The Getaway

The Getaway

Written by Charlie Sinhaseni on 1/26/2003 for PS2  
More On: The Getaway
It’s very hard to review a game like The Getaway. The way I look at it, it’s like being a supportive father to a non-talented child. As much as it hurts you and annoys you, something inside of it makes you want to love it. No matter how many times it fails you a glimmer of promise always seems to shine through and right when you’re ready to leave it somewhere in the middle of the woods, it gives you those puppy dog eyes and beckons you to come back.

Then it grows on you and with time you’ll learn to look past the deficiencies and find the good in it. It’s the love and hate relationship, this is The Getaway.

Meet Mark, he's the shy, silent type.

Comparisons to Grand Theft Auto 3 and Vice City are unavoidable but to be honest, they don’t have much in common. The Getaway gives you a purpose for running around and causing havoc as opposed to Vice City’s “wow, I killed 50 people in the streets, umm what was I supposed to be doing again?” style of gameplay. Better comparisons can be made to Mafia, Take Two’s excellent surprise PC-hit that will soon be headed to consoles. They both follow a very linear, story-driven style of gameplay and both feature very rich and detailed cities that are chocked full of atmosphere and ambiance.

The Getaway begins with the botched kidnapping of a young boy, ending with the death of his mother. As his father runs down to check out what happens he sees his wife die in his arms as her murderers flee, kid in tow. In fulfilling his wife’s last request, he hops in to a vehicle and chases after the culprits. That’s when you take control of Mark Hammond, a former thug who seemingly retired from the scene, only to find out that you can never truly break your ties. To quote the game's tagline: “He swore off a life of crime… some promises are hard to keep.”

The game’s plot unfolds very much like that of a major motion picture. Storyline progression occurs via a series of very well-rendered cutscenes that show off not only great animation but great voice acting as well. It is here where you’ll learn more about the story’s advancements and more importantly, your next mission objective. You see, Charlie Jolson, a crime boss, was the man behind your son’s kidnap and unless you want your son to swim with the fishes, you’ll have to do what he asks of you. This means you’ll be doing heinous things like torching the establishment of an old friend, breaking a thug out police custody and starting an all-out gang war between the Triads and the Yardies. Mark’s a straight edge nowadays but he reluctantly agrees to the tasks in exchange for his son’s well being. The story isn't one that's bound to win points for originality but after seeing it unfold, is one that seems ready made for Hollywood. To say the least, this is game would make one hell of a movie.

This game differs in structure from GTAVC in that it actually has one. Missions flow in to one another, you won’t have to sit around and go to a location to wait for it to happen. Instead each scenario is self-contained and waiting to be accomplished. Personally I enjoy this type of play much more than GTAVC’s in that I have a solid idea of exactly what it is I’m supposed to be doing.
In order to lend the game a highly cinematic feel the designers decided to do away with the usual meters and numbers that tend to populate today’s video games. That means that the game features a very clean and slick presentation, devoid of all clutter and silliness. This works for the game but unfortunately, it also works against it. When it comes to presentation it does wonders for the game. There’s truly nothing else like it out there, the lack of the interface draws your attention away from the corners of the screen and places it right in the middle of the action. You’ll spend less time looking at your current health or ammo and much more time concentrating on the action.

In addition to focusing your attention it also gives the game a highly stylized look that truly is like no other. One of the great things about The Getaway is that it’s a blast to watch, no matter how many times you’ve seen it. It’s like your favorite action movie except this time one of your buddies is in control of the action. The lack of interface makes for great viewing but when it comes to partaking in the action, it’s a completely different story.

I'm fine thanks for asking.

The lack of an on-screen interface really proves to be counterproductive for the gamer. For starters, driving is an absolutely pain in the rear. Since the game features approximately 40Km of fully realized terrain, one could understand the pain that comes from navigating these streets, especially for those who have never actually been to London. Now imagine having to drive from one end of the city into a small back road alleyway without the aid of a map and you’ll begin to understand my point. Navigation is aided via your vehicle’s signal lights but this too proves to be a bit counterproductive.

