For review a bad game day this year I’ve decided to look at a Play Station 2 title.
I know some people view the PS2 as being too new to truly count as a retro console and, considering its’ abilities to deliver fully textured worlds streamed from a DVD, they might have a point. However I think the game I’ll be discussing demonstrates just how much of a retro console the PS2 really is.
My choice then is none over than defunct Team Soho’s epic GTA-em-up, The Getaway. Originally released back at the end of 2002, it was a game released back when the PS2 had really hit its prime.
Based entirely around a surprisingly realistic map of central London, the plot of the game sees the player drive and shoot their way to the bottom of a classic Cock-er-ny crime caper that was clearly inspired by contemporary films Lock Stock & Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch.
Where (the recently released) GTA: Vice City had set itself out as an outrageous parody – complete with motor bike stunts, ridiculous side missions and hijack able attack helicopters – The Getaway sought to handle itself with grit, seriousness and a relentlessly immovable straightness. This was to be less of a video game and more an interactive movie – It’s clear Team Soho wanted this game to be perceived with the gravitas inevitably reserved for cinematic greats.
This quest for a cinematic experience permeated all the way through to the game’s interface. If The Getaway has one defining characteristic today, it’s the ambitious attempt by Team Soho to remove all of the obtrusive video game furniture from the screen. Health bar? Ammo counter? Map or other superimposed hint of where you have to go? No sorry, there’s none of that here.
Instead, you’re left looking for subtle cues in the game world: Blood stains on the player’s clothing warn of damage, blinking car indicators tell you which way you need to go, a sudden absence of the ability to shoot warns you its time to reload. Blimey.
How well do these cues work? Actually surprisingly well. The lack of an ammo counter makes you much more mindful when entering a fire fight and the blood stains are actually a pretty intuitive way of realising that your character has taken damage.
In fact, at an execution level, the indicator-based navigation was the only real misstep here. If you’re completely unfamiliar with London, you’ll be left with no clear idea of where you’re going, which means the indicator blinking can lead you down blind alleys and into oncoming traffic.
Meanwhile, if Transport for London’s real-world incompetence has left you in a position of knowing every conceivable route between South West and North East London, Sony Liverpool’s subtle removal of a couple of key junctions and cut throughs from the city map leaves you equally in the dark.
It’s a shame, as some sort of navigation aid (even if it was only accessible from the pause menu) would have aded so much to the game. Particularly once the player had unlocked the free roaming mode.
Now, with that gripe out of the way, why are we looking at this on Review a Bad Game Day? It’s true that a slightly flawed system of navigation isn’t quite enough to damn and entire game, and it’s also true that, from the interesting 3rd person aiming mechanics through to the satisfying ways car windows break, there’s a lot to like about The Getaway.
Unfortunately, what fundamentally lets The Getaway down is the fact that its a game before its time.
You see, though there’s a lot to like, there’s lots of of execution errors that really let things down. The shooting mechanics, in particular are a big problem. Though Sony Liverpool took an interesting approach – as you hold the aim button the camera zooms over your character’s shoulder, forcing you to use the sight on the actual in game gun to aim – any respect is immediately lost the second you realise that the even the most gentle and delicate movement of the control sticks inevitably translates to some sort of jerky hyperactive horror show on screen.
Driving is marred by a similar issue. Though the solid physics are (on paper at least) preferable to the flip-friendly world of Vice City, they’re let down by a vague imprecise floatiness. The AI really doesn’t help matters either, flipping randomly between being unstoppably relentless in pursuit of the player and hopelessly blind to everything around it.
Then, of course, there are the inevitable bugs. The Getaway has some pretty tough firefights, so to survive one only to meet a sticky end by falling inexplicably through the game world is a tad disappointing to say the least.
That’s not to say there also weren’t a couple of questionable design choices in there as well, mind you. Alongside the navigation, the Halo-inspired health regeneration mechanic seems a bit of a misstep that detracts from the natural rhythm of the gunplay (apparently deep breaths can heal gunshot wounds.) As with many a GTA clone, the free roaming mode also demonstrates that a detailed game world is nothing if there aren’t interesting things to do in it.
The Getaway was an ambitious game let down by a number of execution errors then, but is it a retro game? That’s a good question.