Review: If the first Getaway was a bloody good time, this one is a tosser.
The original Getaway was quite successful and eventually became a greatest hit. Not perfect by any means, this was a solid action game that was an even better movie. It was the type of game that you could see being a heck of a lot better if they had fixed its problems in the sequel. Enter The Getaway: Black Monday, the sequel to the original The Getaway. Unfortunately, Black Monday is every bit as good of a movie as the original Getaway, but a bit worse of a game as well. You would think that having two years to make a sequel that already has its framework in place from the original would mean that every problem its predecessor had would be taken care of, but that is simply not the case. Not only were these problems not addressed, but the gameplay actually plays a bit worse.
Let's start off with what was fixed. First off, there is now a map that you can access when the game is paused. This alleviates the problems that the first game had, especially in free roam mode which would have you driving around having no bloody clue as to where you are. The map makes free roam mode a lot more accessible (too bad not anymore fun). Secondly, they fixed the turn signals from the first game and made them actually work this time. For the uninitiated, one of The Getaway's signature touches is the fact that the screen is void of any health bars, ammo interfaces, or arrows telling you where to go. Which direction you have to drive is determined by what turn signal is blinking, with hazard lights meaning you've reached your destination. The one thing that I hated about the original was that you would enter into a T-intersection, and it would not tell you which way is best to turn, making it a guessing game as to which way to go. With the advent of the map, this problem was fixed making the turn signals a bit better to deal with. They aren't perfect by any means, but they at least get you where you need to be in a more consistent manner.
Another problem I had with the original game was the amount of vehicle damage your vehicle could take. In the original, having to switch from car to car every few minutes broke up the pace of the game, sometimes slowing it down to a crawl. This was definitely fixed in the sequel by making it more difficult for your adversaries to render a car useless, and also making it more difficult for them to shoot out your tires. All of these little improvements make this game faster paced and a bit easier to navigate when inside your vehicle. But other than what I've mentioned, the remainder of the gameplay has been left untouched. On foot, Black Monday is every bit as stiff and difficult to control as it ever has been. Enemies are just as brain dead as well. The only real ?improvement? is the fact that you can swivel the camera to a limited degree. This new feature is useless and never once helped me as I played the game. It seems as though this game desperately needs a new control scheme, somewhat similar to the dual analog controls other than the one third-person shooters utilize. I mean, the game already plays mostly like every third-person shooter anyways, so it might as well control like one too. What you are left with is something that feels like you are controlling a character that had spent a little bit too much time down in the pub and is now inebriated. He knows what he wants to do, but he is simply too drunk to be that coordinated. The poor collision detection has you getting stuck around tight spaces and corners, and the let-me-catch-my-breath camera can't keep up with the action.
Black Monday still has the same Wolverine-like approach to getting your health back. When hurt, you simply place your character close to a wall and you will see him lean on it. This will activate his/her healing factor/clothing washing power. You will see blood stains fade away from your clothes, and you will no longer walk with a limp. This was a silly feature in the first game. Although you do regenerate health faster this way, it's still silly in Black Monday just the same. All this really does is slow down the pace of the action since you have to stop what you are doing to regain health.
You take control of three characters whose paths branch off and intertwine as the story progresses. Mitch is a police officer with a checkered past, Eddie is a boxer that got mixed up in a heist gone bad, and Sam is a computer hacker that was assisting Eddie with the heist. An added touch is that these three characters have different gameplay elements that are supposed to add to the diversity of the game, but unfortunately does nothing to enhance it. Mitch and Eddie play rather similarly, with the exception of Eddie having a few grapple moves (yawn) that Mitch cannot do. Sam on the other hand is a monster unto himself. She contributes to the ?stealth-that-didn't-work-in-Shadow-of-Rome-and-doesn't-work-here-either? portion of the game. The trial and error gameplay make these sections a complete chore leaving story progression as the only motivation of getting past them. I could have done without these sections simply because they aren't very fun to play through. Perhaps if the controls were a bit easier to manage, it would have shown promise. But as the way things are, these sections hurt the game more than they help it.
The vehicles themselves handle differently as well -- although there's still no big improvement. That's okay, though, because the way cars handle was never a problem for me. The sequel does add motorcycles, but these things are so hard to control that they are almost useless. Considering that Black Monday's strength is its driving gameplay, it's a shame that the sequel seems to contain more foot missions than in its previous chapter.
One thing that this game does very well is tell a story. The cinematics and storyline found here are as good as some of the best games out there. Graphics are detailed and character models have near-perfect lip synching, and evoke a good deal of emotion as well. Granted, there is a stiff, choppy quality to the animation at times, but it's not as evident as it was in the original. What really makes the cinematics unique is the motion capture system that Team SOHO uses to bring its characters to life. The system they use allows multiple characters to ?act out? a scene together via motion capture, making the performances a bit more realistic. With it, you get a few nuances and reactions that are so spot-on that there isn't any other way that they could have been captured.
The voice acting is just as good, if not better than the cinematic portion. You never get the impression that these characters are brought to life by voice actors in a studio somewhere. They really give off the impression that they are gangsters; that's how convincing these performances are. The vernacular might have you wondering what ?nicking a motor," "getting a shooter," "avoiding Ol' Bill," and "spilling some tosser's claret" is all about. But damn it, if it doesn't sound good when they are saying it. The ?F? word is thrown about freely, but it's never gratuitous. Other sound effects such as gun fire and vehicle sounds are crisp and clean.
There are a few special features that ranges from "cool" to "blah." You can choose races, black cab missions, and the aforementioned free roaming mode. One of the biggest faults is the fact that this game has accurately recreated most of London, yet there is no real way to enjoy it. It would have been a nice touch to add some kind of tourism aspect to the free roaming mode, telling you more about the city. How else can an American bloke get a kick out of how accurate this city is to its real life counterpart if you don't know its rich history? London here is recreated down to individual stores and nightclubs. But I will never know the difference between these joints, because they're not highlighted within the game at all. Also, Team SOHO should have taken a page from GTA lore and added different missions and mini-games that force you to explore all the different locales, giving you a better idea that this is a real life city. As is, it simply feels like you are playing in a swimming pool with no water.