June 3, 2002
Prisoner of War - Preview
Release Date Publisher Developer Rating Players Price
19/7/2002CodemastersWide Games1$99.95

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DOH! The pub was just up the road.
Over the last couple of years there is one genre that has begun to emerge as a favourite with gamers. Stealth. No longer are games just a matter of loading up with as many weapons as possible and charging into a room blasting everything in sight. Stealth games require a lot more planning to try and sneak around enemies, cameras and potential problematic situations. Games such as Metal Gear Solid and Tenchu used this style to some effect but none of them had as much stealth potential as this game from Codemasters, Prisoner of War. Even getting caught walking around after dark will result in an ending not likely to be in your favour.

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Each day has a routine to follow.
Set in WWII the player takes the role of Captain Lewis Stone, an American flight officer, whose surveillance aircraft is shot down by the Germans while his is investigating suspicious activity around the prisoner of war camp Stalag Luft III. Whilst in this camp, Stone discovers that the German scientists are using the cover of their prison system to develop a highly advanced technology based on the V2 rocket. On reporting his findings to the SOE, Stone is charged with the mission of discovering exactly what is going and putting a stop to it once and for all.

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Arr ze narste Kommandant.
Prisoner of War is essentially an adventure game where the player needs to complete a series of missions within two prison camps. The developers at Wide Games are promising many different ways to escape from the prisons. You will be able to pose as a German guard, steal cars, sabotage equipment, engineer mass escapes, and call in Allied air strikes. Particular attention will need to be paid to the way in which each camp is set up, the way the guards rotate, and the items in the camp which you can use to your advantage. Every time you get caught you get thrown into the 'cooler', which is essentially solitary confinement. Reach 30 days in the 'cooler' and it's game over.

One of the most important tasks in Prisoner of War is to talk to other prisoners in the camp. By doing this you will make friends, learn little bits of information and, most importantly, find people who will look the other way when you are about to jump the fence. Occasionally you may have to drop them some items such as candy, cigarettes or boot polish.

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Prison detail is very impressive
This game is pretty much a true simulation of the prison camps, with particular attention being paid to the AI of the enemy soldiers. Wide Games wanted to make Prisoner of War so authentic that they went through many or the original documents and photographs from the camps and incorporated them into the game. Obviously to keep this realistic approach the players don't have any weapons and have to outwit the guards. This also means that walking up to a machine gun wielding guard and punching them will probably put you in a body bag. The developers have also implemented a rather neat feature in that the game automatically saves whenever you go to sleep so you can continue quite easily if you make a mistake. Of course, the more you save the more game time it consumes as it brings you to the next day, and the longer it will take to complete the mission.

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You must talk to other prisoners.
Graphics in Prisoner of War are extremely impressive. The developers have implemented a new a state-of-the-art Artificial Life engine that authentically creates behaviour patterns for the many prisoners and camp guards throughout the game. Created especially for the game, the A-life engine is an advanced potential field steering mechanism, inspired by the seminal "Boids" algorithms developed by the famous A-life researcher Craig Reynolds.

The A-life engine will create natural movement of both individuals and groups and enables the simulation of crowd behaviour that appears incredibly realistic. This is vital for creating a populated environment of believable characters that have to carry out the daily tasks of camp regime while also reacting to any escape attempts the player may take on. The approach avoids excessive scripting of non-player characters (NPCs), and allows the NPCs to literally observe the environment around them, and react to changes dynamically.

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Check out the castle detail.
Sound is yet another area where the developers, Wide Games, have spent a considerable amount of time. They have implemented a system where the music changes according to the action on screen and your progress through the game. We can expect a similar level of precision in the sound effects.

As a massive fan of movies such as Stalag 17 and The Great Escape and TV shows such as Hogan's Heroes I can honestly say that this game is one of my most wanted this year. The graphics aren't the greatest seen on the Playstation 2, but the different gameplay should prove to be very entertaining. Prisoner of War is currently expected on July 17, 2002. Start saving.