The Getaway: Black Monday Updated Hands-On
We wreak havoc in London as we play through the first 12 missions of this crime-based action sequel.
First released in Europe in 2002, The Getaway was an ambitious crime-based action game set in approximately 25 square miles of a quite accurate re-creation of London. As noted in our review, the title shipped with more than its fair share of problems and probably wasn't helped by some very obvious, though not entirely appropriate, comparisons to the vastly superior Grand Theft Auto series. The good news is that SCEE's London Studio is attempting to address most of the The Getaway's problems in its upcoming sequel The Getaway: Black Monday. We recently discovered this when we got our hands on a work-in-progress version of the game that afforded us access to the first 12 of its 22 missions.
Like the first game, Black Monday will be driven by a story that you will get to experience from the perspectives of multiple characters. You'll get to play as three characters this time around, including a police sergeant named Ben "Mitch" Mitchell; a boxer named Eddie O' Connor; and a 19-year-old hacker named Sam. You'll find that each of the characters, or at least each character's respective missions, actually play quite differently when on foot. Consequently, Mitch goes on missions as part of an armed response unit; Eddie generally lets his fists, or any weapons that he can lay his hands on, do the talking; and Sam relies on stealth to make her ways into areas that are inaccessible to others. Vehicles (including motorcycles) also play a large part in the game, of course, so we're pleased to report thus far that we've found the driving portions of Black Monday far less infuriating than those of the original The Getaway.
If you played The Getaway, you'll remember that driving in London was made difficult by both high volumes of traffic (a prime example of realism being detrimental to gameplay) and your vehicle's turn signals, which indicated the direction of your target as the crow flies, though without any regard for the city's confusing one-way road systems and suchlike. Vehicles were also overly susceptible to damage that would make driving them so difficult that you were left with no option but to jack another one, costing you valuable seconds and perhaps ending your mission completely if you were involved in a pursuit. Thankfully, all these issues are being addressed in Black Monday. As a result, the traffic generally moves along at a pace that London natives can only dream about; your turn signals now work in much the same way as those common to regular in-car navigation systems; and damage sustained by a vehicle has a far less noticeable effect on its handling. The downside, at least in our version of the game, is that the driving missions are now far less challenging, as is the rest of the game, actually.
Why the on-foot portions of Black Monday are easier than those of the first game is difficult to say, especially since leaning up against walls to regain health, and to magically remove unsightly bloodstains from your clothing, no longer guarantees that you'll be as good as new when you step away from them. In other words, if you're at death's door and it looks like you've been swimming in claret, leaning against a wall for a few moments will invariably still leave you with a few stains on your clothing...and perhaps even a limp. If your injuries are ever in serious need of treatment, you'll find that the medical kits scattered sparsely throughout many locations are more effective at healing you than are the walls that they're fixed to, though reaching them can often mean backtracking through whichever of the mostly linear levels you're playing. For the record, we didn't once feel the need to use a medical kit in 12 missions, which is most likely because Mitch and Eddie are both as hard as nails. However, perhaps we didn't feel compelled to use a medical kit because we were able to lean against walls to regain health whenever we wanted to, without feeling any great sense of urgency or danger. The only Sam mission we played was restarted anytime she was spotted, so we're not too sure about her toughness.
Mitch's resilience to bullet wounds can perhaps be explained away by the fact that he wears body armor at all times, though he doesn't wear a helmet like his colleagues do. What's more difficult to account for, however, are the unusual arrest techniques we've been able to employ when playing as him. Ammo in the game is limited, and although you'll automatically pick up any usable weapons dropped by enemies as you walk past them, there will undoubtedly be occasions when your supplies run low, forcing you to arrest bad guys rather than shoot them, particularly if you choose to use the mostly accurate auto-aim feature rather than go for headshots manually. Performing an arrest requires you to do nothing more than get close to your target and hit the circle button, which is an action that works just as well on criminals that are in the process of shooting at you point-blank as it is on those who give themselves up willingly. Of course, getting close to a shotgun-wielding lunatic is easier said than done, right? Wrong. We found that if we repeatedly used Mitch's forward-roll move, we could easily approach just about every enemy that we encountered without sustaining any significant injuries before slapping on the handcuffs and beating him or her to the ground.
The only possible explanation for Eddie's ability to absorb bullets is that he's as hard as they come, plain and simple. When playing as Eddie, you can pick up guns and melee weapons that are dropped by enemies, but you'll find that he can easily drop any enemy you encounter with just one or two punches. We found weapons to be in short supply during most of the Eddie missions, and the lead pipes and nightsticks we actually tried out really weren't much more effective than the boxer's fists.
The single mission we got to play as Sam required us to sneak into a building that we'd previously visited as Mitch, which was surprisingly easy to do despite the high number of cops crawling about the place. The only stealth moves in The Getaway: Black Monday involve backing up against walls and leaning around corners (which all three characters can do) and treading lightly via a stealth mode that is exclusive to Sam. Other skills unique to Sam that we witnessed included some quite acrobatic jumps and an ability to crawl through small spaces. If all Sam's levels play out in much the same way, they should make for welcome changes of pace as you progress through the game. Although based on the limited amount of time we've spent playing with her, we'd have to say that we're hoping her levels aren't too numerous or too lengthy.
In addition to the 12 story-driven missions, our work-in-progress version of Black Monday arrived with all the game's unlockable special features already available. We won't reveal what they all are at this time, but suffice it to say that one of them is a free-roam gameplay option that lets you explore London at your leisure. You can then, perhaps, check out some of the game's 17 new locations, which include rooftops and a quite superb underground station. The city definitely looks a little better now than it did in the original game, but the level of detail is inconsistent at best. Accordingly, major landmarks, such as the Tower Bridge, look great, but it's clear that the level of care and attention paid to these areas is the exception rather than the rule.
When all is said and done, The Getaway: Black Monday looks like it'll improve upon its predecessor in many ways, and not because of all-new content, but because it's looking to correct a lot of the first offering's flaws. Whether the game ends up being too easy or even any good remains to be seen, but right now we're interested in finding out how the storyline pans out, which must be a good sign.
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