The Great Escape
It seems developers are running out of movie licences to pounce on for their game tie-ins these days. Not that there’s a lack of new movie licences out there, which makes us think that they, or rather the industry, is just getting greedier. The number of games cashing in on the popularity of old movies is steadily increasing. The Great Escape, although one of cinema’s most cherished movies, it isn’t exactly the movie that everyone s talking about at the moment. And it’s quite likely that a large percentage of the PS2 market will only know Steve McQueen as that bloke from the Ford Puma adverts.
But, whatever the strange reasoning behind it, a Great Escape licence was bought and a Great Escape game is what we’ve got. And at least they’ve tried to do something interesting with it. There’s quite a lot going on in this game, and much of it works very well. But not all of it.
The mainstay of the game is sneaking about, being stealthy and avoiding detection. It’s not as involved as something like Tenchu, but it works. It’s kind of simple – if you stay in the shadows, avoid all the spotlights and utilise the stealth function so you creep about silently when in earshot of the guards, you’ll be fine. If you do get spotted and the alarm is raised, then you can resort to throwing punches, which will stop a pursuer for a short while, but you’ll need to find somewhere to hide until the alarm is dropped. If you’re caught out in the open with nowhere to go, then invariably you’ll end up riddled with enemy bullets.
The reasons for all this sneaking about vary widely from retrieving a shovel for one of your chums to dig an escape tunnel with, to stealing IDs, to cutting off the power supply in order to create a diversion. There’s an on-screen compass that handily guides you towards your next objective, so there’s no aimless wandering, and often there is more than one way to go about completing one. If there’s a Gestapo officer blocking your way into a room from which you need to retrieve an item, you can, for instance, go in with your fists, make the grab, and then simply run for it. Or, if you take the time to look around, you’ll notice a room off to one side containing a microphone hooked up to a loud speaker, which you can use to tell all the officers to meet in the mess. The best solution is never far away. The fact that the developers have tried to take the game away from merely flicking switches does make for a more enjoyable experience, but there are times when you feel as though you are still doing just that. That shovel you have been sent to retrieve is still, in essence, a switch that allows you to enter the tunnel. That forged ID is still just a switch that allows you to get past those guards, who, in essence, function merely as a door to be unlocked. But at least the effort has been made. Aside from using your fists, and occasionally being able to sneak up on a guard and strangle the unfortunate souls, you’ll also get your hands on a fair-sized arsenal of guns, including pistols, machine guns and sniper rifles. Blazing your way to glory can be as much fun as sneaking your way there, but the lock-on system can be a bit dodgy, in that sometimes the crosshair will rigidly stick to an enemy, and at other times it can’t seem to make up its mind as to what it wants to shoot at, be it enemy soldier, or that tree in the corner.
But the one aspect of the game that is a real disappointment is unfortunately the one that we had the highest hopes for. And that is the famous Steve McQueen bike chase. It almost feels like it was just stuck in at the end, as an afterthought. The real problem is – aside from the lack of speed – the awful handling and controls. It doesn’t feel like a motorbike and actually controls like a normal player character, in that you accelerate by pushing forwards with the left stick, and control direction with the right. So it ends up feeling like you are simply controlling a person who happens to be running quickly. But, all in all, although it has its flaws, The Great Escape is still a fun and playable game.