The Getaway: Black Monday Review
There are just too many design flaws and annoying little glitches in Black Monday to recommend it.
- Another intriguing but slightly uneven story with plenty of unique characters
- Brilliant dialogue and voice acting
- A few of the major issues with the first game's gameplay have been addressed.
- Clunky and mostly uninteresting combat
- The stealth portions of the game are dull as a brick
- Two years later, the graphics engine looks a whole lot less impressive
- Spotty enemy AI, especially during the stealth missions
- Frequent glitches and a lack of overall polish.
In the two years that have passed since Sony released The Getaway--the company's first-party crime-drama action game that appeared on store shelves in 2003 in a rather unpolished state--many similarly "cinematic" action games have followed. And, unlike The Getaway, some of them have managed to get the concept right. So, it is with more than a little confusion that we find ourselves with The Getaway: Black Monday, a game so utterly devoted to the same flawed concepts as its predecessor that it might as well be the same game with a new story. Sure, SCEE Studio London and Team SoHo have fixed some of the superficial issues with the first game, but there are still a number of silly holdover problems in the sequel, as well as a bevy of new issues on top of everything else.
Interestingly enough, Black Monday, despite being billed as a proper sequel to the original game, actually has nothing to do with The Getaway from a storyline perspective. There are three main players in this story, each of whom has his or her own playable section and unique plot twists. You start out the game as a cop by the name of Ben Mitchell. Sergeant Mitchell is a fairly morose fellow who, as we are shown in the opening cutscene, is suspended from the police force after shooting a young perp in the back. Upon his return from suspension two years later, Mitchell is met with little more than trepidation and vitriol from his former police brethren. Later in the game, you take on the role of Eddie O'Connor, a boxer who now works as hired muscle and, when we meet him, a bank robber. Eddie is similarly rough-and-ready, though he's obviously on the other side of the law. Finally, you'll also find yourself playing as a young girl (and crook) named Sam, who ties into Eddie's sections of the story quite heavily.
The overlying story of the game isn't the easiest thing in the world to decipher. You start out as Mitchell, busting up a group of Latvian mobsters in the London underworld, and investigating the kidnapping of a prominent reporter. Once you've gotten into his story, the game abruptly shifts its focus to Eddie, who is evidently involved in some sort of major heist with a crew of misfits from his local boxing gym. Sam, the young girl, is a part of this crew, which is how she eventually enters the picture. Explaining where all this goes and how it all ties together would perhaps be delving a bit too deep into the realm of spoilers, though even if we wanted to lay out the whole plot for you, we probably couldn't. While the stories of the main characters are fairly straightforward, what exactly is going on in the background with all the Latvian gang members and heists never really becomes clear.
Part of this is because Black Monday, like its predecessor, is filled to the brim with nearly impenetrable British dialogue, including all kinds of cursing, region-specific slang, and accents you couldn't cut through with a burning knife. This isn't a bad thing by any means--in fact, it lends a certain amount of authenticity to the proceedings. All the characters are brilliantly voiced by the actors, and all the dialogue is completely believable. The problem is that the narrative doesn't ever find a way to give you a clear picture of the whole story. Some of this is obfuscation for the sake of drama, but other times it seems like the script skips over key pieces of info, or just buries them too deeply underneath all the slang and cursing to ever make sense to anyone who isn't from the East End.
While the story has its issues, the gameplay is where Black Monday truly falls apart. All three characters have distinct styles of gameplay, though none of the three mesh together in any particularly cohesive fashion. Mitchell's sections of the game play very much like a conventional shooter, but with a limited array of weapons. The one unique thing Mitchell can do is arrest the crooks he comes across. The silly thing about this, though, is that you can pretty much just run up to a guy and arrest him with a single button press. The bad guy puts up no fight, and other crooks will actually stop shooting while you're doing this, giving you a nice respite from oncoming fire. Awfully nice of them, eh?
Mitchell's sections of the game aren't very exciting, and his character is mostly unlikable. Fortunately, things pick up a bit once you shift over to Eddie's story. Though Eddie and Mitchell play similarly, Eddie is given more abilities, and he's actually a more sympathetic character than his cop counterpart. Eddie tends to pick up more weapons, ranging from various types of firearms to blunt objects like bats. Also, since Eddie is a boxer, he's not above getting into fisticuffs with any thug who gets in his way. Unfortunately, there isn't much variety in the combat, and Eddie's attacks simply boil down to throwing the same couple of punches over and over again. Thankfully, the gun-combat portions of Eddie's story are mostly pretty good, as the game tends to throw a lot of enemies at you, and even lets Eddie dual-wield certain guns, making for some very cool action sequences.
However, there is one gigantic fault in Eddie's story, and it lies in the sections that feature Sam as the playable character. Sam herself is inoffensive, but her missions are all horrible. She has no attacks whatsoever, so all her missions involve pure, unadulterated stealth of the most rudimentary and periodically broken kind. Pressing the circle button will send Sam into a "stealth mode" that uses one of the most ridiculous sneaking animations ever. It's downright cartoonish, actually. Anyway, once you're in stealth mode, you'll be undetectable to any enemies you encounter, so long as you don't get in their line of sight. This is interesting because enemies during these missions rarely ever move. There are no real patrol paths, so you can just crawl up right behind an enemy and he'll never notice. But if he catches even a glimpse of you from 100 feet away, you're toast, because then every single enemy in the building will come after you.