One fundamental fallacy of game development is that high production values will undoubtedly equal a quality gaming experience. What is closer to the truth, however, is that by pouring money into a title, developers and publishers create potential and opportunity for their game; though in doing so they also run the risk of inflating gamers’ expectations. Though story, animation, surround-sound and other features can certainly enhance a gaming experience, they cannot solely carry the burden of making gamers happy. The Getaway: Black Monday, by losing its focus and concentrating more on additional features rather than the gameplay itself, serves as a classic illustration of this situation: a game with great potential for creating a quality gaming experience, but that is an absolute disaster to play.
Developers Team Soho’s latest release walks you through the stories of three separate characters – Mitch, Eddie and Sam. The first thing that stands out about these characters, and the rest of the supporting cast around them, is that they feel genuinely human. Dialogue, facial expressions, and the stories surrounding the characters, though occasionally clich?d, come across as natural rather than forced. Oh yeah, and they swear – a lot! Think Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels squared. Cockney rhyming slang and f-bombs comprise a considerable percentage of the dialogue, and the one-liners are definitely funny at times. When given the opportunity to drive around town, the player then witnesses the game’s truly outstanding recreation of London. Countless hours were obviously invested in constructing every facet of the streets and buildings of the English capital.
For those of you not familiar with the first Getaway title, Black Monday follows your character from the third-person perspective as you shoot, punch, grapple, arrest, drive, and sneak your way through the missions of the three central characters. Notably absent here is a HUD, instead the game provides either visual or audio clues to let the gamer know when to turn, or rest, or look for ammunition. However, most gamers will probably only notice the obviously impressive character and environmental design, but the subtle prompting system is an innovative and cleverly executed feature. Sadly though, these are perhaps the game’s only well-designed features.
Each character’s controls are straightforward enough in principle, but in actuality they undermine Black Monday’s gameplay completely. The left analogue stick manages movement and the right manages your line of sight, but the two never quite work in unison, which more often that not will leave gamers struggling to orientate themselves within their environment. Not only is the right stick’s camera control remarkably limited, but the camera also fails to automatically swing around and follow your character when the left stick is used to instigate movement. As if there weren’t enough problems, the scroll rates for each stick feel sluggish and unresponsive, and no menu options are given to adjust them, either. Navigating through open environments is bad enough, but once the action moves into confined areas the controls cause you to behave erratically, and usually to the detriment of your mission.
Outside of movement, Mitch, Eddie and Sam each maintain different schemes for the face, shoulder, L3 and R3 buttons based on their individual stories and abilities. Mitch and Eddie are combat oriented, whereas Sam relies on stealth to achieve her mission objectives. It’s unbelievably disappointing that the clear potential for deep, engrossing and varied gameplay offered through the character-specific controls is so monumentally squandered by inexcusably poor execution. Once again camera control is a major issue. For both Mitch and Eddie the R1 button locks on to a target, and for all three characters it also doubles for strafing. Automatically moving from target to target by using R1 is effective just as long as the targets are all but directly in front of your character. When enemies move into your peripheral vision (even only slightly) finding them by using R1 becomes an aneurism inducing experience. Even when a target confronts you at point-blank range, your character is more likely to swing around and aim at empty space rather than the guy about to shoot them in the back. Manually aiming with R2 offers no remedy to the problem, either, as the right analogue stick must still be used, and it remains unresponsive even when R2 is implemented. Using stealth maneuvers offers some manner of protection to Mitch and Eddie, and, of course, is essential to moving Sam undetected through her missions, but the continually poor camera work and useless controls make the maneuvers and stealth-based objectives nothing more than an additional headache.
As if there weren’t enough glaring problems with Black Monday already, the AI, collision detection, and other gameplay features are also found wanting. Even though the graphics are generally decent, there are clear glitches with the sound and video dropping out of synch during cutscenes. The game’s collision detection is poor at best, causing not only worrying issues during gunfights, but also as NPCs interact with their environments. Our protagonists’ foes seem to have intelligence levels limited only to ?shoot’, ?hide’, and ?stay within a certain area’. At one point during the game I was able to walk boldly up to a group of fully armed thugs and arrest each one individually. This glitch in the AI let me accomplish said amazing feat without an enemy once putting a gun to my character’s head and spilling the contents of his/her cranium onto the floor. Other frustrating gameplay aspects, such as Mitch’s inability to use any other weaponry outside of standard Police issue, only adds tedium to a title already bogged down by a defective control system.
There is also next to no replay value on show here too, with the only unlockable bonuses being key chains located throughout each level that unlock Taxi, Race and Free Drive extra missions. If the player takes time away from a character mission to drive around London on their own, these extras are of little value. Overall game time is relatively short and, indeed, it would be much shorter were it not for the shoddy gameplay disrupting the pacing and flow of each mission.
It really is a shame that The Getaway: Black Monday is so little fun to play. Aesthetically, it’s a beautiful title, and utterly loaded with potential. If the gameplay were less buggy and tedious (and as detailed as the game’s depiction of London) Black Monday could have been a great action experience capable of pleasantly distinguishing itself from many other games available in the genre. I truly hope that if there is a third iteration in the Getaway series that the substandard gameplay elements get the developer attention they so clearly deserve.