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The Getaway  
We dig deep into the world of Team Soho's surprising crime story.

HarryFrom the very first official announcements regarding The Getaway, Team Soho's big project, SCEE was sure to highlight all the efforts put into the development of the game. A big movie-like crime story taking place in a realistic London, with roughly 40 sq. km of the city recreated for the game - how couldn't one be excited, even just reading the list of features of a game like this?

After the huge success of GTA 3 and Vice City, it was inevitable and expected that everybody would have made comparisons between The Getaway and Rockstar's crime simulators. It's undeniable that many and many players started to have some interest in The Getaway because of the thirst for crime simulators that exploded after GTA 3. That's probably why reviewing the Getaway isn't easy, and that's why this introduction is indispensable.

People expecting to find in The Getaway another Grand Theft Auto will be completely disappointed. To be clear from the very beginning, if GTA games can be called crime simulators, The Getaway is a third-person, story-driven game: it's divided in missions and it doesn't give the player the freedom that made Grand Theft Auto popular - but it also delivers an experience that's a thousand times more realistic, more mature than Grand Theft Auto 3 or Vice City.

As I wrote in my review of Vice City, Rockstar's approach to the crime world was definitely naïve. Full of references from great movies like Carlito's Way, The Godfather, and Goodfellas, Vice City was anyhow unable to deliver a story that walked out the status of a grotesque melange of quotes and clichés deepened into the American culture. But after all, what people wanted from Vice City was not a good mature story, but lot of bloody fun. And, in the realm of videogaming, that's perfectly fine. Rockstar wanted to give players fun, and they did it with style.

The Getaway's ambitions are different though. Here there is a director, Brendan McNamara, who worked, in part, like a movie director. With his team, he wanted to develop a good game but also to tell a strong story. A story inspired by the unmistakable unique feel of English classic gangster movies like Mona Lisa, but also able to stand on its own feet. If you think these premises sound good, then you might love The Getaway more than any other game.

The Story
The Getaway's storyline is divided into two different but interwoven story threads. Alternatively, you'll take the role of two diverse characters: Mark Hammond, an ex-gangster, and Frank Carter, a tough cop.

Mark Hammond, a former member of the Collins Gangs, has decided to retire and to concentrate all his efforts on maintaining his family with the revenues coming from his nightclub. One day, the men of Charlie Jolson, London's old king of crime, kill his wife and kidnap his son. Mark, wrongly accused of the murder of his wife, is forced to accept Charlie's suicidal missions, with the hope of rescuing his kidnapped son and then taking his revenge on Charlie at the right time.

Frank Carter is a vigilante cop, member of the elite Flying Squad, and one of Charlie Jolson's fiercest enemies.

Two different men, the same enemy, and a fight in the changing underworld of a city that nobody, not even Charlie, seems able to understand anymore.

Gameplay : 8.0

The Getaway is a classic mission based game. There are 24 missions, 12 for each character, and the story is narrated, in great part, through good in-game cutscenes. The missions are always divided in two or more parts, most of the times including a driving section and an on-foot section. The game is heavily scripted, so the player has to follow the path designed by the developers: during driving sections, there is often a time limit, so you can't freely roam through the city; during on-foot sections you usually have a little more freedom, and you're given the chance of following different routes and choose your simple strategy: anyhow, don't expect to find here the freedom of a game like Hitman 2.

This very strict, straightforward structure is very common in nowadays games, but in The Getaway it inevitably gets a bit irritating. The developers fully recreated 40 Sq. Km of central London, making of The Getaway's world the biggest real environment recreated for a videogame. The developers evidently spent months and months of work taking photographs of shop windows, signs, creating unique textures for each street, modelling London's unique buildings. Considering all the work done in this direction, the fact the developer didn't manage to give the players more freedom may seem even more surprising. The city recreated for The Getaway is much bigger than Grand Theft Auto's Liberty City or Vice City, yet you're rarely given the chance to roam through the streets.

Actually, once you've completed the game, a Free Roam mode is unlocked as a reward, and you can finally explore the city without the hassle of time limits; considering how vast the city is, this is a reward that may add hours of relaxing gameplay, but on the long run, the Free Roam mode can seem nothing more than a 3D tourist guide of London - Team Soho didn't include mini-games or new elements to make of the Free Roam mode an actual "gameplay" moment, leaving aside a couple of cool secret cars not included during the game.

This is probably the only big limit of Team Soho's creation: the lack of a game structure that makes justice to their own incredible work. The inclusion of a Free Roam mode is a nice thing, but they should have focused their efforts to include more "free roaming" into the actual game, without abandoning their desire of creating a story driven experience. It's not me that's saying this, because I'm a plain reviewer, but it's Team Soho's own inviting virtual London that throughout the whole game seems to say "turn here boy, come here boy, look here boy" and you just can answer "sorry babe, I've to chase that car".

