The Getaway: Black Monday

Has Team Soho improved upon the 2002 original with Black Monday - or just ballsed it all up? Our verdict.




Version
PS2
Developer
Sony London Studio
Publisher
SCEE
Genre
Action



By Adam Doree

I enjoyed the original Getaway more than most; while there were unquestionably some control and camera issues, plus inconsistent difficulty, I felt the overall experienced was delivered in a uniquely cinematic, compelling way and the novelty of being able to drive practically anywhere in a city like London was also a bonus.

Of course, with the release of Black Monday two years on, that novelty is not so pronounced - but London still makes an undeniably fitting and occasionally spectacular setting for the game. Whereas before you were pretty much limited to roads and key buildings, this time the mix is expanded with ventures down onto the Underground, as we explore the deepest areas of Holborn tube station in pursuit of criminal scum, as well as scrapyards and sewers, plus a stunning level set on a luxury boat cruising down the River Thames. But not much effort has been made to actually update London in the game; even obvious stuff like Oxford Street's GAME store is still called Electronics Boutique - and there is still a lot of stuff casually missing such as an entire block of retailers on The Strand. Oh well.

London is a perfectly gritty, well-suited backdrop for Black Monday, and the plotline and intertwining character stories are also well realised. Team Soho has made a strong attempt to mix storylines from three key perspectives. But it's more than just Tarantino-style mixing of narrative; it also affects the way the game unfolds, albeit marginally, as key decisions made during the game will affect the game's levels and the ending as well.

Black Monday takes place over a 48-hour period, and starts of from perspective of Sergeant Mitchell, a seasoned firearms cop with emotional baggage thanks to a moment in his career he'd rather forget. He's straight-down-the-line, and even the loveliest of ladies can't put a smile on his face. Meanwhile, Eddie O'Connor is a boxing connoisseur from the east, and is caught up in an ill-fated bank robbery that leads into an entire Pandora's box of European crime about to ensue. The third perspective is that of Sam, a young girl introduced to Eddie near the start of the game, who specialises in computer hacking and a spot of thieving.

The way that the three perspectives intertwine and meet at key plot points, with the player in control of all stories, actually works very well and keeps things interesting throughout. The voice acting is superb, and the script is not too bad either, giving a rounded film-like quality that props up the overall experience. The fact that this is probably the most colourful game we've ever played in terms of language also provides a few laughs, while ultimately adding to the authenticity. Mitch's story is about finding himself, Eddie's is all about revenge. The major league criminals keep the stakes high and wildcard characters such as one kidnapped journalist also keep you guessing - so there's plenty of substance here.

However, the characters never really develop, and not one of the varying perspectives is completed in a satisfying way, even though all stories connect at both of the game's two endings. The endings themselves are also way too abrupt with almost no closure on any of the personal themes raised during the game, and it's as if all the voice actors started asking for more money and walked by the end of it - there's basically no speech in the final scenes, despite the fact we were expecting some kind of comfortable conclusion.

There is also a lot of wasted potential with some secondary characters in the game, but when not even the main characters' stories are handled in a satisfying way towards the end, it is probably asking too much that some of these secondary relationships should have been highlighted in some way. Nonetheless, the story side of the experience is snappy and well structured enough the hold your interest through the game.

The twenty or so missions comprise of the familiar driving and shooting levels, with several stealth missions also thrown in when playing as Sam. The continuing swapping back and forth between the three characters, along with the changing mission styles, makes for a wholesome gameplay mix that works pretty well.

The driving sections are pretty much unchanged from the original, and while the car handling takes some getting used to, it does the job. There is one addition however, a classic on-rails affair with Sam driving the car as you control Eddie shooting out of the sunroof at enemy vehicles all around you, though in fairness there was an almost identical mission in San Andreas. As gangs and police try to thwart your progress, the frequently overwhelming volume of enemy traffic, can become a pain, but the range of vehicles on offer, including very fast, souped-up motorbikes and silly stuff like double-decker buses, sort of makes up for it. The camera control during the driving sections is pretty tight, with pressure on L2 and R2 rotating the view depending on sensitivity and L1 used to shoot out of your window. It's not all that bad.

