Thursday, 25 September 2008

Retrospective - The Getaway

  • Game: The Getaway
  • Console: PlayStation 2
  • Developer: Team SoHo
  • Publisher: Sony
  • Released: 2002
The Getaway was a game I remember quite enjoying. The gritty urban London back-drop synonymous with the films of Guy Ritchie (Madonna's wife), or at least his two good films, only with the humour replaced by awful textures. In The Getaway, you play as Mark Hammond, an ex-gangster-cockney-wide-boy with a boring name, a boring face and a boring voice. As the game starts you see his wife get shot in the chest after a tussle with a couple of gangsters who then proceed to half-inch his only begotten son. Like some kind of fucking idiot who has never watched an episode of CSI, Mark picks up the gun that put a bullet in his wife's chest as she lies dying in his arms, thus framing him as the murderer. This is the main crux of the story, as the mob-boss who orchestrated the kidnapping, Harry Johnson (yes, all of the characters have rather mundane names), uses this, and the life of his son, as a bargaining chip to procure Mark's 'talents' in killing and 'feevery'. Cue Mark having to do a bunch of things he doesn't want to for someone else's gain. The story, though, is just an excuse to tear-arse around London shooting up cockneys. Quite fun it can be, too.

What makes The Getaway stand-out other than the setting is the fact that there is no user interface. Instead of a health-bar, bloodstains appear on Mark as he loses health. To rejuvenate him, you have to lean up against a wall until he gets his breath back. Although not completely realistic, it certainly keeps the game's movie-like qualities thanks to having nothing but the game on-screen at all times. However, if he's at Death's door, it can be a complete pain to find somewhere quiet and wait for the blood to disappear, which takes about a whole minute, which is a long time in gaming. The controls are God-awful. Mark is a complete chore to direct and the fact that the difficulty is quite punishing makes it a frustrating game. The missions you embark upon are quite fun, but the trial and error gameplay is less so. Driving is also fun, but dodgy-handling and loose turning can make these sections as much trial and error as the missions you are driving to and from.

You're gonna die, you slag, you muppet.

All games in this genre come under scrutiny and are compared to one series of games; Grand Theft Auto. Seeing as The Getaway was released in 2002, it'd be harsh to compare it to any GTA game that post-dates it, so, with regards to GTA III (and GTA III only), how does it come out? Not very good. Although it can be quite enjoyable, and the fact that you are driving around a city you might have actually been to (or even live in) and are doing things you'd never be able to in real-life is really quite refreshing and intriguing. However, the game only offers you the main-story. No side-quests, no shops, nothing. A game that could have easily have peaked at about 50 hours gives us merely 10. It seems pointless to have mapped London out so painstakingly only to leave 95% of it unused.

But the thing that shocked me more than anything else when I booted it up for the first time in about 4 years is just how much the game had aged. It looks pretty horrendous. The character models are quite good, but the background textures are washed-out and stretched. I remember quite a good looking game. I think my Xbox 360 is spoiling me.

With all that said, The Getaway was a nice change of locale for fans of the free-roaming-shooty-drivey games. A very British game, and one that took inspiration from the thriving British film industry. Despite its short-comings, it should be regarded as a high-point for the British game industry and Sony and Team SoHo should be applauded for it.

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