Marc Ecko's Getting Up: Contents Under Pressure E3 2005 Preshow Report
We get a look at the upcoming third-person action game from Atari and the Collective in motion.
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Marc Ecko's Getting Up: Contents Under Pressure is arguably one of the most intriguing games on the horizon this year. While it would be easy to chalk this up to the involvement of entrepreneur Ecko, a self-made mogul who's head of one of the most successful fashion companies around, that's actually not the main reason we've been interested in this unique title. What has appealed to us the most about this upcoming third-person action game from the Collective and publisher Atari is the promise of something new. Ever since the game's trailer first hit, we've been charmed by its ambitious mix of urban culture, graffiti, and action gameplay. The combination of Ecko's lofty aspirations and the Collective's experience as a console developer has certainly left us eager to see just how the game is going to come together. We got our first hints of what the game is going to offer at Atari's recent pre-E3 event, where we finally got to see the game in motion. Did the game live up to expectations? Read on.
For those who haven't followed Getting Up, here's a quick primer. The game was first announced last May just prior to E3 2004 and is set in the near future. You're cast as an up-and-coming graffiti artist named Trane, who must make his name on the streets of a city called New Radius. The fictional metropolis is an eye-catching patchwork of elements of New York and Japan, and it offers a rich playground to explore. The plot starts out being focused pretty heavily on Trane and his needs, but it soon takes on a much larger scope as Trane stumbles on a government conspiracy that endangers all graffiti artists. You wind up being sent on a unique adventure that casts you as an unlikely hero for the denizens of New Radius.
The demo of Getting Up by Atari reps and Ecko showed off two areas--one set on and around one of the city's freeways and another set on a subway train--which yielded a sampling of the diverse gameplay being packed into the unique adventure. At its most basic, Getting Up is an objective-based third-person action game that sends you out to explore New Radius. Your goals will range from simply tagging certain objects in the world to facing off against rival graffiti artists or a dangerous assortment of law enforcement.
The first area we saw, which opened with Trane being led through the level by one of his homeys, was a densely packed showcase for Getting Up's gameplay. The level began with Trane making his way across a busy freeway, avoiding a crowd of fast-moving cars that would squash him like a bug if he weren't careful. Once on the other side of the street, Trane faced off against a rival tagger who felt the need to throw down with the young hero, which offered a good teaser for the combat in the game. The fight was straightforward enough; Trane dispatched the threat with a good mix of punches, kicks, and a well-timed throw. The combat appears to make good use of the Collective's experience with fighting mechanics that have been honed in such games as Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Indiana Jones and the Emperor's Tomb. Following that brief brawl, Trane continued playing follow the leader and nimbly scaled a series of pipes up to a new area. The climbing sequence, which was repeated several times during our demo as Trane made his way through the area, was more than just the typical climbing sequence you'd find in an action game. Besides the obvious Prince of Persia-style jumping, gripping, and shimmying, Getting Up's gameplay will let you tag just about anything as you make your way around. But we'll touch on the game's tagging mechanic shortly.
Once Trane reached a new segment of the highway, a few things of note were going on. A government worker could be seen painting over graffiti, and a rival crew could be seen hanging around, just asking for a beat down. The unique aspect of the encounter was the threat posed by multiple opponents. Fortunately Trane's moves are flexible enough to deal with being outnumbered, as you'll be able to pick up anything that's handy, such as car batteries, lead pipes, or cinder blocks, to give your blows that extra oomph. Once the competition had been dealt with and Trane had avoided a police helicopter by hiding behind a billboard, the level ended when Trane tagged his main objective in the area.
Tag, You're ItThe tagging mechanic in Getting Up is an accessible but flexible system that's easy to use but tough to master. You'll have access to a diverse set of graffiti tools that you'll be able to select from on the fly once you've earned them. You'll be able to choose from quick tags such as stickers and stencils to more involved pieces that require you to use aerosol, rollers, markers, or unique types of paint, such as wheat paste.
Your tagging skills will evolve over the course of the adventure once you begin meeting the graffiti legends peppered throughout the game. When you encounter one of these Jedi masters you'll be taught new skills and art that you'll file away in your black book, a graffiti artist's bible. The painting mechanic itself is accomplished by using the analog sticks on the PlayStation 2 controller. Unlike in Sega's Jet Grind or Jet Set Radio games, you won't have to follow onscreen controller prompts to lay down your tag. Instead, you'll be required to move the sticks in a figure-eight motion with a steady hand until you're done. How well you do this will determine how sharp your work ends up looking. If you flub the motion, you'll see imperfections in your piece, and if you lay the paint on too thick, you'll see drips that will mar your masterpiece. Of course laying the paint on too thinly isn't really an option either, as no one likes an anemic tag.
As for the types of tags you'll be laying down, Ecko and company have opted to pack in scores of tags in all shapes and sizes for you to unlock and use over the course of the game. In discussing the tagging mechanic with Ecko and Atari reps on hand, we were pleased to hear about a number of little touches that are being put into the game. You'll be able to target one of three heights to tag--high, medium, and low--when you're going about your business. An even more-subtle touch is the evolution of Trane's work as the game progresses. As we mentioned, Trane's quest will eventually go beyond his own personal goals and extend to something that touches all the residents of New Radius. As a result, expect to see the art he lays down reflect this new social consciousness. Where you lay down your tags will be guided by Trane's intuition--a first-person vision mode you can switch to that shows all potential tagging spots around. This handy view also color-codes them, delineating between mission-critical and optional tag spots that will give you some options in what you do. To progress through the game's story you'll only have to hit your mission-critical tags, but if you want to earn a legendary rep, you'll have to hit everything you can.
While the freeway level showed off some of the static spots you'll be able to tag, the subway level was a good primer on some of the more hazardous places Trane will have to lay down his work. The short subway segment found the fledgling tagger maneuvering around a moving train as it tore through tunnels at high speed. You'll need to drop down on either side of the train and get some work done, while avoiding the odd protrusion from the walls as the train moves. The biggest trouble is when you're on top of the train and low-hanging lights come careening your way.
The visuals in both areas we saw were shaping up well. The highway area featured a good helping of moving traffic at street level and plenty to see in the areas high above the traffic. The higher areas offered a good view of the city at night and gave a good sense of scale. From a performance standpoint, despite being a work in progress, the game moved along at a good clip.
The audio in the version of the game we played was placeholder and wasn't representative of the ambitious mix of tunes slated to be included in the game. The current plan is to have licensed music and original tracks blended together to offer a strong complement to the unique gameplay.
While the two levels we saw amounted to a fraction of the experience offered by Getting Up's 11 chapters, we're intrigued by the look of the visuals and the gameplay. If the game can offer a good amount of variety and live up to its premise, then all will be well. Look for more on the game at E3 and in the months to come. Marc Ecko's Getting Up: Contents Under Pressure is currently slated to ship this fall for the PlayStation 2.