By guest reviewer: Dan
Jellied eels, rhyming slang, mayor Ken Livingstone - all very valid reasons to avoid the real-life London. However, when Sony's Team Soho finally released The Getaway it was largely well-received, offering an enormous lifelike London with all the major landmarks and streets recreated to a great degree of detail.
Black Monday is set a few years ahead of the original, with an entirely new storyline and range of characters fighting for control of the nation's capital. Throughout the game you switch between controlling three characters, a troubled SO19 cop by the name of Mitch, moonlighting boxer/gangster Eddie and finally the young, agile and female Sam.
In the original game the two characters you switched between had different goals, and were largely similar to control, but things are somewhat different in Black Monday - Mitch has smoke grenades at his disposal and the ability to arrest suspects rather than kill. Eddie is a thug at heart and prefers to give people a good kicking, whilst Sam doesn't possess any means of killing and instead relies entirely on stealth - and this is where the problems begin.
Violent shootouts were one of the major highlights of the first game, with a simple yet capable system (once you got used to it) allowing you to shoot over objects and around corners. They were very well-paced and the envy of many similar games which couldn't manage to reproduce this feel.
Shootouts remain in Black Monday, however they have been reduced in amount to make way for Sam's stealth sections, which involve creeping around and climbing to hide out of sight. With the onslaught of similar games revolving around this theme, they feel a weak and pointless addition to a series renowned for non-stop action. The shootouts that remain also tend to rely too heavily on obvious set pieces which reduce the replay value tenfold.
A big part of the game is still driving, which unforgivably remains a mixed bag. Team Soho promised an improved handling system for the sequel, which in part they seem to have managed, but not without ruining the best parts of the original handling - previously handling became wobbly at speed, occasionally misinterpreting a slight turn as full lock on the steering and causing you to lose control.
Commendably, this has been wiped out in Black Monday, but at the same they have ruined the fantastic low-speed handling of the original. Handbrake turns are now a pointless manoeuvre which tends to send your car skating across the road in a 180 turn and tight alleys have now become virtually off-limits due to how soggy the steering is.
Despite this the car selection has been improved to include more kinds of vehicles, with everything from a sporty Lotus Elise to the humble Vauxhall Corsa. A lot of brands from the original appear to be gone on holiday this time around, the most notable being Nissan and Saab, but a good selection of vehicles are still up for grabs by waving your gun at the driver. Bikes appear this time, but bar some reasonably impressive rag doll physics when your character falls off, they're not a fantastic addition.
The plot leads you to a few new locations, but these are few and far between, there isn't too much you haven't seen before and it seems a shame that more locations haven't been added. In addition, the plot doesn't do its best to take advantage of the wide variety of surroundings, with most driving sections being quite linear and restricted.
Black Monday's storyline is still as cinematic this time around, but nowhere near as compelling, with dull characters bar a certain Latvian "John Wayne". The sense of humour is also lost, with the atmosphere feeling more like a particularly violent special of The Bill than an urban crime film.
More new modes have been added to increase replay value, but these are largely a poor addition to the game. Race offers you the opportunity to race with AI cars around the city free of traffic, but just draws attention to the often-weak handling model. Free Roam allows you to explore the city as before, but for owners of the prequel, chances are you've seen everything it has to offer.
Chase mode is more interesting, allowing you to take place in police pursuits and knock enemy cars off the road, but is much too short to hold your interest. The highlight of the extra modes, and the only one really feeling like a worthwhile addition, is Black Cab, where you drive a taxi from A to B picking up passengers and earning fares.
But the most shocking part of Black Monday is how many rough edges remain. Most of the criticism for The Getaway came down to it being buggy and unpolished, but considering how little seems to be added to the sequel, it's unforgivable that it remains as it is. On one occasion when playing, a character became stuck 5 feet below ground and the mission had to be restarted. Minor bugs are everywhere, from characters becoming stuck in scenery to cars disappearing in front of you - if this was a beta it could be forgiven, but for a full price release game it is laughable that the publisher has let it out in such a poor state.
Overall Black Monday isn't the sequel it was hoped to be. Most new additions are poorly-executed or unsuitable for the game, nearly every niggling fault of the original remains and the storyline feels amateurish and boring. Gamers who were reluctant to buy the original will not find enough to sway them here and fans will be unimpressed by how some of the better elements have been altered for the worse. So who is expected to buy this? With the original available for half the price, there seems to be very little reason to recommend it.Overall score: 5 out of 10
Recommended Price: £39.99
Available: NowBuy The Getaway: Black Monday for the PS2 from Amazon