The shooting missions are improved from before, offering far more impressive outdoor environments, better structured indoor sections, and with most levels mixing both. In one memorable mission near the end of the game you reach the lovely penthouse apartment of the criminal you seek to destroy (the one common goal of both main characters) and gradually fight your way through cronies outdoors for an impressive rooftop battle across multiple buildings before dealing with the first of three main bosses.

There were a couple of minor control issues from the first game, namely that the same button often performed too many things depending on proximity to a wall and so on - broadly speaking these issues have been tightened up, but the control still isn't perfect. It is often a slightly convoluted system but ultimately it's effective; the targeting system benefits from both auto targeting and free aim controls (R1 and R2 respectively) while these modes also effectively allow you to strafe around and look 360 degrees - pretty useful since the primary camera control (the right analog stick) is rather limited in its usefulness. The four action buttons perform a mix of shooting, evasive rolling, opening doors, jacking cars and leaping across stuff at certain points, switching between regular and stealth movement, and so on.

It takes a bit of learning, but by the end of the game you should be familiar enough to deal with the final boss, who'll be impossible to beat unless you've mastered a range of techniques. Simply shooting him repeatedly at close range is useless and you'll need to engage in some strategic duck-n-cover shootout action that's pretty much redundant for most of the game beforehand.

The addition of the stealth sections is a welcome one, although for some gamers the pace will be too slow and the actual mission goals slightly indistinct. These missions are not as frustrating as has been said elsewhere; for example one mission that has you tracking down a laptop is a case of following those carrying it, providing a solid traceable target rather than empty guesswork. And for that matter, mission five requires you to knock the target vehicle off the road, not chase it to its destination - attempting the latter will result in time running out since the objective is to stop the enemy not chase it. It would be fair to say that the game requires quite a bit of concentration to know what you are supposed to be doing, and while the mission design is hardly perfect, the flaws don't damage the experience to any major extent.

At times it would be useful to have a San Andreas style menu that lists recent briefings and dialogue, but at least the fairness of the intermission checkpoint system has been tweaked since the fist game; rarely will you find yourself having to re-play massive sections of a mission, though you can obviously only save progress to memory card one level at a time. It's good to see an effort has been made to tune this aspect up.

The first game was decidedly tough, often thanks to its fiddly control, but this time it's not so challenging, which is perhaps a good thing. The experience is also much shorter, with the 22 missions or so taking no more than around eight hours for most gamers, although as mentioned before, there is at least one (that we found) pivotal point where a key decision means there is a whole tangent of slightly alternative events.

This alternative version of the story, which changes some levels and provides a slightly different ending, adds some replay value - as does the addition of a Special Features section. This section offers a Street Racing mode with around twenty different styles of race taking place at various parts of town; a self explanatory Chase Mode, along with a Black Cab feature that has you drive customers to their destination to rack up some cash, and also the essential Free Roaming mode that allows you to go wherever you like in London. The more of the main game you have completed, the wider the range of options in these Bonus modes becomes, for example you can play as some of the enemy NPCs (not that it makes much difference). None of the special features stand out as superb reasons to come back to the game, but it is good to see that some effort has been made to exploit the game's impressive London map more fully than before.

Graphically the game only offers very slight improvements over its predecessor; the same engine is used and despite some minor tweaks to frame rate, it's not enhanced all that much. Some parts look incredible, the water of the Thames and the riverbank scenery moving by for example is pretty convincing. To be honest there are only a few things that separate this game from the graphical standard of San Andreas - the Rockstar effort boasts a stunning lighting system for example - but really, when you consider that similar texture fade-in stuff is going on here, plus the comparable frame rate, geometry detail and so on, it would be unfair to not give this the technical recognition it deserves as it's still impressive for the hardware. It's tough to visually impress on PS2 these days, but Black Monday does a decent enough job overall.

