remastered lines.
Tom, Dick and Harry
The producer of TGE describes his creation as a "stealth-action"
game, one he hopes will bring suspense, adventure and excitement
to the player. Indeed, there is a good deal of sneaking about, though
not nearly as much as with Prisoner of War. But there are
also opportunities to man a bomber machine gun, drive a truck and
half-track, engage in sniping and, of course, ride the motorbike.
There are objectives to be achieved, but often there are multiple
ways to proceed down those paths. It's fun, after all levels are
unlocked, to return to a favorite episode and see if sneaking by
or distracting a guard may work better than a choke kill. Oh, by
the way, Tom, Dick and Harry are names of tunnels.
"Halt, Sound the Alarm!" Camp Guard
The artificial intelligence in TGE seems inconsistent, even
faulty, at times. Some of this varies with easy to hard settings,
and some may relate to the kind of guard encountered. Yet, as in
many games, you may find yourself standing next to a guard at night
who doesn't notice you at all and a long way from another who suddenly
and unexpectedly sounds an alarm! I guess this all adds to the tension,
but the apparent inconsistency can sometimes be frustrating.
"If You Get a Chance, Steal a Motorbike" MacDonald
The Great Escape is an enjoyable, thrilling and suspenseful
accompaniment to the classic film. Employing not only the skills
of stealth, but also item-gathering, planning, and combat, the game
captures and sustains your attention, involving you in a believable
WWII experience. With scenes and a climax paralleling those of the
film, I found the overall experience worthy of a solid Thumb Up.
Rather dated graphics, AI inconsistencies, and a touch of consolitis
keep it from our Gold Star level. But don't let this dissuade you
from rejoining "The Cooler" Hilts and his pals in one
of the very best movie-to-game adaptations.
What I Liked Most About the Game
- Faithful to the spirit and theme of the film;
- Credible and immersive atmosphere;
- Variety of playing styles required (stealth to action);
- Large, detailed and believable settings;
- Interesting level design;
- Fine voice acting;
- Replayable, choosing other paths in missions.
What I Liked Least About the Game
- Some control sloppiness at times, likely due to consolitis;
- Graphically a bit dated;
- The AI can be inconsistent.
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Release Date: July 2003
Four Fat Chicks Links
Pentium III 933 (P4 recommended)
128 MB RAM (256 MB recommended)
8X CD-ROM drive
32 MB 3D DirectX 8.0 compatible video card
DirectX 8.0 compatible sound card
Where to Find It
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