30 Years of Video Games – Prisoner of War (2002)

I’m waving goodbye to my 20′s and to celebrate I’m counting down 30 games from the last 30 years.  Join me while I countdown 30 great years of game memories.

Prisoner of War

In the early 00’s I was a bit of a sucker for the ol’ stealth genre.  I found an inordinate and perhaps perverse level of entertainment from sneaking around undetected and the PS2 and Xbox generation provided an ever-flowing fountain of shadow crawling for me to gorge myself.  Some of the games were better than others and while most couldn’t reach the heights of Sam Fisher’s of Solid Snake’s adventures, the workmanlike approach developers took to emulating the successes of the big boys of stealth was admirable.  But it was when they did something different that really caught my attention.

Prisoner of War was an atypical example of a stealth game when it was released a decade ago.  Originality is a descriptor not often used to describe games set during the World War II, but Codemasters’ great escape was exactly that, providing a fresh take on a genre that was fast becoming stale.  Not only did you have to escape from prison without being spotted, but you had to keep with the routine of the camp as to not rouse suspicion.  Attending roll call and observing curfews, or at least seen to be, is integral to your escape.  Fail to turn up and a huge search will be launched, inevitably ending in your capture – or death.  The stakes are high and Prisoner of War in some ways is the ultimate game of risk and reward.  Also unlike other stealth games, perhaps more like adventure games, the game places significant emphasis on character interaction.  Building a rapport with your fellow inmates is key to your escape and you’ll find most of them are agreeable to your cause.  In most cases the characters are quest givers, pointing you in the direction of the next item or area that will aid you in your escape,  but it is a unique approach to the stealth genre that, even if not perfect in execution, should be applauded for what it tried to do.

There was a game I can remember playing for hours on end on the Amiga 500 called Escape from Colditz.  Taking control of four prisoners of different nationalities your task was to escape Colditz prison, or die trying.  It was a tough game requiring organisation, resourcefulness and patience at a level my childhood brain couldn’t manage.  Needless to say I never escaped Colditz and those four allied prisoners died within those walls.

More than a decade later I was able to right those wrongs with Prisoner of War.  It was far from a perfect game even when it was released.  It looked bland, voice acting in a word was rubbish, and the difficulty curve incredibly steep.  But the ultimate reward and relief at guiding yourself and your allies out of the hands of your Nazi captors was worth  persevering over every attempt of the game to make you hate it. 

Prisoner of War PS2

Have a favourite game from 2001?  Tell us in the comments below.  Don’t forget to come back soon for the next game in our countdown.  Miss a year?  Catch up below.

2001 – 20001999 – 1998 – 1997 – 1996 – 1995 – 1994 – 1993 – 1992 – 1991 – 1990 –1989 – 1988 – 1987 – 1986 – 1985 – 1984 – 1983