Back in 2002, the British Crime genre entered the video game world. The realistic looking title in The Getaway was finally released after numerous delays.
The title was a third person shooter with driving elements and a cinematic story. The game seemed to lend elements from the likes of Get Carter and Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels.
The Getaway used a unique concept in that the developers had recreated a large section of London as a Sandbox world for the game. The developers had also acquired the right to use licensed vehicles which made the game feel ultra realistic. The intention was to create a game that felt like a movie and with that in mind, the game used real life actors rendering their likeness into the character's models.
The game was a Playstation 2 exclusive as you might expect, Sony acquiring the rights, fully aware of the attention that the game was going to drum up. You play as two different characters with ten missions each. The game is creative in that it gives you the opportunity to play as both sides of the law, which was unique at the time of release. You begin as former bank robber Mark Hammond, who is witness to the murder of his wife and subsequently his son being kidnapped. Charlie Jolson, leader of the Bethnal Green is behind the crimes, blackmailing Hammond to do a number of hits and robberies in exchange for his son's safety. Hammond is excellently played by actor Don Kembrey who has credibility in the role due to his authentic cockney accent and amateur boxing background. The gameplay was definitely ahead of its time, the environments look incredible, from the inside of pubs and clubs to the London streets where most of the game takes place. The characters are able to utilise cover more effectively than in games like Grand Theft Auto 'Vice City' which was a popular title around the same time. Your character can lean against a wall and jump in and out of cover as well as crouch to avoid gunfire. In close Hammond will pistol whip his enemies until they go unconscious and usually deliver a clever one liner in cinematic style. The Getaway also introduces a human shield feature which will allow Hammond to take a hostage as cover. The controls are limited when doing this, though respectively so that the player does not always resort to this tactic and to keep the game moving at a relatively fast pace. The guns available to the player are your standard pistols, shotguns and machine guns; this comes in line with making the game as realistic as possible. The developers did not want to use weapons that were too outlandish for the district of London.
The driving is probably the game's biggest downfall as the ultra realism allows the vehicles to break down very easily. The player will be on a high after nicking their favourite soft top motor, only for a herd of police cars to come swarming at you destroying it. I am not just talking about the cosmetics either, the engine will start to steam and the handling becomes awkward. Better not take cover behind the vehicle either as stray bullets tend to hit the tires first in most shoot outs. The developers had introduced a new feature in that you can use the right analog stick to accelerate and reverse. This allows you to be able to get out of some awkward situations rather easily and was a clever addition by the team making the game. When you do manage to control the car smoothly and avoid unnecessary damage, the chases can be epic. Dodging in and out of traffic at high speed is particularly satisfying and crashing does not tend to be the end of the action; you will get out of your car only to be ambushed by the police or one of the many gangs inhabiting London. Driving missions offer plenty of variety, the best are when you're given as much time as you need to get from one point to the other. Players will notice the lack of an on screen HUD, instead characters are navigated to their next objective by way of their vehicle indicators. This does become a problem though if the back of your vehicle has been smashed to hell. Players will have to find an alternative car, van or bus if this happens; it does tend to happen quite frequently. The police will also throw up road blocks and stingers which will pop the tires of your chosen car.
The levels are pretty awesome and well animated, my particular favourite has to be the 'Colin's gang' nightclub which looks like a typical 'East End' night club. I think players will like the locations, with various strip clubs, brothels, illegal warehouses and police stations as the back drop; as well as how well animated they are. So detailed in fact you will probably recognise a model from the Daily Sport on the wall or a picture of the Queen in Charlie Jolson's mansion.
That said, the best action takes place on the street and I relished taking cover behind cars as squaddies gang up on you. The policemen and women have a certain presence to them as I don't think the UK law force has ever been present in a game. The accuracy of their vehicles is also a welcome sight and gives the game a very original feel. Another drawback though, is the artificial intelligence of the London citizens. I get into my role of the characters of the game and even if I'm a gangster, my tendency is to avoid unnecessary bloodshed. Unfortunately the London public will panic at the very sound of you revving up your car and 9 times out of 10 run into the path of this. This wasn't such a problem when playing as former bank robber Mark Hammond, but later on in the game you take the role of the Police whose job it is to protect the public, this becomes frustrating as you accidentally mow down 3 civilians to stop a prison break out. It took me out of the fantasy of it, at times ruined it a bit for me. This is a good time to talk about playing as the other side of the law. As DC Carter flips the coin, you have access to an unmarked police car, complete with sirens which makes driving a bit easier. As in real life, other motorists will move out of your way when you use the sirens. Personally I felt like I was playing through an episode of The Sweeney. Carter is voiced by Joe Rice who has much more extensive acting background than Don Kembrey (poor Don only got one more acting part which was in 2010's LA Noire.)
Joe's acting background goes as far back as The Russ Abbott Show in the eighties, he's your typical good guy copper. With that in mind, his moves are less lethal than Hammond's. While Mark breaks the neck of his human shields, Frank will slap the plastic cuffs on them and 'nick 'em.
Carter is likable (even if he is a bit cheesy) and is chasing after the gangster who is blackmailing Hammond, Charlie Jolson. Carter has a bit of history with the Jolsons, at the beginning of the game, he arrests Jake Jolson for shooting his partner at a brothel. Jake becomes present in both Hammond and Carter's storyline and although psychotic becomes quite likable. If you could compare him to any film character it would likely be 'Mr Blonde' from Reservoir Dogs. Carter has his own obstacles like Hammond, as it turns out his Boss is on Charlie Jolson's payroll. The game is not just about shooting and driving, it introduces stealth elements as well. The mechanics aren't great and players will likely have to play through the sneaking levels more than once. The sneaking mechanics really just utilises the shooting mechanics, using cover against walls and avoiding the enemies eye sight. There are no specific stealth controls except those you would use to take a hostage which have you kill or restrain the enemy. The player will have to decide whether or not to use a take down as it may reveal their position later on in the level. These sneaking missions go along the lines of Carter sneaking into Jolson's warehouse or Hammond escaping capture. Don't expect the likes of Metal Gear Solid gameplay, the game is very reality based making these missions difficult. Key enemies tend to be able to take a lot more damage and this adds more of a challenge to the game. Players will find the shoot outs difficult at times and it is always best to utilise cover. Other notable appearances come from hitwoman 'Yasmin' played by Anna Edwards, who switches sides with Hammond after Charlie orders a hit on her. She adds a certain glamour to the action which has a very adult theme anyway due to the topless strippers running around. The gameplay can be frustrating at times but if you can get past that, there is fun to be had here. I paid around £2 for the game, bear in mind its over 10 years old now. It's also pretty short but there is plenty of replay value, personally I wanted to tear up the streets of London more than once. It's a classic title for your collection and the graphics were certainly next generation at the time.