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Written by  :  Unicorn Lynx (181697)
Written on  :  Feb 24, 2003
Rating  :  3.86 Stars3.86 Stars3.86 Stars3.86 Stars3.86 Stars

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Bloody soddin' limitations... Bollocks!

The Good

Boasting excellent production values, Getaway manages to present a believable, atmospheric world of organized crime in London. Cinematic cutscenes with excellent voice acting reveal the statement behind the game: make it as movie-like as possible. The city itself is meticulously reconstructed: every building is unique, the streets, the squares, the signs, the various types of cars, buses, and pedestrians are realistic and done in great detail.

The gameplay largely consists of two portions: driving and shooting. The driving basically involves going to the place where you have to complete your mission, and getting away from there. Often, rival gangs or police cars will chase you. They'll damage your car, but you'll always be able to steal another one. You also can just get out of the car and wander through the city. But mostly, you'll have to hurry to your next mission, where the main part of the gameplay, namely the shooting, begins. The shooting in Getaway is somewhat similar to that of Max Payne. You also control your hero while viewing him from the third person perspective. You can either auto-aim, or aim your weapon manually at a target, and can perform moves like crouching or rolling to a side.

An interesting feature gives Getaway a unique look: the game screen contains only the game world itself, nothing else. There are no health bars, no indications of weapons shortcuts or how much ammo you have left, and even no overview maps. There are no messages appearing on the screen (except subtitles for voices in cut-scenes), such as "got a bazooka" or "you have to find a silver key to open this door". There is no inventory and generally nothing you can do outside of the game screen (except pausing the game and accessing an options menu). There are also no shortcuts for weapons, because - quite realistically! - you can't carry more than one weapon in each hand, and if a weapon requires two hands to use it, then you'll drop your other weapon. So, you won't be running around with five kinds of guns, a crowbar, a shotgun, a flamethrower, and a chainsaw all together. You also won't search the environment for healing potions and ammo that are usually scattered around in shooters. Sometimes, you'll find storage rooms for weapons, and there you'll be able to find a weapon, or you'll be able to pick the weapons off the enemies' bodies, of course. But don't expect looting rooms for healing items and various ammo, because there are none.

The Bad

Getaway's biggest problem is that it sacrifices fun to its own ambitions.

Very often it tries to get rid of unrealistic features by replacing them with others, which turn to be even more unrealistic - and less entertaining. Example: "wall-lean healing". The developers decided to eliminate the old trusted concept of healing potions and ammo being scattered all over the virtual world. At first sight, it seemed like a good idea. But when the natural question arises: how will you be able to heal yourself? - the answer is: by leaning against a wall and waiting. So a gravely wounded man, all covered by blood, unable even to walk properly, will magically regain his entire health by leaning against a wall. That example alone should remind us that gameplay conventions were created with a reason.

Getaway strives to be a tight story-driven experience, but since it still uses a basic GTA formula for its gameplay, the comparison is inevitable. And while Getaway is undeniably more "artsy" than GTA games and has a better narrative, its gameplay is quite far from being the all-consuming, addictive fun GTA games became famous for. The ambition to be cinematic made the creators of the game throw out a lot of pure video game-related stuff: free-roaming, shopping, mini-games, optional missions, non-linear mission structure - none of that was implemented, presumably because this way the game would have a tighter narrative, become more like a movie.

And that, ultimately, is a design mistake - because video games should not strive to be movies. The strength of a game lies in its gameplay, and if it is neglected in favor of anything else, the game loses.

The Bottom Line

Getaway tried to become a more serious, more edgy, more realistic GTA - and it succeeded in everything except what matters most: gameplay. Fairly solid, but lengthy and uninspired shooting sequences coupled with awkward driving and constant limitations makes it a lesser game even though it could have been, perhaps, a better movie.