While film adaptations of games have often been tarred with negativity, game adaptations of films have often been marred with the same issues too. The uncomfortable challenge being that the two mediums, despite looking similar have strengths and weaknesses that don’t complement each other. But that didn’t stop developers from giving it a go. In 2003, S.C.i recreated another 60s film titan, mapping the best moments of that film to the conventions and technology of games at the time, in the retelling of a daring escape, The Great Escape.
The Great Escape starts with a daring air raid, that handily works as a tutorial, once you are inevitably shot down and captured by the German guard. The rest of the game focuses the remaining seventeen chapters on one goal: Escape! You take control of four characters throughout their attempts at escaping, greatly. A mixture of tense and gripping set-pieces that ultimately culminates in the iconic motorbike chase from the final moments of the film.
Being the Great Escape, the game switches between action and stealth, as you attempt to thwart the Axis war machine and fight for freedom. It sounds like a cliché, especially at this point, But the Great Escape feels like an extended interactive film. As with a lot of games from around his period, the focus is fully on integrating the story with the gameplay. Peeping through keyholes, and garrotting guards will become familiar tools on your quest.
The sound and level design, if you forgive some of the clunkier aspects of its ageing, still holds up. Sneaking through German camps while Lale Anderson’s classic rendition of Lili Marleen plays on gramophone records, the crunching snow betraying your every footstep to German guards, ultimately leads to some memorable moments. The levels themselves also manage to recreate the sets and locations of the film, and for those looking for a challenge after completion, there’s a timed Great Escape mode, a kind of time attack mode for the entire game.
The Great Escape is an ambitious project. It fills in a lot of the details of the film and mixes history and then-current to technology to tell an engaging story about a real-life escape, while being fun to play too. The mixture of stealth and action is a fun prototype, that will be built upon in successive games There was a little technical difficulty getting the game to run on my comparatively modern PC, but if that’s the only issue, it safe to say that the Great Escape pulls it off with nary a hitch.
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