Finding your way around town is quite difficult. Since the game wants to retain its movie-like interface (read: none) you won’t have a map to assist you. How do you get around? You’ll have to depend on your car’s signals, left means go left, right means go right and if the hazards come on, then you’ve found your destination. The problem is it’s a bit difficult, especially having to constantly look at the blinkers while dodging traffic. Then again, when you’re trying to elude someone, how much sense does it make to turn on your blinkers? Unless you’re trying to pull the old signal left and turn right maneuver, but then again that only works in the movi- oh, I get it.

To make matters worse destinations are very hard to find. Sometimes it can take upwards of 10 to 15 minutes just to find where you’re supposed to be. It’s especially frustrating when you’ve got three or so police units on your tail whose only goal is to knock you off the road. It’s so difficult, especially with all of the various roads, my friend jokingly suggested I used Map Quest, I think I just might take that advice to heart.

The lack of interface also makes aiming a pain in the arse since you won’t have a targeting cursor to work with. You’ll have the choice of auto-targeting or manual targeting but since you won’t know what you’re shooting at in the manual mode you’re basically stuck with the auto mode. The targeting system isn’t as bad as GTA Vice City’s but it’s still pretty bad. Why not just go with a traditional dual analog stick control for the aiming? Hey it worked for the PS2 port of Max Payne, it would definitely work here.
The driving sequences are really hit and miss, sometimes driving around town can be genuinely entertaining while at other times, it feels like a complete chore. The physics are semi-accurate but they’re a bit too shaky for my tastes. The vehicles don’t really exhibit a great amount of weight so the sense of momentum and feeling is noticeably absent. Crashes also seem to be randomized but not in the way that one may expect. Barely nudging a car may send them into a wild spin-out and putting you to a complete standstill while at other times, going full speed will allow you to graze off of objects and continue on your merry way. The vantage point is pretty bad as well as you’re limited to a rather low chase vehicle view. You can’t view the game from the driver’s seat (with the exception of the bus) and in a move that really baffles us, there is absolutely no way to see what’s going on behind you. I would understand the lack of a reverse view but a rear-view mirror would have been quite feasible. In short, driving in this game just isn’t much fun, the controls are too sluggish and navigating is nearly impossible.

The on-foot action doesn’t fare much better either, the lack of a targeting cursor and some horrid auto-aiming really contribute to this game’s demise. Then there’s the issue of the game’s sub-par camera system. You have absolutely no control over the camera so you’re basically at the mercy of the game. This wouldn’t be bad had the system been intuitive but it’s just absolutely atrocious. It has a hard time keeping up with you and giving you the best possible vantage point of the action. Often times you’ll have to wander blindly in to a room and be shot before you can retaliate. Speaking of getting shot this leads us to perhaps the most ridiculous aspect of the game.

Traditional games will allow you to heal yourself by collecting health packets or perhaps bandages, but in the Getaway; regaining your health is as simple as leaning against a wall. That’s right, leaning against a wall. All you have to do is lean against any surface and just wait for those pesky blood stains to disappear. This really disrupts the flow of the game, especially when you can tell that the designers were setting you up for an intense gunfight. Here’s a sample of a typical gunfight in The Getaway. Shoot one thug, shoot another thug, spend 30 seconds leaning against the wall to regain your health and repeat. Traditional games will allow you to pick up health and continue on your way but here, you’re forced to take breathers after every incident just to make sure that you can finish the level in one piece. In short, this game isn’t very much fun to play.

Next time you get a blood stain don’t scrub it out! Call a timeout and lean against a wall!

Now watching it is an entirely different story and while the game may not look as great as originally expected the end result is nothing less than stunning. Every visual aspect of the game has a very polished and refined look to it. Things like texture tearing and architecture pop-ups still occur but in minimal fashion thanks to the great artists on Team Soho. Each of the characters look especially amazing, especially in comparison to their real-life counterparts. The facial animations and the lip synching is a real joy to watch as they are some of the best that the PS2 has to offer.
The attention to real-world details is just insane. You’ll see everything from Fed Ex vans, fixed-up Honda Civics with rims and Altezza tail lights to crates of Channel No. 5 in your journeys around the city. You’ll even see some real world shops and landmarks like Buckingham Palace and the Virgin Megastore. Every vehicle in the game is licensed; the days of generic traffic are no more. You’ll now see beauties like the Honda S2000 and the Lexus IS300 just to name a few. Where The Getaway really succeeds on the visual front is in its sense of scale and proportion. Games like GTAVC were heavily un-proportional, resulting in streets that looked far too barren and vehicles that were smaller than the lanes, making them look out of place. The Getaway has the sense of scale right down to the T, vehicles, stop lights, garbage cans, humans, buildings, everything fits in really well with the landscape. All 40 Km of rendered terrain fits in well with the feel and atmosphere of the game, to say the least this game has some massive visual appeal. Sadly this appeal doesn’t carry over to the game’s audio aspects.

