Apparently based on a true story or rather the 180,000 or so true stories of the 180,000 or so allied pilots who were shot down over Nazi territory during the course of the second world war Pilot Down Behind Enemy Lines from Wide Games follows the adventures of an American airman unfortunate enough to be in the situation outlined above, but does the game make it successfully across the border into greatness or die out in the cold in no mans land?
Unfortunately for our hero dying out in the cold in no mans land is a very real concern as the Europe portrayed is in the grip of a winter so severe that merely staying outside for a matter of minutes results in death, even with the relevant stats maxed you will still need to keep giving near constant thought to either finding shelter or a source of heat, these heat sources usually take the form a small barrel or wood fires that the enemy soldiers are using to keep warm, standing near one of these fires will cause your endurance meter to fill back up thereby eliminating the concern of freezing to death for a while.
As you are making your way from Nazi occupied areas of Europe to neutral Switzerland you would expect to keep a low profile but the route you choose to take to freedom instead takes you through occupied town centres, enemy controlled port facilities and entire Nazi military installations. You will also engage in some random disruption of the German war machine along your travels including the explosive destruction of munitions facilities, interfering with enemy propaganda and the sinking of the fuhrers new car into the river Rhine, I was half expecting to see a part where you single handedly win the second world war for the allies. The completion of these secondary objectives is not required of you in order to progress through the game but doing them will earn you more experience points with which to upgrade your stats, more on these stats later.
The opposing forces
The enemy soldiers that you will encounter along the way aren't the brightest bunch to graduate from videogame baddie school at all, their main problem is that they have a short attention span and are generally hard of thinking, an enemy will be able to hear you if you are walking too close to them as indicated by a yellow bar which appears above their heads and if this bar reaches full they will break from their patrolling or fire-standing duties and investigate, their investigation is usually brief and then they will go back to what they were doing, a louder sound like a gunshot will cause them to investigate immediately but again they will soon forget about it and go back to patrolling.
If you venture within sight of an enemy a red bar will indicate that you have been spotted, if you are sneaking around and a guard spots you out the corner of their eye then the bar will fill slowly but if you are less subtle then it will fill immediately and some gunplay will ensue.
Armed combat in Pilot Down proceeds as thus. The enemy will usually find and make use of the cover available and it will help you to immensely to do the same, the best way to off the enemy once you have been spotted is to get out of sight and pull off a headshot where possible as standing there trying to play it like quake will cost you dearly in health and medikits, ideally you should stick to the old stealth game favourite of sneaking around breaking peoples necks as this will not make any noise and not cost you any health.
The enemy A.I does falter in combat as they will sometimes spot you but then if you move far enough away they will just go back to patrolling as though they believe you have simply run away they also do not always react realistically to the deaths of their comrades whether they find out about it by stumbling across a body or by seeing their colleagues head explode next to them they will soon brush it off and act like nothing has happened if you move away and then come back.
Further problems are revealed when it comes to shootouts, often you will have a shot lined up perfectly but when you pull the trigger (press R1 in this case) the shot will be blocked by an invisible obstacle, this is especially apparent when you are firing off of rooftops at the enemy and some of your shots are blocked by thin air. This becomes as source of great frustration as the blocked shots can still be heard by the guards and a mistake like this can cost you the level, being killed or spotted when you have fired off a perfectly good shot which hit some invisible scenery is not nice and shouldn't happen in modern videogames, firing through the gaps in-between layers of shelving is something you will only try once as well as your first attempt at this will prove to you it cannot be done in this game.
Pilot Downs graphics vary throughout the game, generally the indoor sections are lacking somewhat and seem very basic in terms of lighting and mood compared with the outdoor parts, some of the outdoor scenes do carry a definite and well presented mood and feel and these are the most absorbing and believable levels in the game.
Between the levels the storyline is told and played out through comic book style screens where pushing X reveals the next cell of the comic, these comics are very well drawn and do advance the plot quite nicely, the sound effects chosen for each cell adds to their impact nicely.
The character models and textures do leave something to be desired in places, they're not bad but there are many many games out there that look a lot better, the comic book look has been carried through into the models and scenery to an extent but a rather humorous side effect of this is that everyone has bug eyes.
After clearing each level you will be told how much experience you have accrued and then get the chance to use it, you can 'spend' your experience to upgrade many aspects of our hero including the obvious like weapons proficiency and some other stats like how much health a medikit gives you back or how much you can carry, upgrading of the weapons is recommended as firefights will sometimes be inevitable and by default you will wave your rifle around as if drunk when trying to aim.
Of course Pilot Down Behind Enemy Lines is going to be compared to stealth titles like the Splinter Cell and Metal Gear Solid series of games and the truth is that it just doesn't measure up to them, fans of stealth shooters who have finished the aforementioned games may want this game but the glaring problems with the game will frustrate the player. If you can see past the faults and learn how to deal with the shooting problems (the invisible walls are so constant throughout you can begin to predict them) then you can have an enjoyable experience.
This is a good game at heart with some clever parts and involving gameplay but it is let down by the faulty combat mechanics and poor A.I