Review by BloodGod65

"Get It Up"

Chances are if you're familiar with the name Marc Ecko, you might be wondering just it is doing attached to a video game. For those who are completely clueless as to who this man is, he just so happens to be a designer of urban fashion apparel. And if that doesn't make you think twice about this game, you're more open minded than most. Typically games with the names of rappers, singers, actors and in this case, fashion designers attached to them have a sordid history of… sucking. While Getting Up isn't great by any measure, it is an interesting and wholly unique game.

Getting Up: Contents Under Pressure revolves around a rookie tagger (a graffiti artist) known as Trane, trying to get his name up and become a famous artist in the city of New Radius. Unfortunately for Trane, New Radius isn't friendly to his type of art and the Mayor has become increasingly brutal in his crackdown on vandalism. Of course that doesn't bother Trane or any of the many crews around the city (if anything, it makes it more fun), and he sets off on his quest for respect and glory. He quickly gets into a feud with a large tagger set known as the Vandals of New Radius, who do everything in their power to keep him down. His luck doesn't get any better as the Mayor employs ever more brutal tactics and Trane begins to encounter the CCK, who serve as the graffiti Gestapo of New Radius. Somewhere along the way his personal struggle becomes a fight for freedom against the Orwellian mayor of the city and he starts setting his sights higher and higher to take the fight to city hall. While Getting Up attempts to tell a sprawling tale of an oppressed city and the underground taggers who risk life and limb trying to get their names up, it's not as cohesive as it could have been. Oftentimes you'll merely see snippets of events that only become clear later on down the road. That's unfortunate, because what's here is quite interesting.

Getting Up is broken up into distinct levels that usually cling to the formula of getting into an area, tagging some spots and then moving on, all while dealing with any enemies who might be lurking around. For the most part, the levels are straightforward although a few have some interesting twists. But these tend to be bad, such as one really atrocious segment that has Trane clinging to the side of a subway train and trying to tag the sides of it while dodging all sorts of obstacles. Most of the time, these sections are bad because they bring the game's fundamental problems to the foreground.

Veteran gamers can probably guess what these problems are, because they're the same things that usually cause problems; a sloppy camera and unreliable controls. The camera is usually acceptable, but when tagging, it has a tendency to move so that the player is looking at the action from a weird angle. In the aforementioned train segment, the camera is almost parallel to the train, meaning you can't see what you're tagging and must continually watch for obstacles. Movement can also be a little suspect, as Trane sometimes doesn't seem to be following the commands you're giving him. While these problems become a nuisance at inopportune times, for the most part they're easy to overlook, especially once the game starts to hit its stride.

Getting Up has several disparate elements that combine to create a unique experience. Platforming, stealth, fighting and tagging all make up the core gameplay, and though each of these elements in generally workable, not all of them are as intuitive as they could have been.

The platforming and tagging are really the stars of the show and it's with these two mechanics that players will be spending the most time. Trane vaults around like an urban Prince of Persia, and his agility is often necessary to get to the high places where he likes to put his tags. The platforming generally works as it should, and most problems encountered are due to the camera. Tagging is pretty simple, but still fun. The mechanic boils down to holding a button and sweeping Trane's arm around the piece to fill it in. Of course, there's paint pressure to contend with, so Trane must stop and shake the can every now and then. Drips have to be avoided as well, but this is easy enough because when an area has gotten too much paint it will flash red. While the mechanic is initially pretty easy, it gets even easier after a certain point in the story. Trane learns the ability to paint fast, which basically allows him to put up a piece in no seconds.

Given that tagging is illegal in New Radius and armed goons prowl the streets, it's no surprise that Trane wants to avoid getting caught. Stealth ends up working like it does in most other games, with Trane crouching down, moving slow and sticking to the shadows. In the early going, it really isn't obvious how important this mechanic will become. But when the CCK really starts to become a consistent presence, you're going to spend a lot of time in the shadows learning their patrol routes and figuring out the best way to get by.

Like many games that don't focus exclusively on stealth (and some that do), it isn't always well implemented. Enemies are often able to detect Trane when he's completely hidden, which is enough to throw a wrench in the whole process. Not to mention that there are plenty of areas where the game throws a situation at you, obviously meaning for a stealth route to be taken and yet there is simply no way to accomplish this without being caught due to any number of factors. Take for instance one level in which the CCK makes their first real appearance. Trane must tag a number of areas on and above the ground. Meanwhile, CCK members patrol the street on both sides, cameras scour the area and a spotlight hovers over one building, ready to open fire on anyone who moves through its beam. In order to accomplish this level you've got to dodge all that without dying. Here's the real kicker – should you decide to fight, more CCK will simply spawn after the others go down. Thankfully, instances such as these are rare.

But because of those problems fighting ends up being unavoidable. Though the developers obviously meant for it to be a last resort, it is often the easiest way to progress through any given situation. Simply put, it's often easier to just come out swinging than to bother trying to slink through the shadows. Unfortunately this has some drawbacks as well. While Trane controls pretty well in combat, and has a decent repertoire of moves, including kicks, punches and heavy attacks, along with the ability to pick up stuff in the environment to use as a weapon, the problem comes from another direction. Enemies are just too damn tough. In the early stages of the game, this isn't the case but when Trane starts going toe to toe with the CCK, it gets ridiculous in a hurry. Not only do they have better move sets (understandably) but their health is through the roof and it's nigh impossible to break through their defensive blocking. Obviously this was done as a deterrent to fighting, but when the stealth mechanics work (or rather don't work) like they do, it's inevitable.

Despite the Mayor's best attempts to brighten the city and do away with street crime and vandalism, New Radius isn't the prettiest place in the world. Levels are dingy and run-down, and as is to be expected, this results in a limited color palette. Character models are pretty good and Trane is well animated, which is noticeable due to all the jumping and climbing he'll do over the course of the game.

A special mention is necessary for the graffiti depicted in the game. Obviously a game that revolves around tagging needs some spectacular pieces and Getting Up has them in spades. Even Trane's most basic pieces look great and some of the bigger one-off tags he'll throw up are absolutely mind-blowing. Kudos to whoever designed this stuff.

While Getting Up may falter in other areas, it absolutely nails the audio. The soundtrack is filled with excellent artists (both underground and mainstream), and the music fits the atmosphere perfectly. The majority of the hip-hop is atypical for today's music scene and, truth be told, a lot more powerful and creative than the stuff the record labels are pushing out these days (remember when hip-hop made a social statement? This game proves it hasn't completely disappeared). The voice actors also do an excellent job and there are a surprising number of Hollywood actors, such as Rosario Dawson, Giovanni Ribisi, Brittany Murphy and Andy Dick being the most recognizable names on the roster. Adam West even appears as the Chief of Police, but despite his best efforts to sound menacing, he's still hilarious. A man with that voice just can't be taken seriously.

THE VERDICT
There are plenty of missteps and faults with Getting Up but it is ultimately a very unique game, which is enough to set it apart in the modern game industry. If you can get over buying a game that has a fashion designers name on the box, you'll be treated to a fun, if faulted, title.


Reviewer's Score: 7/10 | Originally Posted: 08/10/09, Updated 07/07/10

Game Release: Marc Ecko's Getting Up: Contents Under Pressure (US, 02/14/06)


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