Players: 1 Player Game | Release Date: 01/19/03 | Genre: Action
The Getaway is a game that appears to be awesome at first glance. However, after spending some time with it, you will become disappointed with the final product. If you would have told me that I would be this upset about The Getaway back at E3 this last year, I would have laughed at you. Sitting down with one of the lead developers at Team Soho, he walked me through the first couple of levels. I was amazed. But what went wrong in the final product?
Graphically, The Getaway is just incredible. I am shocked that Team Soho was able to get so much out of the PlayStation 2 hardware. The first thing you will notice is the level of detail in the cinematic scenes. At the start of the game, some gangsters are about to kidnap a mother and her son. However, things go wrong and the mom is shot. This awakes our main character, Mark Hammond. He runs to the scene of the crime but the gangsters have escaped with his son. Hammond foolishly puts his hand on the murder weapon that was dropped behind, and is now framed for murder. Before the police can arrive, Hammond races into a nearby car to chase after the gangsters.
Once the cinematic scene is over and the actual gameplay begins after a short loading sequence, you will notice that the detailed cinemas are all created using the in-game graphics. Yes, the in-game graphics are this good.
As Mark begins to chase after the gangsters, another cool element of The Getaway is revealed. There is no map and no health meter. Instead of using a map, players will see a left or right blinker to direct you to your location. Once you arrive, the car will flash its hazards. This seems to be a very original feature at first. But there is a good reason why it hasn't been used before. It doesn't work very well in a game. While it does make things more realistic, unless you know exactly where you are going, you may end up circling around blocks countless times before reaching your destination. But if you get lost, know that this could be the closest you ever get to being lost in London. The city has been re-created in realistic detail. It is so close to the real thing, that Team Soho even includes actual shops that appear in the city.
While in a vehicle, you will have some freedom to ditch cars and steal another one. This is very similar to the Grand Theft Auto series. However, this is where the similarities between these two titles end. The bad areas of The Getaway that I will discuss below are nowhere near the polish seen in GTA 3 or Vice City.
The Getaway prides itself in doing some stealthy run and gun action. It is very easy to hit X and back up against a wall. You can poke your head out, shoot a blind shot around a corner, and even quickly move to another wall. However, you have no control over the camera. If you are in a tight corridor and you need to quickly turn around because an enemy is there, prepare to die and start the mission over. Worse yet, the game is so frustratingly hard that you will die countless times before getting anywhere in a mission. But when you do make it further into a level, it is usually more to do with luck than actual skill. This is because of the horrific aiming system. Let me see if I can accurately describe how bad this system is. Mark Hammond is running into a room and kills the two targets in front of him. However, there are two guys very far away to his left and one guy immediately in front of him. The Getaway chooses to target the group of enemies farthest away from you most of the time--even though they aren't as much of a threat as the thug who is closest to you. By the time you have a chance to cycle through the targets to the guy nearby, you will have taken so much damage that you will probably not advance through the level without starting over and playing again. Hopefully the next time through this part, you won't run into the same thing again...
Unfortunately for you, there are no health packs and only one checkpoint to start a mission over when you die. And trust me--you will die a lot. You die so much that it appears the only reason Team Soho called this game The Getaway is because you want to get away after getting so frustrated with the gameplay.
It is a real shame that The Getaway turned out to be this frustrating. The production value in the game is incredible. Team Soho actually filmed the game as a movie first and then converted the live action scenes into what they would use as the cinematic sequences in the title. It appeared that when the title was delayed from November until early in 2003 that all of the bugs would be fixed. However, why release a game that has such buggy controls and frustrating gameplay? If I were Sony, I would have sent Team Soho back to development for at least another three months before releasing this one.
But in the end, we are left with a great graphical showcase for the PS2 that shows a very original approach to developing a game. Even with all of the problems in The Getaway, it is probably worth at least a rental if you are a fan of Action/Stealth games. However, I doubt you will want to spend much more time with this one. I just hope the next time Team Soho releases a title that they completely finish polishing the game before releasing it.