Review by aadvark

"Sony's king of crime is finally here"

After three years in the making, SCEE/Team SoHo have finally produced the goods – The Getaway has arrived on our shelves. But is it any good? You bet it is. Bloody good, in fact.

The plot is standard gangster fare – the central character, Mark Hammond, has been forced to work for local mob boss Charlie Jolson, after Jolsen’s gang are discovered to have been seemingly responsible for the murder or Mark’s wife, Suzie, and the kidnapping of their son, Alex. You're plunged straight into the plot, and before long you catch up with Mr Bad Guy himself, Jolson. He makes Hammond an offer he can't refuse - do what he tells him, or his kid dies.

Before long, London really is burning and Hammond is a wanted man, hunted by the Triads, the Yardies and the Police. Then, half way through, the action switches to DC Frank Carter, a cop obsessed with getting Jolson. The intertwining of the plots works superbly well here, and provides a welcome change of pace. So, what you get are 24 missions with gameplay seamlessly shifting between driving and shooting sections. Lets start with the motors...

London has been meticulously recreated with a stunning level of detail. Imagine the sheer thrill of driving down Oxford Street in a TVR, weaving through the traffic with the horn blaring. It's exhilarating, and the kind of experience I wasn't expecting to play until Driver 3 arrived. Missions typically involve driving between locations against the clock, although you'll also find yourself in chases. Individual shops and phone boxes feature in an exact copy of the real life counterparts. Team SoHo are rumoured to have taken over 30,000 photos of London buildings in the reconstruction if the city. The sheer scope allows for an immense amount of freedom in gameplay, and hours of explorative ventures.

So how do you navigate the 28 sq. km. of city without a map? Team Soho's solution is simple and elegant: the vehicle's indicators flash whenever you need to turn and once you arrive at your destination, the hazard lights turn on. For the most part, it works brilliantly, although roundabouts sometimes cause confusion. But even if you stray off course, it'll compensate quickly.

Playing as Hammond, you'll be constantly harassed by the police, who set up roadblocks, throw out stinger traps and try to ram you off the road. You'll also come under attack from rival gangs waving AKs. Given the amount of traffic on the roads, crashes are inevitable - cars and locations are all real, so the impact is even more bone-shaking than Burnout 2.

Put simply, The Getaway has the best gun battles I've ever played. One of the first missions involves a shootout in one of Jolson's warehouses. It's a jaw-dropping experience, but nothing compared to some of the scenes that follow. You'll visit locations ranging from a mansion and museum through to crack-houses and lap dancing bars, and they've all been specifically designed to recreate classic moments of action cinema.

The auto-targeting system isn't perfect, but not far off. You can also manually aim with any weapon, allowing players the choice of how to aim. It may not seem much, but the flexibility of this system becomes very useful at times.

The geezers you meet aren't the brightest, but sheer weight of numbers mean you wont be running in, all guns blazing. Think of it as a cross between Metal Gear Solid and Grand Theft Auto: Vice City. Press X and your character will stand against the scenery or duck behind it, Solid Snake style. Once fixed in position, you can pop out and squeeze a few shots off, before ducking back in. Alternatively, press square to shoot blindly over the top of an object.

Oh, and The Getaway doesn't do health packs or medikits (or switches or puzzles). The only way to regain energy is to lean up against a wall and let your character have a quick rest. After a while, the bloodstains disappear and you're back in business. This could be seen as unrealistic and interfering, but I think it works well, as it forces you to work your way methodically through levels; clearing a room of enemies, resting, then proceeding to the next room to repeat the process.

Things do get frustrating sometimes, though, as in all games. Second- guessing the AI is a slightly risky affair, but the key is to use the superb in-game audio to your advantage. The non-player characters chat constantly, meaning you can locate guards by eavesdropping on their conversations. Sometimes the generic shouts of enemies can get annoying, but it doesn't really detract from the whole feel and atmosphere of the game.

Slightly more annoying are the controls, which aren't quite precise enough to allow pinpoint movement. Don't worry though, you'll soon get use to it and won't notice it in the heat of the action. The camera can also cause slight problems indoors, but if you adopt the careful, stealthy approach, then the camera has more than enough time to adjust.

Despite these niggles, The Getaway feels like a John Woo remake of a Guy Ritchie movie. The sense of excitement as you infiltrate a drugs factory, or get caught in the crossfire between rival gangs, is almost unrivalled as gaming experiences go.

Hitman 2 has been referred to as the most cinematic and adult game on PS2, but I can tell you now that Mark Hammond makes Codename 47 look like Santa Clause in comparison. Midway through the game, Mark and Yasmin blast their way through a police station, leaving a dozen officers dead. And it's not ironic, cartoon violence, either.

The Getaway doesn't punish cold-blooded killings as harshly as GTA does. Towards the end of Hammond's arc, the cops will be chasing you continually; so taking them out as you go along often feels like the easiest solution.
The replay value is good; the Free Roaming mode helps, as do the addictiveness of the gameplay. If you fail a mission, which you will, as the difficulty is high right from the start, then you'll want to retry it over and over again until you get it right. There's something timeless about the way the shootouts unfold. You'll probably be playing for a long time on this beauty.

Which brings us to the score. The same as another crime spree vying for your attention. I've tried not to turn this review into a comparison of The Getaway and GTA: Vice City, but it has to be done sometime. The Getaway is certainly less freeform than GTA, but fundamentally feels like a fresher game. Make no mistake - you need both.

Reviewer's Rating:   5.0 - Flawless

Originally Posted: 12/13/02, Updated 01/17/03

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