Pilot Down! presents Nazi Germany in 1944. Players will control an American pilot trapped behind enemy lines, unable to talk, chased by German forces, and on the run for Switzerland. Gameplay includes nine levels spread across occupied Europe, primary and secondary objectives, experience points, upgradeable skills, and historical WWII weapons.
A couple of years ago Codemasters published Prisoner of War, a third-person action/stealth title that followed the story of World War II POW as he tried to escape from a myriad of German camps, most notable Colditz. The developers of the game, Kuju Entertainment's Wide Games, have once again returned to WWII with Pilot Down: Behind Enemy Lines, the story of a downed airman over Germany in 1943 as he tries to escape into neutral Switzerland.
After a comic-book style introduction reminiscent of the Commando comic book series, the game begins with the character trying to retrieve equipment from the crash. During the course of what mounts up to a tutorial to the features and techniques of the game, players are introduced to some neat ideas such as the idea of an endurance bar that drops over time due to hunger and the cold, and a weight limit on the amount the character can carry.
Like Wide Games' previous title, there is an emphasis on stealth tactics and although Pilot Down introduces weapons such as pistols and machine guns for the player to use, steadier progress is made when sneaking around the various objects dotted throughout the gameworld. Gun-toting trigger-happy attitudes will mean that players will soon find themselves short of ammo with a bunch of alert Germans hunting them down so silent kills either via strangulation or a single shot to the head is definitely the tactic to take.
Similar to the Metal Gear Solid series (amongst others), noises attract the attention of NPCs including civilians as well as enemy soldiers, which can be both helpful and a hindrance. Engaging with civilians also poses a problem for gamers since the character is bound to the Geneva Convention and therefore cannot harm anybody on civvies street - an annoying flaw with a weak excuse. The problem with that the game's Joe Public is that when they've seen the downed pilot they can do one of two things: hide, or attract the attention of the local soldiers, which only exacerbates the situation. Enemy AI is weak at best and bemusing at other times with soldiers unable to differentiate when the player's characters has moved position and is now right next to them pointing a gun at their temple leading to an unbelievable experience and one that obliterates any sliver of immersion created by the game.
Playing the game you can't help but notice that the game is a little rough around the edges with the camera system far from being the most complex example around. In fact on a number of occasions the camera would pass through the boundary of the game environment only to reveal the grey/blue hue of the non-rendered limbo beyond. The explanation of stealth kills could also be a little bit more accurate too: players have to hold and not just 'tap' the strangle button to silently kill an enemy.
At the end of each level gamers are given the opportunity to upgrade certain character attributes from accuracy with a pistol or machine gun through to a greater maximum amount of health, and a higher capacity backpack (which acts as a solution to the whining "Can't carry anymore" or the character.)
Wide Games' second WWII outing sees the team develop a more stylized visual design, which succeeds in bringing the whole romanticized notion of escaping to consoles and it's a nice alternative to other more visually realistic war games. Having said that the standard of animation (both for the player's character and opponents) is quite basic and can't be excused.
Although the game does feature several techniques to increase the level of tension in the game such as 'awareness' bars above the heads of enemies as players try to sneak by and the event triggered music, there's very little in Pilot Down to create a feeling of immersion. The game is consistently bland and doesn't really try to offer a new experience (unlike it's predecessor) making Pilot Down instantly forgettable.
Pilot Down offers players a thoroughly bland experience with a mish-mash of sub-genres and poor enemy AI compounding a totally uninspired title. It certainly seems like a backward step for the developer considering their brave attempt with Prisoner of War a couple of years ago.
People who downloaded Pilot Down: Behind Enemy Lines have also downloaded:
Prisoner of War, Marine Heavy Gunner: Vietnam, Police Tactical Training, World War II: Sniper - Call to Victory, Marine Sharpshooter II: Jungle Warfare, Men of Valor, Operation Flashpoint: GotY Edition, Powerslave (a.k.a. Exhumed)
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