A bland and repetitious action game crippled by poor artificial intelligence and unresponsive controls.

User Rating: 6.2 | The Getaway: Black Monday PS2
“Cinematic” is a term often used to describe some recent high-quality games, from Half-Life 2 to Resident Evil 4. Certainly, weaving an impressive narrative into the gameplay is a surefire way to immerse the player in the complete gaming experience – provided the gameplay can live up to any lofty expectations the story presentation provides. Soho actually looked to a knowledgeable mentor: Rockstar's Grand Theft Auto series, itself a pinnacle of gameplay expertise combined with a gritty, engaging plot. If The Getaway: Black Monday could have translated an often brilliant production to similarly substantial gameplay, the game could have proved as interesting as its illustrious inspiration. However, buried behind the amazing cutscenes and tense British melodrama is a bland and repetitious action game crippled by poor artificial intelligence, unresponsive controls, and a unique ability to hinder your actions in any way imaginable. Black Monday weaves the stories of three different characters in ways that are both fascinating and diluted in turn. As Ben Mitchell (Mitch), the stone-faced London cop, you can arrest adversaries when not shooting them; vitriolic boxer Eddie has a chip on his shoulder; and codependent thief Sam has a bone or two to pick herself. All three of them find themselves embroiled in the drama of Latvian mobsters who have kidnapped a well-known journalist. The story is told in a remarkably cohesive manner with cinematic, evocative cutscenes, and even if the narrative seems a bit convoluted for its own good, it evokes the reckless, grungy underworld of industrial London's east side. The characters are real and palpable, and you will find yourself drawn to these damaged antiheroes, with their mature dialogue and surprisingly droll humor. In fact, the story is the only reason to take a cursory look at Black Monday, since it is the title's single saving grace. When it's time to actually play as these riveting folks, the game's appeal takes a decided turn for the worst. As copper Mitch, you have only two weapons available to you: a handgun and a rifle. The rifle is decent enough, but should you get low on ammo, you're effectively down for the count, since for some odd reason, you can't get weapons or ammo off the corpses you leave in your wake. While there are some interesting firefight concepts involved, playing as Mitch isn't all that exciting – partially because the limited, handicapped camera is incredibly annoying, and partially because his special “ability” to arrest wrongdoers makes the firefights laughably obsolete in its bizarre implementation. Mitch can arrest any criminal with the circle button, and voila: he violently pulls them into custody while their comrades in crime watch without concern, apparently more worried about making their mental grocery lists than helping a friend in need. Expect similar enemy AI throughout the game: your foes are often asleep at the job, so Black Monday's difficulty is due more to cheap traps or controller fumbling than to any true challenge. Enemies will stand around doing nothing, jump into the line of fire, or jump in front of your speeding vehicle for nothing more than the acrobatic thrill. Things pick up a tad when playing as Eddie, who can use his fists pretty effectively, and even dual wield weapons that his opponents drop. The action is more fully implemented here, if one could call it that. However, this is where the game's controls become painfully discouraging, as you can only rotate the camera a small distance around you. If the action were more measured, the system may have worked, but when confronted with a flurry of enemies, it's frustrating at best to fall victim to them because you couldn't turn around fast enough to see what was happening. Sam's terrible stealth missions are similarly half-empty, since she can slip past some enemies in plain view unnoticed – just before she falls victim to legions of enemies come filing out of the woodwork because a single gangster a mile away caught a glimpse of her. The trial-and-error contrivance feels cheap and unnecessary, and plays as ridiculous as it sounds. It would have been easier to overlook the half-baked on-foot portions if driving were more fun, or even if London were jam packed with the kind of urban details we expect to see in a GTA title, or other free-roam titles like True Crime or Spiderman 2. Sadly, driving is just as clunky and unpolished. Not only does the city not feature much to look at or do, but vehicle missions are not nearly as frequent. Getting around is easy enough, with the vehicle's turn signal flashing the way and a helpful map available to you in the game's menu. Car control isn't bad, although the controls still feel almost as sluggish as those on foot. The apparent geometry of the environments is an issue, though: just grinding against the corner of a building can bring you to a halt. If you like the driving portions, you can always try the racing mode, or if the unexciting, sparsely populated representation of London appeals to you, you can always try out free-roam mode. A couple of other single-player modes are available outside of the main campaign, but really, there's simply no point, and they don't do much to add to the 10-hour campaign. Obviously, the true star of Black Monday is its cutscenes, and they are amongst the best the medium has to offer, both in their quality and the manner in which they propel the story forward. In-game, however, the “living environments” we have gotten used to in other titles are absurdly absent. London is seemingly devoid of both vehicular and pedestrian traffic, but that may be because there just isn't much to see: buildings are cookie-cutter polygons, badly textured and as bland as English teacakes. On the other hand, facial animations are quite good, as are most character animations – apart from a few of Sam's, who might induce a few giggles here and there when she enters stealth mode. Black Monday's audio is just as outstanding as its cutscenes and narrative thread. Sound effects are competent, but it’s in the voice acting where the game shines. Dialogue is real, mature, and well acted, which goes a long way towards making us care about three generally unlikable characters. Never has a Cockney accent sounded this good, or so disturbing. The pounding, electronic music is also quite commendable, and keeps your pulse racing even when the gameplay falls flat. With so many superior games on the market, there aren't many compelling reasons to recommend The Getaway: Black Monday. Its fantastic story and surprisingly good sound are just not enough to make up for missing gameplay elements and a short campaign, so if you want a good violent romp around London, replaying GTA2 is probably a better option. Unless the subject matter appeals to you, there's no reason to even give Black Monday a second thought.