The Getaway  
Team Soho brings crime in videogames to a new level.

CarlitoThe Getaway is surely one of the most promising titles presented at the latest E3. SCE's Team Soho started developing this game about three years ago; it has been a long road so far, a road which started on PsOne and continued on Ps2. Month after month, The Getaway, slated for a November 2002 release, is shaping into a game that could really gain the same popularity of Grand Theft Auto 3.

The Getaway is an action/adventure game that puts the player into the world of organised crime in modern London, based on a mission structure very similar to the one of Grand Theft Auto 3. You will be able to freely explore the enormous urban environments, jacking cars, doing every sort of bad thing, interacting with other character and all with the style of a London gangster movie.

The story
While The Getaway seems to offer the same freedom of GTA 3, the game is based on a much stronger hard-boiled novel, divided into two different but interwoven story threads - and all is narrated with a unique cinematographic style. You take the roles of two different characters: an ex-gangster, Mark Hammond, and a tough cop, Frank Carter.

Mark Hammond is an ex-gangster who is trying to toe the line to maintain his family with the revenues coming from his nightclub. But one day the men of Charlie Jolson, a merciless crime boss who needs Mark's skills for his dirty plans, kill his wife and kidnap his son. Mark, wrongly accused of the murder of his wife, is forced to accept Charlie's suicidal missions, in search of a possibility to take his revenge at the right time.

Frank Carter is a ruthless vigilante cop, one of Charlie Jolson's fiercest enemies. Mark will meet Frank during the game, and they will probably be able to help each other in their common need for justice and revenge.

Playing The Getaway
In one of the most ambitious projects in the history of videogames, Team Soho recreated a real-life simulation of more than 20 square miles of modern London for the Getaway. They have taken a map of London and started rebuilding an in-game 3D city that looks - and feels - like the real one. The buildings, the streets, the parks look extraordinarily detailed; each building present in the game has been photographed and the textures used in the environments are based on these photographs. It's sufficient to take a look at two or three of the screenshots to see what impressive work Team Soho have done.

Oxford Street
Mark, his Audi, and Piccadilly Circus

What's better, the city is filled with life. There are more than 200 different 3D character models in the game used to populate the streets of London, and each person appears unique; the cars behave in an absolutely realistic way, and overall, the caricatural touch present in Grand Theft Auto 3 is substituted by a jaw-dropping sense of reality.

Unlike Grand Theft Auto 3, all of the city will be available in any moment of the game. As Mark Hammond and Frank Carter you'll have to accomplish on feet and on car missions that could bring you anywhere, in any moment.

Driving in London
The game will feature more than 70 different real-life vehicles from 30 car manufacturers, in great part European; while an official list of the cars and manufacturers available in the game has not been released, in the screenshots it's possible to see cars from manufacturers like Audi, Alfa Romeo, BMW, Citroen, Peugeot or English classics like Aston Martin and Bentley - all cars that one would actually see in the streets of London. That's why many of the cars in the game, while popular in U.K. and in Europe, may look new to the American audience. In fact, just a couple of cars available in the game are American.

Playing The Getaway you can jack every vehicle and drive it. Each car, like in Gran Turismo, not only looks gorgeous, but it has also been finely balanced to behave like its real counterpart. The Getaway, among the other things, should be one of the most accurate driving simulations ever realized. And for the joy of us all, a real-time damage system has been implemented. In other words, all of the cars in the game are damaged in real time whenever you crash against other vehicles or objects.

The Getaway is an impressive driving simulator.
You can steal any car in the game.

All this makes car chases in the streets of the virtual London an unforgettable experience. Just imagine driving a powerful Audi, chasing a gang of criminals in the streets of London filled with people peacefully walking on pavements, trying to smartly move in the crazy road traffic.

Walking (and fighting) in London
At any moment during the game, you can park your car and start exploring London on feet. In fact, The Getaway is also a complete action game in third person view. There are also twenty interior real-life locations recreated till to the slightest detail; indoor missions will play an important role in the game.

The control system is closer to the one of 3D action games like Metal Gear Solid than to the one of Grand Theft Auto, where you can basically perform just three or four actions while on feet. You can flatten against a wall, jump out a corner firing, and perform other more complex movements that will be implemented in the final version of the game. Exactly like in Metal Gear Solid, you can hold an opponent hostage pointing a gun to his head. In this way, not only you'll be able to use him as a human shield. In fact, according to the importance of the character you are holding hostage, the other opponents could decide to surrender, thus giving you an opportunity to survive.

The controls give you great freedom of movement.
You'll find many types of weapons in the game.

Of course, in the game you'll find several types of weapons, from pistols to more powerful, but slower, shotguns; all of them are based on real models, so don't expect to find a plasma gun in The Getaway.

Realism, first of all
It's clear that Team Soho wanted to create an experience very close to reality. The Game User Interface is non-existent. There are no bars, numbers or anything else indicating the health status of your character. In a way similar to what you might have seen in many Capcom's survival horror games (where anyhow a health indicator was present), you'll see the character behaving in a different way according to his health status. When in a bad status, you'll see Mark (or Frank) holding his arm, staggering like a drunk.

In the same way, at present there are no maps shown on the screen while driving in the streets of London. It's possible that Team Soho will add an in-game map in the final version of The Getaway, but including a real map of London within the package could probably be a more "programmatic" choice, a way to say: "This game is so real, that you need a real map instead of a simple in-game one!"

Realism is also the key used throughout the development of the graphic engine. From what we have seen so far, we can easily say that there are no games boasting such an impressive 3d recreation of real-life environments. Oxford Street, Piccadilly Circus, and all the streets of London look amazingly real, breathing of city life that changes accordingly to zone you are visiting.

The in-game engine is used to render the 60 minutes of cinematic sequences featured in The Getaway. All the character models featured in the game - both during the cinema sequences and during gameplay - are based on scans of real life actors. Anyhow, the models used during the cut scenes are more detailed than the ones used during the gameplay, and they have a wide range of facial expressions and ultra-realistic body movements thanks to new animation techniques developed expressly for this game. Most of the sequences in the game have been recreated with an innovative magnetic motion capture technology that gave the developers the possibility to include complex interactions between more than just a couple of characters; the movements of up to five actors were recorded simultaneously, and the data was then used to put life into the 3D models.

So far, the cinematic sequences included in The Getaway look just gorgeous, worth of a good gangster movie.

Why you should be excited
The Getaway should be released this November, and since it's produced by Sony Computer Entertainment, it will surely remain a Ps2 exclusive. But what's more important, this game seems to have characteristics that many would have found in the excellent GTA 3. I'm speaking of a stronger story which doesn't compromise the freedom of the gaming experience, of the possibility to explore complex and finely detailed indoor environments, of a more solid graphic engine able to render better character models, and of a more refined gaming experience while walking on feet in the city streets.

The Getaway is clearly a game created with art; we just hope that Team Soho will be able to put the pieces of this enormous game together in the best possible way. This November, we could have a new masterpiece for our Ps2.

- Carlito (May 31st, 2002)