Since the release of titles such as Splinter Cell and Metal Gear Solid, stealth games have become a fusion of adrenaline-filled shoot ‘em ups, fast paced first-person shooters, and brain exhausting strategy games. Unfortunately, Pilot Down falls short of most of these properties and brings nothing new to the genre.
You’d be excused for thinking that a game in which you play a US Airman sneaking his way out of Germany during the Second World War to neutral Switzerland would be a thrilling, exciting, and engaging adventure. After a cut scene composed of comic-book style images showing your B-24 Liberator being shot down during a bombing run over Germany in the winter of 1944, your aim is to survive in unforgiving conditions, evade the Nazis, and get the hell out of there, through stealth. Based around the actions of hundreds of allied airmen shot down during the war, Pilot Down has a pretty imaginative and original plot. It’s a real shame then that the game itself is so basic, repetitive, and unimaginative.
Pilot Down is so riddled with problems, it’s difficult to know where to begin. One of the game’s key faults is the overwhelming stupidity and simplicity of the AI. The aim of the guards is atrocious and they are easily defeated, meaning that many more complex stealth moves are left unused. Also, although being able to detect footsteps, the soldiers seem completely oblivious to gunshots being fired just metres away from them - removing all possibility of ever having a gun battle with more than three soldiers. Similarly, sometimes when you shoot at a guard from a hidden position, they will stand, unflinching, until they have been killed - at which point they fall to the ground in approximately one of three styles - strangely reminiscent of early PS1 first-person shooters.
All levels are pretty easy and quite short, and so experienced gamers used to Splinter Cell and other more demanding stealth games will quickly tire of breaking yet another guard’s neck, and then dragging him behind a rock. Apart from completing missions, there is little else to do when playing the game - there is almost no interaction with the environment, and movement is heavily restricted - making the missions themselves even more linear and predictable. The graphics don’t improve the game play much either - most things are dull greys, off-whites and dirty greens and leave you feeling pretty depressed.
With Pilot Down: Behind Enemy Lines, Oxygen had the great idea of creating a historically based survival game, which if done well could have expanded the genre and been innovative. Unfortunately though, through a clearly minute budget and poor execution, Pilot Down has broken no boundaries, and added nothing new or exciting an expanding genre.