The game's soundtrack is similarly moody like the original, and I like it. It may not have the immediacy of San Andreas' hip-hop beats, but on a more subtle level it serves its purpose - and you could even call it stylish. As touched on earlier, the voice acting is top-notch - so you're basically looking at a well above average audio-visual package here.

The Getaway Black Monday is a flawed but satisfying experience overall, but the superb acting and successful integration of different perspectives into the story, along with the entertaining mix of mission styles, make it a more than worthwhile experience. However it is difficult to recommend the game as anything more than a rental given it's short play time and limited replay value. It's great while it lasts and there are clearly slightly better titles out there - but I'll just end by saying that I don't think the gap between Black Monday and the obvious alternative is as big as you might have thought.

There's a flood of top quality titles right now, but frankly I had more fun with this than several recent big hitters. So even if you have to wait until next year to check it out, do give Black Monday some thought.

Graphics Sound Gameplay Depth Presentation OVERALL
8.0 9.0 7.5 6.0 8.0 7.8


THE VERDICT:
Overall a good effort from Sony, but closer attention still needs to be paid to some areas of mission design and certainly to the enemy AI, and I also get the feeling that some broader QA work would have helped in a spot or two. It's far from perfect, but Black Monday does come together very well. The movie quality production values, original storytelling and familiar, yet alternating gameplay styles, make this a game well worth checking out. If you enjoyed the original then this is worth a purchase, particularly if you can get it for a good price, but for everyone else, this is a good rental - it's short but definitely entertaining while it lasts.

Video Coverage
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The Getaway: Black Monday
Direct feed - Opening cut-scene (it's pre-rendered but everything else is realtime)
(640x480, 1.2Mbps)
(lowres version here)
0.45min 6.31MB WMV
The Getaway: Black Monday
Direct feed - In the car before your first mission
(640x480, 1.2Mbps)
(lowres version here)
0.45min 6.31MB WMV
The Getaway: Black Monday
Direct feed - Raiding the druggies' flat
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(lowres version here)
0.45min 6.31MB WMV
The Getaway: Black Monday
Direct feed - Cutscene - dinner break, argument
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(lowres version here)
0.45min 6.31MB WMV
The Getaway: Black Monday
Direct feed - Driving to the gym and cleaning it up
(640x480, 1.2Mbps)
(lowres version here)
0.45min 6.31MB WMV
The Getaway: Black Monday
Direct feed - Cutscene - bloodbath at the gym
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(lowres version here)
0.45min 6.31MB WMV
The Getaway: Black Monday
Direct feed - Clean up the scrapyard and arrest Levi
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(lowres version here)
0.45min 6.31MB WMV
The Getaway: Black Monday
Direct feed - Cutscene - excellent interrogation scene
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(lowres version here)
0.45min 6.31MB WMV
The Getaway: Black Monday
Direct feed - Cutscene - meeting in van and a new face
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(lowres version here)
0.45min 6.31MB WMV
The Getaway: Black Monday
Direct feed - Infiltrate and find hostage
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0.45min 6.31MB WMV
The Getaway: Black Monday
Direct feed - Meet Jackie Phillips
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0.45min 6.31MB WMV
The Getaway: Black Monday
Direct feed - Escape alive!
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The Getaway: Black Monday
New direct feed trailer (640x480, 1.4Mbps)
1.39min 15.6MB WMV
The Getaway: Black Monday
Direct feed trailer (640x480, 1Mbps)
1.32m 11.68 MB WMV
The Getaway: Black Monday
Direct feed gameplay 1 (640x480, 1Mbps)
3.10m 24.09 MB WMV
The Getaway: Black Monday
Direct feed gameplay 2 (640x480, 1Mbps)
0.48m 6.12 MB WMV
The Getaway: Black Monday
Short Sequence - Cop Side (640x480, 1Mbps)
1.22m 10.45 MB WMV
The Getaway: Black Monday
Short Sequence - Criminal Side (640x480, 1Mbps)
1.22m 10.46 MB WMV
The Getaway: Black Monday
Short Sequence - The Showdown (640x480, 1Mbps)
1.28m 11.10 MB WMV

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