Review by Andy787
Many credit The Getaway for trail blazing on the massive success of Grand Theft Auto 3, but few realize that The Getaway has been in development almost as long as Rockstar's behemoth. For many years now, The Getaway has been slowly building anticipation, fueled of late by hopes that the game --developed by Sony's Team SoHo-- would provide a more realistic alternative to GTA, or even surpass it. Given the title's highly ambitious goals, and some very impressive production values (that reportedly fitted one of the largest game budgets ever), one wouldn't be wrong to assume that it had a chance to do just that. However, now that the game has finally been released, we've found it to be largely an entirely different experience.
Getaway's story, for one, takes much more precedent than in the GTA games, opting for a much more movie-like approach, with fully motion-captured cut-scenes, and an intelligent, adult plot to match. The story takes place in London --and as such, the language is riddled with British slang, realism' sake of course, for better or worse. Almost right from the get-go, TG thrusts you into the shoes of Mark Hammond, an ex-gangster, who upon the game's opening, witnesses the brutal murder of his wife and the kidnapping of his child. Taking pursuit of the killers, Mark follows them to a warehouse, where he finds and confronts the perpetrator --mob boss Charlie Jolson. With the life of Mark's child at stake, Jolson blackmails Mark into fulfilling several suicide missions, and thus, the premise is set; do what you're told, or the kid dies.
Now the gameplay is divided into two different styles; driving sections, and on-foot, action sections. Both are distinct, and play completely unlike each other. Rarely will you find yourself taking part in both styles during any one given area in the game, as the missions are actually cut up between driving from point A, to getting out and shooting up the place at point B. So while you are given the ability to go ahead and get out of your car whenever you'd like, you're not often going to be capping anyone's ass on the street, save for the filth (that's Euro-talk for police, as you'll no doubt become accustomed to) every now and then. Aside from the game itself pointing you down a single path, this just further adds to the linearity of the missions. Not to mention that it just becomes highly repetitive and predictable. Despite whether the story elements going on around the game catch you off-guard or not, you'll always know where the gameplay is going, there are no surprises here.
Of the two gameplay types, I found the driving sections to be quite a bit more engaging and just much more well-implemented than the on-foot areas. Since the game takes place in London, Team SoHo has accurately recreated literally miles and miles of real-life streets and traffic systems. Bustling traffic litters the streets for you to weave in and out of, and doing so is very painless with a steady thumb --thanks to some great collision detection. Luckily so for that matter, considering London's utter mess of one-way roads and narrow one-lanes.
Sony has afforded The Getaway some licensed cars as well, from manufacturers such as Nissan, Lexus, and Honda, among many smaller companies like Peugeot and Renault. Surprisingly, even with the licenses, the cars can suffer quite a bit of physical damage as well; which you'll want to avoid, as damage to the car actually affects the it's performance. The cars also control well, and while a large portion of the game's vehicles are less than stellar, a Skyline GTR is still a Skyline GTR. You still face opposition during the driving areas though, whether from the coppers trying to flag you down for reckless driving, or enemy gangs trying to run you off the road with tommy guns.
Getaway certainly goes out of it's way to make the opposition all but useless though, sadly. The enemy AI is absolutely idiotic, and after just a mission or two, you'll easily recognize their patterns.You don't even have to worry when a car is tailing you, because they're so stupid that they'll consistently and repeatedly plow themselves straight into an on-coming car or any number of various other obstacles in the road. And when they're coming at you from ahead, faking them out is all but the tap of the analog stick. The second you tap in one direction or the other while they're heading at you, it'll instantly register with their imbecilic brains, and they'll veer right into the wall of whichever direction you pressed, leaving you free and clear. And something I'm sure Team SoHo implemented just to piss people off; civilian cars don't follow the game's own rules. You can drive innocently through a green light, and more often than not a car will just slam right into you deliberately. Hurrah.
And then, there is the on-foot gameplay, which is actually quite a bit less developed than the driving portions of the game, though still entertaining, if you've got some tolerance. The goal of the on-foot areas is always the same thing; get to the end of the area, where the story will take over, and direct you to the next area that you must get to the end of. You won't find any puzzle elements, or witty gameplay twists, or anything particularly refreshing that you weren't able to do from the beginning of the game. You are able to take on each mission two separate ways, though; via guns-a-blazing, full frontal action, or a fairly humdrum stealth aspect.
The action is handled much like a typical action game, you've got a targeting system, and use guns to shoot down your enemies (which there can often be dozens of at any given area, who strangely seem to appear out of nowhere), and with the tap of a button, you can roll in whichever direction you're currently pressing. When near a wall or box, with the tap of that same button you can lean up against the object; thus opening up the stealth aspect. From there, with your back to the wall you can shimmy along either direction of the object, accompanied with the obligatory stealth-game camera pan as you look around the corner.
