Sony's Soho Studios have been developing The Getaway for what seems like a life-time now, and after numerous delays the final release date came as a great relief when it was announced back at ECTS earlier this year.
There's no doubting that the amount of work put in to The Getaway is stunning, and it's clear that the team have gone to amazing lengths to ensure that both storyline and gameplay mesh together well to provide a movie-esque feel to the game.
After a quick intro scene showing a group of gangsters kidnapping a child and shooting his mother, you're plunged in to the gameplay, and have to drive across London to a narrow Southwark street where the getaway car has driven to.
It's during the driving scene that you'll notice the first thing that you'll notice there's no on-screen display - no map, no health bars, no time limit - and it actually works suprisingly well. The direction that you need to head is given to you in the form of your vehicles indicator lights flashing in the way you need to turn.
Other clever touches that allow you to gauge your health and car damage include the fact that when your character starts to walk slowly and look in pain clutching his body, then he's been shot or injured and needs to rest against a wall. Cars become slower, and smoke starts to plume from the engine, and generally control of the vehicle becomes less than useful at high speeds.
The area of London covered by The Getaway is huge, and covers right up to the Westbourne Parkway near Paddington, and across the northern edge of the map past Euston and Kings Cross stations, before heading east and over the Thames at tower bridge, where you find yourself on the Southbank around the Waterloo area. The South West of the city has the Royal Parks and Buckingham Palace, all perfectly recreated and very lifelike.
Road markings, traffic lights, one way streets, underpasses, yellow and red double yellow lines, bus lanes, bridges, petrol stations, tube stations, zebra and pelican crossings, and everything except for speed bumps and Gatso cameras appear to be present, and the level of detail on the buildings goes from the major high street stores right down to tiny shops and businesses tucked away down narrow streets - this is attention to detail at the ultimate level.
The selection of vehicles is nothing sort of amazing, and if they're not the official licensed cars, then they certainly look the part, and are more than adequate, with a choice of transit vans, Fed-ex, Royal Mail, Initial Citylink, lorries, single decker busses, routemaster double decker busses, ambulances, Fiat Punto, Nissan Micra, Vauxhalls, Rovers, sports cars, along with what appears to be half of the Metropolitan police force in panda cars, traffic cars and vans.
Other traffic and pedestrians also react to your less than desirable driving skills, with some very stereotypical Cockney accents shouting at you, such as "Oi you can't do that!", "Stop! I need your details" when you hit in to another car, "get off the road you idiot" and numerous of other phrases, although before very long they get quite repetitive.
What does let down The Getaway is the shooting and fighting, which seems unnecessarily tricky - even more so when you consider that there's no on screen guide to your level of health, and no way to see where your gun is aiming. Camera angles also seem less than ideal, with you often having to back up against a wall to see where you want to look - not good when there's a bunch of burly yardie's closing down on you from the other side of a doorway!
The plot is fairly impressive, and seems to fit well with the overall feel of the game, although it seems very linear - there's no choice of what to do next, and it would have been nice to have some mini side-challenges or objectives which could have provided for some extra variation in the storyline.
Despite all the development time that The Getaway has had spent on it, there's still a few aspects which make you wonder if they could have maybe spent a bit longer - on a number of occasions through out the game there's aspects that don't quite feel right, be it the camera angles, gun shooting method, or simply that some of the textures look of a lesser quality to others - our review code copy also had a few glitches including a giant sized person walking outside Borough tube station, and appeared to lock up trying to take one of the doubledecker busses.
The Getaway is a very impressive title and is one that every PS2 owner should have in their collection, with the driving aspect of the game proving to be enjoyable enough on it's own, and the sort of thing that Londoners and foreign tourists would really appreciated on it's own. However a few imperfections and frustrating aspects let down the overall gameplay and take the shine off of an otherwise perfect game which provides a good alternative to Grand Theft Auto.Overall score: 8 out of 10
Recommended Price: £39.99
Available: NowBuy The Getaway for PlayStation 2 from Amazon