The city of London
Anyhow, London remains the true star of the game. Even if they are rare, there are moments in which you'll have the chance of exploring the city; adding to that, Team Soho managed to guide the player, mission after mission, through many of the most distinguishing places of London.

The virtual London is a breathing environment, populated by innocent citizens, dangerous criminals, and, of course, the filth (the police, for all you non criminals). One of the most impressive achievements is the simulation of a realistic road traffic in the streets; the developers managed to display a good number of cars simultaneously on the screen, and vehicles behave in a realistic way, following road signs; for example, typical London black cabs and big red double-deckers have and use their reserved lane.

Considering how big the game is, the level of detail is noticeable; in one of the first missions, you have to reach an Art gallery in Hyde Park. I parked my car near the gates of the park and I continued on foot. But you know, Hyde Park is big, and you can get lost, also considering that there is no in-game map in The Getaway. I started looking around to see if there was some signal to guide me, and I was really surprised to notice that real maps of the park, those with the big "you are here" arrows, were to be found here and there along my way.

The rest of the city is equally detailed. At one point, during the game, you'll also find yourself outside Team Soho's office in London. It looked strangely cool, and I guess it's the first time a developer recreate its own "den" into its game. After all, Team Soho's took their name from the zone of London in which their offices are located, and Mike Hammond, the main character of the game, is not by chance a former member of a Toho based criminal gang.

At this point, I should answer three frequent questions that we receive about the game - "Can I enter the buildings?", "Can I use the Underground?" and the classic "Is there night and day cycle?". Unluckily, the answer is a no to all three questions. Like in Vice City, the interiors you can actually visit in The Getaway are just a few. I've counted about a dozen, maybe fifteen places that you can enter during the game; for some reason, almost all these places seem closed in the Free Roam mode (I really can't imagine why). The Underground, one of London's glories, isn't here. All the accesses to it are closed, so, I'm sorry for you, you'll have to stay on the surface. Finally, there's no day & night cycle in The Getaway - leaving aside the possible technical problems, since the game is entirely story-driven, there isn't an in-game 24h clock like in Grand Theft Auto.

Driving
Team Soho created an amazing driving simulator for The Getaway. The car models, the realistic handling, the streets of London make of car chasing or even simple car driving in The Getaway a delicious experience. If you have watched the amazing sequences of "Ronin", the movie with Robert De Niro and Jean Reno, you might have an idea of the car chases in The Getaway. European cities, unlike U.S. cities, are often made of incredibly narrow passages, one-way streets, and chaotic roundabouts that make things even more exciting in a game like this.

You can basically steal any car you see in the streets, and this works exactly like in Grand Theft Auto. Pressing the circle button Mark will point his gun at the driver's head and the car will be yours in a couple of seconds. Anyhow, usually you can't just stand in the middle of a street trying to stop an approaching car: drivers are usually pretty aggressive, and they will pass over your poor body instantly killing you. So, if you want to steal a car you'd better wait next to semaphores, create your little roadblock, or just fire through the car's windshield. When you want to leave the car, you have to stop it, and then press the circle button; and no, you can't bail out of a moving vehicle.

The list of cars present in the game is really impressive. All vehicles, in fact, are beautiful recreations of real existing models, and are entirely destroyable. You'll find cars from manufacturers like Alfa Romeo, Fiat, Citroen, Peugeot, Renault, Rover, Lexus, Toyota, Saxo, Nissan, but also typical London vehicles like double-deckers, black cabs, and commercial vehicles like FedEx or Royal Mail vans. With roughly 70 different vehicles in the game, and thanks to a solid graphic engine, The Getaway successfully recreates the feel of a street in a European city.

The Getaway is a very realistic driving simulator, a sort of Gran Turismo 3 through the streets of London - and that's a big compliment for a game where driving is just half of the experience. Each car behaves differently, and if you own or have driven one of the vehicles in the game, you will notice that the in-game car "feels", in some way, like the real thing. Since cars are entirely destroyable - yes, you can even shoot tires, and "the Filth" will do this often to you - your car's performance will change accordingly to the condition of the vehicle. Since a damaged car can't be repaired (once again, The Getaway doesn't pretend to be Grand Theft Auto!), when you see your car is slowing down, you'd better steal a new vehicle as soon as possible.

While the driving experience in The Getaway is a very close to perfection, many players might find some problem with the no-frills navigational system. As I said, there are no in-game maps; anyhow, the game assists you with the vehicles' indicators: if the right indicator is flashing, you must take the next available right turn, and vice versa. Actually, while this "system" might seem a bit too minimalist at first, it worked pretty fine for me. And if you have some extra money in your pocket, you can always get yourself a cheap map of the real London with the game.

