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In Memory
Sean Pettibone

The Getaway Black Monday (PS2)

By Michael Palisano

Taking players back into the London underworld, The Getaway: Black Monday is an ambitious sequel to the top selling crime game. Set several years after the first game, Black Monday casts the player in one of three roles - which lends the gameplay a little more variety. The basic mechanics have remained largely the same with a mix of driving and on-foot missions. The Getaway: Black Monday's extensive use of realistic rendering is impressive with more than 20 square miles of London recreated. Black Monday represents the developers' second attempt at melding cinematic and gaming techniques, but have they learned from their mistakes? Read our review and find out.

While the first Getaway title was a qualified success, many gamers had issues with certain elements of the gameplay. Black Monday tries to address some of these issues, with mixed results. The plot this time is more complicated, but the gameplay remains largely unchanged. Black Monday lets you control one of three different characters during the course of the game. Mitch, the first game's protagonist is now a reformed cop with a bleak history that haunts him. Eddie is a boxer from the mean streets who's down to earth nature masks a brutal side. Finally the young lass Sam is a brilliant computer hacker with a dark history who's drawn into the criminal underworld. The game also introduces a variety of secondary characters along the way, which helps create a convincing world. As you meet each character and get a sense of their history and motivations, Black Monday's plot begins to unfold. As the game speeds up in pacing and interest after the first few hours, players will find themselves more involved with the many plot twists and surprises.

There's a lot of parallel events between the main characters that intersect later on. This gives Black Monday a more sophisticated feel than most other games. Interestingly, it's not entirely linear since the story unfolds in a series of flashbacks and missions. This engaging technique lets the player hop around, and gives you a greater sense of freedom despite the fact that the game's structure is actually rather linear in approach. While the plot is the main force behind each character, the gamer can influence events later on by their actions earlier in the game, leading to multiple paths and different endings. Most of the game's missions are straightforward with a simple set of clearly defined objectives, such as driving from one point to another or clearing out a warehouse of bad guys. The missions aren't excessively long with frequent save points making it easy to progress through the game. In addition to the main game, there are a number of driving and racing mini-games included, which help you get the hang of things fairly easily.

Each of the three characters in Black Monday has a slightly different approach to things, but all share certain common moves and styles. When on-foot, the player can move around quite easily and use a variety of weapons and guns. In order to avoid oncoming gunfire, you can duck behind crates, peer out from doorways and stand against walls. When your character takes damage, you can replenish your health by collecting a med kit, or by standing against a wall. This process takes a few seconds, and generally brings your strength back. However, you can only do this a few times per mission, and the benefit dimishes the more you use it. Once in battle, you can use a number of different weapons such as guns, sniper rifles and grenades. You'll face off against dozens of bad guys on each level. Many of these opponents are easy to dispatch, but their AI is a bit smarter as you delve deeper into the game. While playing as the cop, you don't always have to kill someone, and can instead neutralize them by arresting them in handcuffs. Players will also need to avoid killing innocent bystanders in each mission, or risk damaging their reputation. The Getaway Black Monday's controls and interface are intuitive in the walking areas, though switching weapons on the fly isn't as simple as it could have been.

While walking around in the urban jungle, you'll also be able to take control of a number of vehicles. Either as part of a mission, or by force, you can take drive a variety of different vehicles including police cars, sedans and even motorcycles. Each car has its own unique feel and style, with each offering unique handling and speed. While you're pretty much locked into preset vehicles early on, later levels allow you to store vehicles in garages for use in subsequent missions. While driving around, you'll encounter a lot of traffic which clogs the streets at certain intersections. Fortunately, you can dodge these vehicles but you need to be careful to do so wisely, since wild driving will bring unwanted attention from the police. One of the unique aspects of the Getaway that made it stand out was its signal system, which returns in the new game unchanged. Instead of posting arrows on the screen, the game uses the vehicle's signal lights to indicate what direction you need to go in. This subtle approach helps the game feel more cinematic, allowing gamers to fully immerse themselves into the action. While the responsiveness of the vehicles largely depends on which one you're driving, these riding sequences generally feel right with a good sense of speed and excellent controls helping to immerse you into the action. Overall, the game controls well, but there are some problems you'll encounter along the way, such as glitchy AI, some drop-out and awkward camera angles that detract from the experience.

Instead of being built from the ground up, Black Monday makes good use of some of the technical legacies from the first game. This consistency also gives the game a nice familiarity, making it feel like a true sequel. The developers used extensive digitization to accurately recreate London and these maps and locations have been further fleshed out this time around with additional locations and streets. Black Monday's level of detail in its environments is remarkable from a technical standpoint, with each street and vehicle rendered with an impressive level of detail. Unfortunately, once you get off the street and back on foot, some faults begins to emerge. The character models look decent enough on their own but they move awkwardly, with stuttering steps and hobbled movements that make them look more like puppets. When the camera zooms in for the game's extended dialogue sequences, there can be a several second lag between the moment a word is spoken and when the camera switches to that character. It doesn't happen all the time, but when it does, this delay hurts the illusion of playing an interactive movie. It's quite surprising considering the game's extensive budget and otherwise sterling production values. However, the dialogue itself is cleverly written and well-acted. It's definitely aimed at adults with a succession of curses a common occurrence. The swearing might turn off a few sensitive players, the use of English slang throughout makes things feel even more dense. There's also plenty of extreme violence so be warned ahead of time, this is one game that's definitely earned it's M rating.

Black Monday's story is sophisticated and is aimed squarely at the adult market, making it feel like a slick crime film. Unfortunately, the gameplay becomes tedious after a few missions. The good news is that Black Monday's world is cohesive and stylish with an appropriately bleak and seedy environment creating an atmospheric world where danger seems to pour from every surface. It's an incredibly stylish and violent title but these surface trappings don't have enough substance to back them up and create a truly engaging experience. The story itself is a mixed bag. The narrative can be interesting at many points but becomes convoluted and confusing in other sections. Switching characters seems like a good idea on paper, but you're never controlling one character long enough to really get involved emotionally with their storyline.

While it suffers from some significant technical and gameplay problems, The Getaway: Black Monday is still quite an enjoyable game. If you can overlook some predictable missions, you'll find plenty of tension filled areas where you feel outnumbered, outgunned and out of control. The story is interesting as well, and keeps you motivated throughout so you can see what happens next. It's probably a bit too easy for the hardcore gamer, and with a limited replay value thanks to its linear approach, Black Monday's longevity will probably be limited to a single play through, despite the inclusion of several bonus modes. The salty language and violent undertones gives the game a refreshingly adult feel, though some of the British slang makes some of the dialogue thick for those unfamiliar with the vocabulary. This is far from a perfect title, but The Getaway: Black Monday is an entertaining title with an engaging storyline that will take you on an adventure into London's darker side.

Grade: C+

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