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The Getaway (PlayStation 2) artwork

The Getaway (PlayStation 2) review


"Multiple accidents and numerous carjackings later, you’ll find the gang’s hideaway. There you have to kill everybody while seeking the child’s location. Accomplish this and you’ll be rewarded with another lengthy cut scene where you learn that Mark is in way over his head. Blackmailed by Bethnal Green boss, Charlie Jolson, and his henchmen, Hammond is forced to obey the man’s every whim or else lose his boy forever."



Somewhere along the line, someone decided it would be a good idea to make a game in which it would be perfectly OK to slaughter your fellow man, jack random vehicles, and possess the freedom to act as heinously as possible whenever and wherever you liked. This person also decided it’d be a good idea to totally forego any sort of plot whatsoever, allowing the player a choice on whether he or she followed it or simply rampaged through the city.

That game was Grand Theft Auto, and its success launched a plethora of similar titles, many of which failing to achieve the same level of “greatness” as their extremely popular counterpart.

The Getaway is one of these.

Unlike GTA, however, The Getaway is cinematic and linear. And it also takes place in London – a city where firearms are illegal, gun crime is rare, and gang activity is sporadic and largely unorganized. Remember that.

Mark Hammond, a convicted bank robber and former Collins’ Gang member, has done away with his criminal lifestyle, choosing instead to live peacefully with his family. Yet his new lease on life is shattered just a few months after serving his sentence, as we learn from an extensive opening sequence. As his wife leaves home with their son, Alex, the two are intercepted just outside the door by a group of gangsters. In a bizarre kidnapping fiasco, the wife is shot and the criminals are forced to take the kid only, leaving the weapons behind before escaping in their shiny red car.

All the commotion wakes Mark, who quickly dashes to his dying wife, stupidly handles the weapons lying beside her, and cradles her as she utters her final words: an obvious order to get their son back. Fortunately, there’s another car conveniently parked just across the street, which he steals in order to track Alex’s kidnappers.

So begins your first mission. Multiple accidents and numerous carjackings later, you’ll find the gang’s hideaway. There you have to kill everybody while seeking the child’s location. Accomplish this and you’ll be rewarded with another lengthy cut scene where you learn that Mark is in way over his head. Blackmailed by Bethnal Green boss, Charlie Jolson, and his henchmen, Hammond is forced to obey the man’s every whim or else lose his boy forever. So with no real choice in the matter, the former crook fulfills every wish on Charlie’s list.

Shooting up your former gang’s restaurant is just the first. The conspiring madman will have you deliver the dead body of a tortured Chinese to his fellow Triad gang members in Chinatown, then lead the lot of them to the Jamaican-themed Yardie gang’s hideout, starting a massive gang war between the two. He’ll even have you facing off against the cops as you not only free Charlie’s son, Jake, by ramming the police van carrying him, but also sneaking into the police station in order to assassinate the head of the Flying Squad, a specially trained police unit. Whatever Charlie’s purpose is, it’s definitely ruining Mark’s reputation.

Of course, none of this is easy. Most motorized segments are timed or require that you tail a specific vehicle, halting any attempt to drive safely. Consider also the dodgy controls and shaky attempts at realism, and you’ll soon be wondering if you’ll ever make it to your destination. Turning at high velocities results in massive spinouts, creating much disorientation as you try to angle your vehicle into the proper lane again. High-speed crashes often wreck perfectly undamaged cars, compelling you to jack another before your current one bursts into flame. Police cruisers chase you for every infraction, trying to hinder your progress via ramming, flanking, or spike strips. Gang cars try to knock you off the road, shooting at you through passenger windows just for stepping into their territory. All these impediments lead to multiple frustrating defeats.

But soon you learn to slow down before turning, leading to much smoother transitions. You learn to deal with damaged vehicles, mastering the skills necessary to drive with a flat tire or smoking engine, stealing another car only when yours has been rendered inoperable. You know how to weave through traffic in such a manner as to get the police off your back, or else just get out of your car and kill them, taking their vastly superior cruisers. You handle the gangs in a similar fashion, eliminating a deadly threat.

Things are much easier now. But it’s still not enough. You still have to wend your way through streets choked with asshole drivers too concerned with following the law and insulting you every time you cut them off. So you still crash a lot. And you still have to steal plenty of other cars. Your time still runs out two blocks from your destination.

Manage to get through the driving without throwing your controller at your TV, however, and you’ll be rewarded with the honorable opportunity to kill a lot of people. Hammond already carries a pistol. And for some reason, so does everyone else, with some variation. Handguns are most common, but some carry crippling shotguns or devastating AK-47s, which you can pick up upon their death, allowing you to kill on an even more massive scale.

You’d best pay attention to Mark, however; he can get injured, too. There’s no health bar, but he’ll gladly tell you how injured he is. Wounds visibly appear along his crisp, expensive-looking suit. And if he gets hit enough, he’ll start wheezing, limping or holding his side – a sign that he’s about one shot away from death. Fortunately, with such a “realistic” approach, healing is easy. Just lean up against a wall. Any wall will do, as long as it’s not obstructed. Within a few moments, the bloodstains will magically vanish, and Hammond will be healthy again. Then you’re free to continue your killing spree.

Gunning down scores of hostile gangbangers is the most fun and least frustrating aspect of a level. But not all of your ground missions involve rampant violence. Some require stealth. Sneaking around is entirely within your control, but that doesn’t make it any less difficult. The game’s over-reactive camera will see you disoriented within seconds or traveling in the wrong direction. Trying to hide behind that crate proves impossible when the slightest turn sends the camera facing 90 degrees too far. It’s definitely a sure-fire way to get caught. Your only consolation is your opposition; it’s often rather stupid. Enemies habitually stand in one place, unmoving, just waiting to have their necks broken, victims of a silent assassin.

Tough through Mark’s story, however, and you’ll be allowed to torture yourself with an equally difficult overlapping tale involving Flying Squad member Frank Carter, hell-bent on bagging the Jolsons. Though he’s a cop and doesn’t have to deal with his brothers breathing down his neck, his missions are still rough. Driving often involves ridiculous time restraints that take hours to finally tackle. And there are enough stealth missions to keep temples throbbing into next Tuesday, but once his are done, you’ll be rewarded with something fairly unique.

Free roaming is the one place where you can do anything you want, with little consequence. If killing innocent bystanders strikes your fancy, go for it. The cops will hardly care, and the ones that do are easy to take out. But there are so many more worthwhile things to do there. Finding every secret vehicle is quite a challenge, but totally worth it if you know where to look. There’s even a tank! With it, you can blast every car in front of you into smoldering piles of steel and ash, smirking as their trapped occupants catch fire, unable to get out in time. Alternatively, you can drive nicely and just enjoy the sights. Roughly 40 square kilometers of London was recreated for this game, an amazing feat if I ever saw one. I found the Houses of Parliament. Then I drove through Hyde Park in a secret pick-up truck and ran over enough people to land me an eternity in Hell. It’s the most fun I had with the entire game.

Rating: 6/10

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Featured community review by wolfqueen001 (July 14, 2008)

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