When you look back at the PlayStation 2 era, one trilogy of games will always stick out; the Grand Theft Auto games. With their (at the time) huge open worlds and sandbox gameplay, they were hugely successful. As such, it should come as no surprise that a mass of clone games were released, just as they were when the original Doom came out.
With utter tripe like Crime Life: Gang Wars being released, these clones quickly got a bad reputation. Then came The Getaway. Set in London, this open world, story driven game was very similar to Grand Theft Auto. But did it manage to stand on its own?
The Getaway actually has two storylines going on; the tale of Mark Hammond, an ex gang member trying to get his son back, and DC Frank Carter, who is determined to take down the Jolson gang. Both stories actually take place at the same time, meaning the two lead characters do interact with each other on a number of occasions.
You play through Hammond’s storyline first, which is emotionally gripping but also very down to earth. This is also true for Carter’s plot, but it does feel less emotionally engaging.
But that is actually one of the selling points of the game, and something that makes The Getaway very different from the Grand Theft Auto games. Whilst GTA is designed to be mockery of the real world, The Getaway chooses to be a replica of it. Therefore, everything is toned down (for most part) compared to the skydiving between planes of GTA.
It is this realism in the story that really makes The Getaway a truly gripping game that won’t let you forget about it, or put it down.
However, this also means that The Getaway isn’t a game for everyone. If you like over the top action like the Call of Duty games, or tidal waves of humour like Grand Theft Auto, then you will be disappointed by The Getaway. The story doesn’t involve mass destruction or passing out fliers for porn movies in a plane so that your studio can earn more money. It also is far more linear than most open world games.
The Getaway mixes the typical linear single player campaign with the large open world, and it does it really well whilst remaining realistic in terms of the events and characters.
Even the dialogue sounds realistic and wouldn’t be out of place in London in the late 90s and early 2000s. In fact, in some parts of London people still talk in the same way as the characters do in The Getaway.
As with the storyline, The Getaway’s graphics focuses on a much more realistic game world than the likes of Grand Theft Auto, with the characters being modeled with genuine features. The developers even went as far as to get licenses to use real life cars within the game, rather than satirical version of them. This, along with a very close copy of London (albeit scaled down) means that the graphics of The Getaway only add to the immersion built by the storyline.
In fact, as someone who lives in the United Kingdom, I can say with 100% certainty that the developers even managed to get the grey, dull weather of the country spot on.
However, despite this attention to realism, the graphics felt rather dated even at release, with the blurred textures on the walls and buildings, the lack of detail on clothing (even for the PS2 era) and the box-like edges to some of the cars.
If anything was going to let The Getaway down, it would be the graphics. But don’t get me wrong, they’re not awful. They just felt like a PlayStation 2 launch title, rather than graphics for a game that came out 2 years into the life cycle of the console.
The animations feel somewhat robotic, especially the running animation of the main characters when you’re holding a weapon. Flame textures also feel rather flat, fitting a 2D side scrolling game better than an open world 3D adventure. The redraw rate of the world is quite close, so if you look into the distance, the world just seems to disappear, as you can see in the shot above.
Considering how amazing the game’s storyline is, it is a shame that the graphics don’t quite match up. They are still very good compared to other similar games, but fall short of the high level of quality that the storyline, voice acting and down to earth setting create.
Building The Getaway back up again is the gameplay, which is definitely one the strongest aspects of the game. As with everything else in The Getaway, the gameplay is gounded in realty. There are no minimaps or HUDs in this game whatsoever! You tell how injured you are by how much blood appears on your clothing and how well Hammond or Carter are able to stand and walk.
Navigating the city without a minimap might also sound really annoying, but the developers were really clever in how they implemented their guide system. Rather than a GPS or a huge arrow floating above you, the game relies on the cars you are driving. As you make your way around the city, you’ll notice that your car’s indicator lights will turn on – this is the game telling you that you need to take the next turning.
Add to this the fact that you can only carry one gun at a time, and you only have a limited amount of ammunition (rather than carrying 999 handgun rounds, 10 rockets and a bunch of machine gun clips), and you have a very clear screen to enjoy the game through.
This lack of ammunition also adds to the tension of each gunfight, as you have to keep track of your shots or risk running out of ammo entirely. If that does happen, you’ll need to find a new gun on the bodies of your enemies, throwing away the one you already have.
Another way that the developers managed to create a more realistic game whilst also distancing themselves from Grand Theft Auto was in the way cars get ruined. Rather than have the cars randomly explode of taking too many bumps or bullets, the developers of The Getaway decided to simply have them burst into flames.
There also aren’t any health packs spinning around in the air for you to pick up, nor can Hammond or Carter just get into a plane and instantly be able to fly it. Health is regenerated by learning against a wall whilst in a safe area, and vehicles are limited to cars and vans.
However, as with the storyline, this determination on behalf of the developers to completely ground The Getaway in reality will turn a lot of people off. The Getaway is almost a British crime/police simulator in many ways, rather than being a pick up and play arcade style game like Grand Theft Auto. This can be a massive turn off for many, but it is also what makes the game an amazing piece of gaming history that should not be overlooked!
The biggest negative to the gameplay, however, is that when playing the main storyline you are very much told where to go, and have to do it. This is th linear storyline aspect coming into play. In order to have access to the true open world gameplay, you need to play “Free Roam” mode, which turns off the storyline in exchange for open gameplay. However, don’t expect Grand Theft Auto levels of extras. There aren’t any bowling alleys and poker games that you can play in The Getaway. In fact, personally, I largely ignored Free Roam mode as I found that it was rather pointless.
Stick to the storyline, and you’ll thoroughly enjoy this amazing game!
And That’s All Folks
Despite being a (somewhat) open world game, The Getaway thoroughly separates itself from other similar games by completely grounding itself in realism. Whilst this may turn away a lot of people, it actually makes for one of the most memorable games I’ve ever played.
This is one game that you really don’t want to overlook as, even with the dated graphics, it feels like a masterpiece of gaming history, and is one of most engaging and immersive games on the PlayStation 2.