The somewhat generic indications you receive about your mission objectives are the only true problem during the driving sections. I'll make a brief example. In one of Mark's missions you have to destroy a telephone repair van; anyhow, since there isn't a graphic user interface in The Getaway, you'll see no signs that tell you which is the right van. The problem becomes clear considering there is more than just one white van going around in London. After a bit of classic trial and error "fun", I realized that I had to listen to Mark's voice: when the right van appeared on the screen, Mark said something like "here it is". But of course, until you don't come next to the right van you'll not realize this, and you'll start destroying all the white vans along the way indicated by your light indicators. The sincere love for realism of the developers can lead, in cases like this, to a little dose of frustration that players don't want from video games.

On foot
The other half of the game takes place on foot. Controlling your character can be a bit confusing at first; especially in the most dangerous situations. Actually, the control layout is very straightforward, but the character's movements, from simple walking to more complex moves can feel uncertain and unrefined.

The left stick is used to move your character, X is used to roll, crouch, take hostages, and flatten against walls, Circle is the "Steal car" button, Triangle drops or holsters your weapon, Square is the fire button. R1 and R2 are used respectively for auto-aim and manual aim.

I didn't like too much the use of the multi-purpose X button. With many buttons left unused on the Dual Shock controller, I would have preferred many functions to be addressed to a specific button. When you are next to a wall, X is used to flatten against it; while running, it will make you roll; next to a non-playable character, it will use him/her as a human shield. Needless to say that indoors, in narrow spaces, a wrong pressure of the X button can make you flatten against a wall instead of taking a dangerous guard as a hostage. The X button should also let you perform complex moves more easily. For example, you should be able to press X, roll next to a crate, and then, by pressing again X, your character should immediately crouch behind the crate. Unluckily, the X button is not always as responsive, or as "smart", as you might need. Eventually, you'll get used to the limits of the control system after the first missions, but the process can be frustrating.

The weapon mangement "system" is pretty basic too. Once you've killed an enemy, you can grab his weapon. Anyhow, in The Getaway you can't have your own collection of pistols, shotguns and rifles; every time you run out of ammo, Mark will just drop the empty weapon. You can carry two types of weapons at a time, but while pistols can be holstered, you can't do the same with rifles, shotguns and machine guns. When you pick up a rifle, Mark will holster his pistol, but if you want to switch back to the pistol, you can only discard the rifle.

Aiming causes some problems too, but this seems very common in 3rd person action games. The Auto-aim function (R1 button) can miserably fail when you are in the middle of a chaotic gunfight. Not too rarely, the character tends to aim at farther enemies instead of simply aiming at those standing a few feet from him; also the classic sadistic "aim locked onto dead body" issue is here: sometimes, the character will keep on shooting on a dead body until you press the R1 button again. The manual aim (R2 button) is not very useful during the most hectic moments; instead of switching to a first person view or to a clear behind the shoulders view, the camera floats behind the character following the arm movements, making aiming more difficult and slow than it should be. But when it comes to shoot tires, windshields, glasses or similar stuff, the manual aim does its job finely.

The lack of a graphic user interface, another choice of the developers to enhance the realism of the experience, doesn't cause problems in the on foot sections. You don't have indicators that tell you the remaining ammo, nor you can look at a health bar - anyhow, your character's appearance and "performance" will reflect his physical conditions; when severely injured, Mark and Frank will start bleeding, and they'll be unable to run. To restore your health, you have to approach a wall and your injured character will automatically lean against it; magically, you'll slowly see the blood and the wounds disappearing and you'll be back again at full health.

A.I. of the enemies is generally very simplistic. All missions are heavily scripted, so all non playable character basically just follow the same precise path; during missions that involve stealth, you just have to learn the pattern of their movements; there is no way to distract an enemy, to set traps, and to create any sort of complex strategy.

But despite all these limits, The Getaway is one of the most addictive games I've played in a long time. For some mysterious alchemic law, the final result exceeds the sum of the single elements of the gameplay; sure, aiming causes some trouble, and controls might not be too polished, but The Getaway is still a blast to play, and everything is kept together by one of the best scripts ever written for a video game, and by a breathtaking, beautiful virtual London.

» Page 2: Graphics, Sound, Replay Value, and Overall Opinion


Scores
Gameplay »
8.0
Graphics »
8.5
Sound »
9.0
Replay Value »
8.5
Overall Score »
8.5



Developer
Team Soho
Publisher
SCEA
Origin
U.K.
Genre
Adventure
Action
Racing
Players
1
Peripherals
Dual Shock 2
8MB Memory Card
Release Date
North America
January 19th, 2003
Japan
November 20th, 2003
Europe
December 11th, 2002
Sections



40 Sq. Km of london have been recreated for The Getaway.

Interiors are finely detailed.

Notice the aumont of details on the car models.
More screenshots of The Getaway



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