Ow, you shot me you freakin bastard!

The audio portions could have fared better. For one, the addition of licensed music would have further helped blur the lines between game and cinema. Instead you’re stuck with some generic techno tunes that are bland and forgettable. The sound effects themselves are pretty underwhelming, for a game that prides itself on mimicking Hollywood it has a very weak soundtrack. Gunshots are usually muffled and become lost in the background, the sounds of police sirens tend to drown out nearly everything and the vehicle sounds are all pretty weak. It seems as if little time was taken to ensure some realism in these effects, the sound effects are all the same, whether you’re out in the open or under the confines of a barren warehouse, the sounds are identical. I was at least hoping for a resonating effect for the horn inside of tunnels but it just was not to be. As another minus, my speakers tended to crackle every time I stepped on the brakes, I tested it on a few other systems just to confirm this.

The presentation isn’t all perfect either, sometimes I’ll end a scene with one vehicle and then a cutscene will play where I’m in an entirely different vehicle. This happened to me after the Snow Hill Police Station level, apparently I escaped in a different manner than the designers intended and sped off with a police van. In the next cutscene I was magically transported into a police Volvo which I also used to start the next mission. Keep in mind that these missions are chained together so I wouldn’t have an opportunity to magically get my hands on a police cruiser.

The AI isn’t all that it’s shaped up to be, often times you can set up kill zones in levels and just wait for your enemies to come to you. I found that I was able to sit around a corner and mow down every unsuspecting fool who happened to wander into my zone with the slightest of ease. Apparently the massive puddle of blood in front of him wasn’t enough of a sign of what was to come.

In the end I get the feeling that The Getaway was meant to be watched all along and not played. It’s an amalgamation of ideas that probably looked great on paper, but fall flat in execution Yes it’s a very ambitious project and while it may get trashed by the press, it has to be commended for what it is, a brilliantly produced game that while heavily flawed, is helping to push the envelope of video gaming to the next level.
Awesome dialogue, awesome script, excellent cinematography, and subpar game play make this game a perfect fit for theatres, not consoles. If you’re looking for proof that video games can in fact have a great plot then check out the Getaway. Furthermore, if you’re looking for proof that video games can have long development cycles and still fail to please, check out the Getaway.

Rating: 7.1 Average

* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company.

About Author

Gaming has been a part of my life for as long as I could remember. I can still recall many a lost nights spent playing Gyromite with that stupid robot contraption for the old NES. While I'm not as old as the rest of the crew around these parts, I still have a solid understanding of the heritage and the history of the video gaming industry.

It's funny, when I see other people reference games like Doom as "old-school" I almost begin to cringe. I bet that half of these supposed "old-school" gamers don't even remember classic games like Rise of the Triad and Commander Keen. How about Halloween Harry? Does anyone even remember the term "shareware" anymore? If you want to know "old-school" just talk to John. He'll tell you all about his favorite Atari game, Custer's Revenge.

It's okay though, ignorance is bliss and what the kids don't know won't hurt them. I'll just simply smile and nod the next time someone tells me that the best entry in the Final Fantasy franchise was Final Fantasy VII.

When I'm not playing games I'm usually busy sleeping through classes at a boring college in Southern Oregon. My current hobbies are: writing songs for punk rock bands that never quite make it, and teasing Bart about... well just teasing Bart in general. I swear the material writes itself when you're around this guy. He gives new meaning to the term "moving punching bag."

As for games, I enjoy all types except those long-winded turn-based strategy games. I send those games to my good pal Tyler, I hear he has a thing for those games that none of us actually have the time to play.

When I'm not busy plowing through a massive pile of video games I spend all of my time trying to keep my cute little girl fed. She eats a ton but damn she's so hot. Does anyone understand the Asian girl weight principal? Like they'll clean out your fridge yet still weigh less than 110 pounds.

Currently I'm playing: THUG, True Crime, Prince of Persia, Project Gotham 2 and Beyond Good & Evil. View Profile

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