Developer: Wide Games
Release Date: 8/26/2002
Prisoner of War is all about escaping a German POW holding camp using only a few crude tools, your wits, and a little help from your friends. Hopefully you'll make it out in time to celebrate Christmas with family and a hot meal. Sounds like a novel idea to me, who wants to be bossed around by Nazis all day anyway? On paper this game sounds like a great idea, and get this, in practice it also manages to prove that German POW camps can be a fun time for the whole family -- with the exception of Great Grandfathers perhaps. Yeah, they might get a little pissed off about the overall unrealistic portrayal of WWII internment camps. Its all good though, cause chances are that gramps doesn't even know what an Xbox is. So go ahead and take a ride down Nazi enslavement-camp lane, it'll be our little secret.
You are Captain Lewis Stone, a hard edge US Air Force bomber-pilot with a heart of gold. On a routine air-bound recon mission, Captain Stone and his partner are shot down over wartime Germany. Captain Stone escapes the smoking suicidal death contraption before it explodes into many scorching pieces of shrapnel on the ground below via emergency parachute, it is not known what happens to your partner until he too shows up at the internment camp shortly thereafter. Two more captured POWs will also be present once you touch down, and it is readily apparent that they have been there for quite some time. One of these POWs is Private Clancy who thinks he has tried every trick in the book to escape and provides you with useful information like the locations of objective points and holes in the German’s security. The other, O’Brien, has connections with the guards and can give you information and valuable items in exchange for “currency”. Currency isn't cash in POW-world though, its things like alcohol. Cigarettes and other rare niceties.
Life isn't that tough in the world of POW, ‘long as you make sure you don't go dawdling about in “forbidden” zones and most importantly that you make it to morning and evening roll call. Your day will be split into a handful of distinctive categories, including my personal favorite; “Afternoon Free Time”. Yes, Afternoon Free Time is great, it’s a splendid opportunity to go explore forbidden areas like sickbay and the guard’s quarters which often contain valuable currency. Avoiding your jailors while in forbidden areas consist of keeping an eye on the radar that tells you where the guards are, their line-of-site, and how suspicious they are of your presence. The radar system in POW is quite a bit like that found in Metal Gear Solid 2 so, yeah, that part of the game is pretty fun. Another cool addition to sneaking around is the ability to look through keyholes in order to make sure you don't open a door only to fall in the lap of the enemy.
As the game progresses and the days go by you'll be given different objectives which can be easily scoped out by hitting select. Most of these objectives entail such things as acquiring the key to a building that gives you access to getaway vehicles, acquiring enough currency to get a useful item from O’Brien – basically the objectives are all about bringing you one step closer to escaping the holding compound. Keep in mind though that you are not exactly in the best position to go up against the German army so combat in POW is a one-way street, which is to say that you better watch your ass cause you ain't got no weapons. Its all stealth in this game, but it is done fairly well considering the circumstances. The enemy AI can be a little puzzling at times but the nerve-racking night-missions or exploring heavily guarded areas is sometimes extremely entertaining.
While the German soldiers will have the ability to shoot at you you'll never actually be killed, you always end up in the infirmary with a hot German nurse that patches you up right as rain. Therefore, it isn't really a matter of trying to keep from being killed but rather making sure you don't spend more days in this camp than you need to. Actually making your way into the land of the free is a lot easier said than done in Prisoner of War. You will need to keep in constant contact with your barrack mates and sometimes even deal with insolent enemy guards who are willing to help you in order to help themselves.
The graphics in POW are a little unrefined and blocky for an Xbox game but they do get the job done, the facial areas of the character models look particularly realistic. The atmospheres are somewhat sparse, as I suppose they would have been in reality, but the bland and fuzzy textures are unforgivable. Animation is smooth and load-times seem to be on the up and up but I am definitely far from impressed by POWs visual presentation. The camera perspective can be changed most of the time using the R-analog stick but there are instances where you are unable to get the best view.
Sound-wise, Prisoner of War fares quite a bit better. The voice acting is believable, appropriate and more often than not, entertaining to listen to. The soundtrack is dynamic in the sense that it changes depending on the particular circumstances that you find yourself in, and it gives the game a good sense of tension.
Prisoner of War proves to be a highly entertaining game in the majority of its sequences but two things bring it down to mediocrity: one, it is too short, and two, you'll sometimes wonder what you are supposed to do and where you are supposed to go with little to no help from your ally NPCs. The undeveloped visuals are also a little puzzling consider the Xbox’s developer-friendly nature and easily implemented graphical effects. But even so, this is an original and entertaining title, even if it only lasts for a short time. It pimps original objective dynamics and great voice-acting that make it fun to play for hours. Definitely rental-worthy.