Have You Played… The Great Escape?


Have You Played? is an endless stream of game retrospectives. One a day, every day, perhaps for all time.

The Great Escape is neither a great game nor a great adaptation of the film of the same name, but it is at least an interesting adaptation.

Being a fan of the England national football team is tough. From the boardroom to the pitch, disappointment is a constant companion. Too-easy qualification campaigns inflate expectations, even when we know they shouldn’t, and then the team travel to a tournament and the wheels come off in underwhelming fashion. It doesn’t even end with a bang; just whimpers and the occasional thunderclap.

And then there’s the brass band, parping out The Great Escape theme. It’s enough to make me hate a film I’ve been fortunate enough to avoid overwatching during its millions of appearances on UK television over the decades.

I don’t remember any hype around the game adaptation before release in 2003 but I ended up with a copy for reasons I can’t recall. Perhaps I just wanted a stealth game. And it wasn’t a bad stealth game, though the missions were all a little too fragmented, if memory serves. I’d rather play something a little sillier like The Escapists now, or switch sides and build jails in Prison Architect.

It reminds me of The Warriors, a game that took the basic concept of a film and recognised precisely what genre it was and how to adapt it. In that case, The Warriors became a modern Streets of Rage with extra bells and whistles. The Great Escape is half-way to doing something similar – a game about plotting and executing an escape, like a heist in reverse, makes a lot of sense. The plan doesn’t quite come together, but the adaptation is more daring than most.


  1. Michael Fogg says:

    Seems necassary to mention the similarly forgotten prisoner camp sneaker Prisoner of War, notable for its completely non-violent take on stealth (before it became hip)

    • michael_hall24 says:

      I’d completely forgotten Prisoner of War! It was a very flawed game, but I loved it nonetheless – the idea of the camp’s routine being all important, having to get back in time for the counts etc, the lack of violence (which made complete sense). If I recall correctly the plot was nonsense, but it was good enough to keep you moving around the different POW camps. One of those games I wish there was a modern version of to enjoy.

      • Ross Angus says:

        I have to admit, I gave it up when I flattened myself against a wall, in broad daylight and a guard arrested me. Presumably for larking about.

  2. Mungrul says:

    Forget this version, did anyone else play the Speccy version by Ocean? I really liked that, but it was bastard hard.

  3. BaronKreight says:

    Ive played The Great Escape on zx spectrum. Not this one.

  4. Turkey says:

    This reminds me of a great game I once played, but the title escapes me.

  5. Kefren says:

    I played the C64 version (fairly recently, on emulator). I escaped and they put me back because I didn’t have the correct object. I liked the tunnels under my bed. That is all.

  6. Malikar says:

    Yes. Because Prisoner of War was such an unfinished idea mainly!

  7. Thirith says:

    I still love the film, not least because it actually avoids the patriotic, “We won the war!” bullshit too often associated both with war movies of the time and with national football matches.

  8. InfamousPotato says:

    I remember when I was younger and couldn’t afford games as easily (and there seemed to be fewer free games), I tried out the demo for every interesting game I came across. The Great Escape and Prisoner of War were two that I thought sounded incredible, though I never did end up purchasing them.

    Something about the idea of planning your escape while having to deal with the inner workings of a POW camp- showing up for roll call, finding the tools needed to get out without arousing suspicion, etc- it seemed like a brilliant idea for a tense game of planning followed by glorious escape or terrible failure. Unless I hear that they were absolutely incredible games, I probably won’t end up playing The Great Escape or Prisoner of War, even in demo form, but I hope that some developer in the future takes the idea and runs with it, for more than a single prison-escape level (which, more often than not- only differ from regular levels in terms of scenery).

  9. Javier says:

    I played and finished this game as a kid. I have always been a sucker for stealth games. Back then and owning a PS2 the ones that got me really excited were basically the MGS and Splinter Cell games. Then there were some other cheaper, jankier B-series games that I still played nevertheless because the genre was pretty niche and I couldn’t afford to be very picky. Besides, at that age I simply wasn’t picky at all, I was happy to get to play something new.

    I LOVED this game. I’m sure that the game as I remember it simply doesn’t exist, but back then this was, yes, very janky, but also *incredibly* varied, very fun and very challenging. It also felt pretty open ended in your approach to objectives (though I’m sure it really wasn’t), and since I never played Hitman back then the social stealth mechanics of this game felt pretty fresh and cool to me.

    There’s a bunch of heavily critiziced games for being really buggy, unfinished, a mess or just bad that I played as a kid that I ended up loving. Going back to them it’s all too evident, so it’s kinda cool that I feel like I played some ultimate, polished version of these games that allowed me to appreciate them the way the devs would have surely wished others to be able to appreciate them even though ultimately no one could.

  10. Neurotic says:

    I remember PCG reviewing it. I think they also did a competition based on it, with prizes from SCi.

  11. TheBeret says:

    For me this article is barely 5 short paragraphs long- am I missing something here? like another 2/3rds of the writing?

    • Javier says:

      Yes, you are missing something. Check out all the other “Have you played…” articles. They are all this brief. They are meant to remind you of random games, along with a short personal note on them by the writer. They are not in-depth retrospectives.

      • Risingson says:

        Well, they are just an excuse to have better SEO positioning. They have to fill some text with links to other articles of RPS, and hope that we people add some comments that makes this interesting.

        Usually they are something like

        – Oh this game. I remember looking at it, but I don’t remember if I played it. Did it have a demo? I don’t know if it had a demo. I played demos with my friends. Some demos were much longer that the others. Remember demos? They were cool. About this game: cannot remember if it had demos, but the style reminds me of this game [internal link], but I am sure it is going to be rubbish without playing it or even looking at youtube or mobygames. What do you think?