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Developed by SCEE's SoHo Studio in north London, The Getaway is certainly shaping up to be something that's both an impressive display of the PS2's abilities and a contentious subject for online journalists. The screens we have here certainly are gameplay. They're not touched up--this really is what it looks like. When the game is released by SCEA in the middle of next year we're assured it will look even better.
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Looking for graphic violence, road rage driving and swearing now that you finished playing Grand Theft Auto: Vice City? Well, your prayers have been answered with the release of The Getaway developed by Team Soho. You play Mark Hammond, former member of the Soho-based Collins Gang, intent to live a quiet life with his wife and son. Best intentions don't guarantee results, as his wife is brutally gunned down by a rival gang and his son kidnapped. Now, the only chance of getting his son back alive is performing jobs against his will, for rival gang leader, Charlie Jolson. These jobs send Mark around a 40 sq km, faithfully recreated London, leaving an enormous accumulation of body bags and car wreckages.
Initially I was frustrated by the controls as well as the game play, but as I got further into it, I really started appreciating the finer points of this game. The graphics are stunning and character movements, in the game and cut sequences, have a fluidity and realness that immerses you in the game action. The voice actors are professionals and it shows, but what really puts this game over the top is that it was scripted like a movie, and the dialogue, while often littered with swearing, seems to reflect the talk of London street thugs. So much work is put into the cut sequences that the game forces you to sit through them over and over again.
The game developers strove for realism in this game, but what does this really mean? Well, in addition to the fine graphics, acting and dialogue, the game is noteworthy in that it has nothing to clutter or distract you displayed on the screen during game play. Since there are no maps or compasses, this required some strange user assistance like, when driving through the city streets your taillights indicate which direction you should travel to arrive at your required destination. While they do indicate the quickest route, they often send you the wrong way on one-way streets. If your car takes too much damage, it will start blowing smoke and oil and slows down to a crawl. You can carjack one of the many vehicles around you, including police vehicles or a British bus and start plowing through traffic. Be forewarned: break any traffic laws and the police will be in hot pursuit, attempting to run you off the road, usually resulting in more innocent civilian deaths.
There are other useful game tricks used to enhance playability, like auto targeting to get around the difficulty of aiming while in third person mode. Regaining health doesn't rely on powers ups, health pills or painkillers. Instead, they rely on forcing your character to rest up against a wall. While this effectively gets around having to add elements out of character with the environment, it does tend to slow down the action, as you repeatedly retreat a few rooms to heal yourself up after a gun battle.
The bottom line is that while this game won't appeal to all gamers, if you enjoy the Grand Theft Auto, Dead to Rights or Max Payne type of lawlessness and being hunted by both sides of the law, you will definitely get your money's worth out of this one.
Back when the PS2 was released, I remember seeing shots of The Getaway and being amazed by what I thought would just be another beautiful racing game. Imagine my surprise when Sony finally revealed the game as a Grand Theft Auto-style action title. And a really coollooking one, at that.
In fact, The Getaway looks like it might out-GM GTA. Team Soho's going for some major realism. Unlike the fictional city in Grand Theft Auto III, Getaway's London is accurately portrayed with photorealistic buildings and actual licensed cars like BMW and Toyota roaming the streets (all with graphics that are far and away better than Rockstar's smash hit). Wreck your car and it won't handle as well. Roll it, and your character will be injured. And when you find yourself on foot, the action is much more intricate--very similar to something like Metal Gear Solid or Headhunter in that stealth plays a huge part while you're exploring the insides of various compounds and buildings. But with the realism of the world comes the chance that a good headshot will put an end to your game, not just require a few medipacks to fix.
As for the open-ended gameplay we've all come to love, it's too early to say if Getaway will be totally free-roaming or really limited by the storyline. The folks at Team Soho are sticking strictly to their script, which makes the game feel a tad linear (at least from what we've played so far).
The Getaway moves along two parallel storylines. Mark Hammond, an ex-gangster trying to go straight, gets pulled back into the seedy underworld of London's mob when crime boss Charlie Jonson kills his wife and kidnaps his son. Hammond's forced to be Jonson's errand boy in order to keep his son alive. As the plot unfolds, you meet Frank Carter. Carter's a vigilante cop who's fallen from grace and simply lives to put Jonson's crime family out of commission. In the second part of Getaway, you get to play the story as seen through his eyes.
While The Getaway looks like a GTA clone, the different angle Team Soho's taking promises to deliver a much different, potentially more satisfying, experience.