Prisoner of War Preview
This stealth-oriented game takes place in a World War II prisoner of war camp.
A spy trying to uncover top-secret information in a World War II prisoner of war camp--it may sound similar to a popular 1960s television show named Hogan's Heroes, which featured a brash American pilot and a few cohorts who constantly made trouble for those in charge of the camp. While the premise and the main character's background are the same as those in Hogan's Heroes, you won't find any practical jokes or disturbingly comedic Nazi colonels in Prisoner of War, Codemasters' upcoming action-adventure game. In fact, the development team behind Prisoner of War has gone through the highly ambitious process of attempting to adapt an actual day in the life of a World War II prisoner of war into a game, and the results are quite surprising. While attempting to fulfill mission objectives, you'll have to pay attention to the everyday activities of a prisoner to avoid arousing suspicion among the guards. As an American World War II pilot captured by the Nazis and forced into the camp, your primary mission is to uncover any possible information regarding the possibility that the Nazis are using the camp as cover for a staging area for V2 rockets since they know that the Allies won't take the risk of bombing their own men.
Prisoner of War attempts to differentiate itself from the current crop of stealth-oriented action games by making it impossible for you to obtain weapons, such as guns, grenades, or rocket launchers. At first, this might seem like a ridiculous proposition, but it makes perfect sense--after all, would good what it do to kill prison guards if it would only heighten suspicion that there's an operative within the camp? That's not to say you'll be completely handicapped, as there are plenty of rocks scattered about different areas of the camp that you can use to dismantle searchlights or create a distraction by pelting a nearby object. Ultimately, the lack of weapons dramatically heightens the need for stealth, and within the first few minutes of your first mission, you'll immediately scan the area for potential infiltration and exit routes.
You won't have to rely on plain sight to do most of your reconnaissance. During some missions, you'll find items that'll make it much easier to move undetected within the camp. For example, if you manage to successfully climb into the commandant's quarters, you'll find that there is a spyglass, which can use to view guards at greater distances, as well as a complete map of the camp. You can use this map in conjunction with Prisoner of War's radar system, which shows the location of guards--basically, it's similar to the radar system found in the Metal Gear Solid games.
In any stealth-oriented game, the AI must be designed to take a number of different scenarios into account. Codemasters has paid special attention to the AI in Prisoner of War, providing the guards with AI that's so realistic that they even have a sense of smell, even going so far as to provide the guards' dogs with an accurate sense of smell.
No Colonel Klink
As you might expect, all the guards in Prisoner of War abide by basic line-of-sight routines. They'll be able to detect you right away if you happen walk into their area with no objects to obstruct their view. Guards also respond to noises, so when you throw a stone at an object or knock your fist against the wall, they'll come over to investigate. Of course, there are moments when the guards' ignorance will allow you to run through the camp undetected. For example, when you throw a rock to dismantle a nearby searchlight, the guard controlling it will simply suspect that it's a merely a malfunction and subsequently yell at the broken searchlight.
These are all fairly standard AI features for these types of games, but Prisoner of War really starts to shine when you're detected while trying to make it back to the prisoner barracks or attempting to complete a mission. There are a number of different factors that influence the guards' methods of pursuit. If the guard who spotted you is of low rank, then he'll probably just chase after you with no help, but if a higher-ranking officer happens to spot you, then he'll call for support first and then proceed to hunt you down. To avoid being captured, you'll be able to hide under different sorts of objects such as trucks or stacks of boxes, and while hiding will work most of the time, there are situations in which it may not be the most useful tactic. Some guards will actually patrol the area more slowly, looking under such objects to see if you're there. In addition, dogs will also factor into the game at some point, and since their AI is based on sense of smell, they'll be able to track you down within a matter of seconds.
Hiding isn't the only method for avoiding detection--you'll also be able to bribe guards with money you find while gathering items to complete your mission. Also, if you happen to make it back to the main prisoner area, the guards will lose you in the large group of people, allowing you to escape safely back to your bunk to save the game.
Most of the missions in Prisoner of War are of the basic find-and-retrieve variety, in which you'll have to find specific items in the camp and occasionally return them to a particular prisoner in order venture into new areas of the camp. One mission requires that you pick the lock to the kitchen and steal a key located on a rack before the cook comes back to prepare a meal for the prisoners. In missions like this, you must constantly be aware that you're inside of a functioning prisoner of war camp that follows a daily schedule, so the best time to go into the kitchen is before or after the morning meal. Likewise, if you're not back at the barracks at a particular time during the day, such as roll call, then the guards will immediately capture you and throw you into a holding cell, where you'll remain for a few days. To put it simply, the camp is basically alive, and it's important to be aware that you're still a prisoner, regardless of your covert operations.
Though we didn't get to see them, Codemasters plans to incorporate a number of different areas that have been modeled after infamous POW camps. The development team is also putting some finishing touches on the graphics engine, such as the self-shadowing special effects, but it appears that most of the environments and character models are already finished. Prisoner of War is scheduled for release in June 2002.
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