There's a bit more too it, as well. When looking around the corner, if an enemy is in site you can quickly tap in the direction toward the corner to swing yourself out in the open, target the enemy, and shoot him down as you hastily retreat back to the wall. Also worth noting; there are no health pickups in The Getaway, nor are there any indicators telling you how badly injured you are. The game forces you to judge how damaged the character is by how he carries himself, whether he's limping around, clenching a wound, or struggling to walk. To remedy your injuries, you have to lean up against a wall (often as much as a minute or more, literally) and rest, which magically takes away bullet wounds or the repercussions of a baseball bat to the head.
There are quite a bit of problems with the on-foot gameplay, however. For one, the characters just controls outright sloppy. The difference between what you press on the analog stick, and what the character does on the screen, is often a very different thing, and more often than not you're fighting with the control to put your character where you want him. The targeting system itself is equally shoddy, and you'll find that the targeting will frequently point you at the wrong characters. So while a thug may be gutting you with a baseball bat right in front of your face, the brilliant targeting system will likely have you aiming at a guy in the back that you can't even see, sticking your arm right over the guy's shoulder, letting him continue to pound away as you repeatedly shoot off into the walls. This puts you in a position, where you're no longer worried about precision or skill, you're more or less forced to run around, constantly pressing the target and shoot buttons over and over, thanks to enemies that instantly start plugging you when you come into their line of vision.
Taking a step away from such a low note, The Getaway does boast some particularly impressive graphics, especially during racing sections. Car models are very detailed, with real-time reflections that give a life-like, metallic look to them. And as I touched on previously, each can suffer a wide array of physical damage, from destructible windows and dentable exterior, to smoking engines, eventually even breaking out in fire after too much punishment. Likewise, the city generally looks top-notch; hundreds of buildings are individually textured (though many are recycled throughout), parking meters, street lamps and signs, and other foreign objects litter the streets, with only some shoddy ground textures getting in the way.
On-foot, the game still looks good, but not quite as much so. Character models animate realistically, but often come off quite awkward because all of the animation was done with motion capture, and as such, the actual model of the character often looks a bit strange when put to the mo-cap. For instance, while characters generally embody a much more realistic composure than most games --moving like a real person moves-- you'll often see the character model bend or stretch awkwardly to fit what the real person did with the motion capture, and the character models often lack the polygonal ability to accommodate a lot of the positions they're put in.
That said, the models are still quite detailed --almost a little too much, as facial features in particular are perhaps a bit too overdone, and for some reason, the skin tones of most of the characters actually does a bit to make the character look worse. Animations for your character's varied levels of damage are done well, a limp or stagger is made very obvious by the well done animations for them. Also worth noting, is that many of the environments are destructible, or at least to some extent. For example, a shootout in a kitchen could result in glasses shattering from gunfire, walls catching fire from broken lamps, contents of boxes spilling out of bullet holes and the like, and while it has no bearing on the gameplay, it's certainly some cool attention to detail.
One of The Getaway's most impressive aspects however, is the sound. The music is very slick, featuring plenty of stylistic, smooth beats that go very well with the theme and action of the game, and sound very unique. The in-game scenario is often fitted by music specifically tailored to the area as well, for instance, in one area of the game you'll have to venture into a strip club, and inside the game will cut away from it's normal musical style, and throw in some pounding techno, that fits the area much more accurately.
Sound effects are also well done, with cars sporting realistic engine noises and screeching tires. Most of the guns however, sound a bit underwhelming, and don't quite pack any punch. More impressive than the music or sound effects, though, is the excellent voice acting. All of the characters are very well suited with their voice actors, from Mark's somewhat lazy, low-toned voice, to Charlie's grovely, vicious tones, that set him up very well as a merciless villian. The voice acting really goes a long way in establishing each character, and just adds immeasurably to their personalities.
In the end, the game isn't particularly long --it can be beaten fairly easily in a week, or even a rental if you put some effort into it-- and after it's done, it's done. The gameplay isn't exactly mind-altering, much less mind-stimulating, and the graphics aren't going to win any awards or wow your friends, but even with all of it's faults, The Getaway still turns out to be a fun game. The story itself is worth playing through the game at least once, and if you can work with the quirks and downfalls in the gameplay, there is certainly enjoyment to be found in it as well. Overall, The Getaway may not be worth the full price of admission, but this is definitely worth a look the next time you're at Blockbuster.
Reviewer's Rating: 3.0 - Fair
Originally Posted: 02/25/03, Updated 02/25/03
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