previews\ Dec 27, 2002 at 7:00 pm

The Getaway - PS2 - Preview

Sony and Team Soho have teamed up to bring us a new action title for the PS2 console and judging from the preview version, it's going to be an incredible game once the final version is released in January 2003.  Fast-paced driving, intense firefights, and unprecedented realism prove to be a winning combination in this anything goes title.  At first glance, The Getaway may seem as though it's simply a Grand Theft Auto knockoff, but don't be fooled, as it's actually a quite innovative game (sometimes even more so than GTA) and it's overall quality is rock solid.  However, there are a few minor issues that could use some improvement, which are outlined below.

Right off the bat, it's obvious that the quality of the storyline is a step up from what we've seen in the past.  The Getaway has a British gangster film-like plot that will draw you in and keep you interested.  Unlike other games of its kind, it also has the cut-scenes to back it up.  The voice actors are amazing (from a non-British perspective, at least) and the animations are also superb, as the mouth movements are near perfect.  From the opening scene on though, it's obvious that this is no kid's game, as the film-like dialog throws around the "f-word" quite a bit.  This along with all the British slang, however, helps create the one of a kind mood for the game.

The plot of The Getaway revolves around Mark Hammond, an ex-gangster who has been trying to lay low since convicted of a bank robbery and recently released from prison.  Everything seems to be going fine, that is, until his wife gets killed and his son gets kidnapped.  As Mark makes his way to the boss who's holding his son, Charlie Jolson, he faces strong opposition from Charlie's boys.  Once he reaches the boss, he's informed that he must do as he's told or his son will be killed; not very good news to say the least.

Now as Charlie's pawn, Hammond is forced to do the bosses dirty work; killing old friends, cops, torching buildings, and whatever else he can think up.  All Hammond wants to do is take Jolson down, get his kid back, and move on, but that doesn't prove to be an easy task by any means.

The Getaway is based in downtown London, a unique twist for such a game, and everything within the environment is amazingly realistic.  The developers actually re-created 40 square kilometers of the city and the result is an overall experience like none other.  No details have been left out and everything from the cracks in the sidewalks to the storefronts are just as they really are in the city.  Even the insides of buildings are modeled perfectly to resemble actual bars, restaurants, warehouses and more.  Additionally, all the cars found on the road are real models from a variety of years and makes, including Lexus, Jaguar, Nissan, and more.

In terms of gameplay, The Getaway is free-roaming and mission-based, but the 24 missions must be done in order so as to stay parallel to the well done storyline.  Some of the missions involve driving, while others must be done on foot in a third-person perspective.  Just like in GTA, any car can be stolen, so the driving objectives can be quite fun if you get a choice vehicle (assuming you remember to drive on the correct side of the road).  However, one huge difference is that there's no map to help you get to your destination for each particular mission.  Instead, the turn signals on the car are illuminated to help guide you.  This setup can get somewhat frustrating when trying to determine the optimal routes, although having no map on the screen makes the game look even more like a film.

Racing around the downtown streets is fun even when not trying to complete a mission.  Each of the cars behaves just as you'd expect they would and the damage that results from collisions is extremely accurate.  Steam pours out of the radiator if you run into something, rear-ends crumple, trunks pop open, windows break, and much of this affects how the car handles.  Eventually the car catches on fire and blows up; oops!  Time for a new one!

When on foot, The Getaway also proves its worthiness as a shooter.  A variety of maneuvers can be used to effectively go up against the enemy characters, including the ability to roll, look around corners, and take hostages to use as a human shield.  If used correctly in conjunction with either the auto or manual aiming, it's possible to eliminate these foes without too much trouble.  However, using the auto aim sometimes makes it difficult to tell which enemy is targeted as there are no targeting indicators.  The weapons found within the game include a pistol, shotgun, assault rifle, and more, which can be switched between using the directional pad.  Another tactic that can be used is the pistol whip, which usually does the job quite nicely at close range.

One aspect of this version of the game that's a little disappointing is that the enemies behave exactly the same every time the game is played.  This makes it too easy not to make the same mistake twice and decreases the replay value significantly.  Although, it's still fun to drive (or run) around the city wreaking havoc and getting chased by the London police.

Just as there is no map on the screen, there are no other traditional indicators for things like health, ammunition, etc, which is needless to say, unconventional.  Mark's health level is reflected by the amount of blood on his clothes and this can be quite hard to judge sometimes, especially in low light environments.  Also unique is the method of regaining health, which is done by simply leaning against a wall and resting.  These choices were all obviously made to keep the game as realistic as possible, but sometimes they inhibit the gameplay.

Graphically, this game is totally breathtaking, as everything has been rendered to perfection.  The frame rates are almost always smooth, textures are perfect and effects, such as smoke, fire, and even the blood that splatters on the walls are awesome.  Additionally, all the characters' animations are smooth and life-like.  The sound found within The Getaway is no less impressive, from the in-game dialog to the realistic sound effects and appropriate music.

Sony definitely has a great title on their hands here and there's no reason why it won't be successful (especially with a few tweaks for the final version).  With cues from Driver, Grand Theft Auto, and even some FPS games as well as a top-notch storyline; how can you go wrong?  Well, it doesn't seem that you can at this point, which is why the package is already so solid.  This will definitely be one worth checking out.

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