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Review: Aces High and Prisoner of War

September 19, 2012

I’m…kind of hesitating about describing Aces High, because I’m not entirely sure how to go about it. Aces High is essentially a World War II-era combat simulator, but there’s more to it than that. There certainly are planes – there are a shitload of planes – but there are also ground vehicles, there’s a PT boat you can pilot, there are ground defense guns, and there are also aircraft carrier groups.

There are also a number of editors for the game: a terrain editor, which lets you create your own arenas to play in (I’m currently working on a Southern California one centered around LA), an object editor which I haven’t played around with enough to know what it does, even a cloud editor! You can edit how clouds form in the arenas! I…that is a level of incredible, almost obsessive depth that I am utterly unfamiliar with.

Hell, I recommend it even if you never go online with it. And I recommend not going online, because after two weeks there’s a monthly fee. Just be well aware that you’re going to need a proper joystick or a controller.

And then there’s Prisoner of War. This one is really easy to explain: USAAC Captain Lewis Stone and Lieutenant James “J.D.” Daly are shot down during a reconnaissance mission over Germany in the summer of 1944. Both men bail out and are eventually captured by the Wehrmacht (more specifically the German Army) and sent to a holding camp. During an escape from the camp, J.D. is shot and killed by General Stahl, in charge of at least a portion of Nazi weapons research and in the area purely by chance.

From there, Stone is bounced between Stalag Luft I and Oflag IV-C (better known as Castle Colditz) along the way getting roped into an English SOE operation to steal plans for a new type of V-rocket, calling for British bombers to launch a night raid on Stalag Luft I to destroy this new rocket before it can be launched at London (the raid itself is a goddamn miracle, because the bombers managed to hit the rocket and only the rocket), and to sabotage the weapons research taking place underneath Colditz.

The gameplay is heavily stealth based, and it is the only videogame I’ve seen that features soldiers of Nazi Germany and you aren’t shooting them. In fact, this game has the lowest bodycount of any World War II-era game that I’ve ever seen – exactly two people die. Three if you count one of the Colditz prisoners who is possibly taken to a concentration camp during your second visit to Stalag Luft.

But the most amazing thing about this game is that, despite being a decade old, it runs fine on Windows 7. Well, unless you count the fact that it doesn’t capture the mouse. That can get annoying sometimes.

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