As someone whose experience with graffiti was primarily limited to seeing it on the streets and creating it in Jet Grind Radio, I expected Getting Up to shed light on the culture that inspired those creations while also providing a rewarding gaming experience. After playing it, I now have a decent understanding of the culture, and learned some terms along the way.
As a game, it succeeds in more areas than I thought it would. Fighting is one key area I was surprised with. I came into it expecting some fighting, but I figured it would just be incredibly basic stuff. Instead, there’s a fair amount of depth to it. Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t like Virtua Fighter with spray paint - but you do have a fair amount of variety in your offense. Beyond punching and kicking, you’ve got combos and various types of weapons. Each weapon type has its own range and level of damage, and you can also throw foes around. The level of depth is comparable to the Streets of Rage games, and when you’ve got multiple foes coming after you, it really does feel like a quick game of SoR. It’s even more satisfying to beat foes here though, and nothing tops beating someone after throwing them violently into a concrete wall. It’s animated beautifully and really feels like it should end a fight.
In another surprise, the characters and the game world also have some dimension. Trane is sick of New Radius’s (seemingly an exaggerated New York City) oppressive regime, and it’s gotten to the point where anyone seen tagging can be arrested an/or beaten up without mercy by police. Rivalries are also built up between rival graffiti artists and gangs alike. Graffiti legends like OBEY (who created the Andre the Giant murals I’ve enjoyed over the years) and Mode2 show up to offer you advice to survive the gangs, the streets, and the cops alike. All of them are out to squash your creativity, and that simply won’t fly for a free spirit like Trane.
Unfortunately, it seems rather hypocritical that a game based around the importance of creativity would limit that of the user. While you can select from varying kinds, colors, and sizes for tags and markings, you can’t make your own. Even 25 to Life gave you some kind of creative control over tags, and here, in a game where tagging and creativity are at the forefront, something that simple isn’t anywhere to be found. The shameless product placement (like the iPod and Ecko’s clothing appearing all over the place) also place some blemishes on this supposedly underground-centric game.
What’s worse is that product placement isn’t even logical for the plot or setting. If it was limited to licensed cans of spray paint or markers, it would add a bit of reality to the world AND fit the game perfectly. Music isn’t a central point in the plot or a driving force behind the characters, so logically speaking, why should iPods litter the landscape? These issues don’t kill the game dead, they certainly do make it hard to take its messages of creativity and self-expression seriously. Looking past those issues, you’ll find a decent game that simply provides a fun time.
Glaring control and camera issues do hinder that at times. While they’re functional, with a logical button configuration, they aren’t as responsive as they sometimes need to be. I love the intuitive controls (like pressing Circle repeatedly to open a grate) that assign context-sensitive functions to a button, and they’re also the most responsive set of controls in the game. Fighting controls are somewhat responsive, but it still feels like you’re not punching or kicking when you should, and initiating a grapple is more of a hassle then it should be. We’ve got about a dozen buttons on modern-day controllers, requiring me to press two at a time to do something as simple as grab onto a foe is ridiculous.
At least the jumping controls work well, provided the camera doesn’t fly all over the place. Even though you can control it with the right analog stick, it still has a mind of its own in tight spaces. After about nine years of 3D platforming games, you’d think companies would have figured out a standard solution to this problem by now.
Getting Up also features some bizarre glitches, like an on-screen prompt never leaving the screen; preventing you from completing a level and requiring you to start it all over again. It isn’t a major problem, and it only takes a few minutes to resolve once it happens, but it’s one of those issues that makes you wonder how a product could slip out the door without something like this being fixed. It’s just an extra bit of sloppiness to go on top of the faulty camera and inefficient fighting systems.
At least the artistry behind tagging is one thing the developers nailed perfectly. You’ve got multiple types of tags (stickers, markers, quick spray tags, and lengthy ones) to play with, and they all serve a unique purpose throughout the game. If you’ve got to cover a small space, sticker or marker tags are ideal. For bigger targets, you’ll want a lengthy tag that will require you to manually control the can and finish the tag within a certain time limit for a bonus.
The setup for these lengthy tags is perfect, as a quick flick of a button gets you ready to tag, while simply moving the left analog stick precisely moves you around the tag area. These areas gave me the most joy, as you can experiment with which techniques work better for a certain size tag. I love games that reward trial and error, and I felt a great sense of pride when I discovered that just going up and down in a single motion worked better than just flailing the can around. The latter technique did result in some neat-looking faded colors though, so it was useful for entertainment, just not practical for advancement.
The soundtrack is another highlight for me. It’s filled with rap, rock, and just about every amalgamation of the two you can think of. This isn’t filled with big-names (Mobb Deep is about as big as they come here), but every song is fun to listen to and fit’s the intended vibe of the game. I like adding songs to the soundtrack via the iPods hidden around levels, and it’s a shame such a cool feature comes off like a shill in the game.
Voice acting is something rarely done well in gaming, so I’m glad that the proper cast was assembled here and they were given the time to deliver a proper vocal performance. Sure, there are a few corny lines, but most of the actors play the characters straight, and that’s a necessity in something so plot-heavy. It would be impossible to get behind the characters if even their actors couldn’t, and that pitfall was avoided here.
Sound effects are also used effectively. It helps that so many were used, as you don’t get many repeats. You even get different kinds of footsteps when you walk, run, or go across differing types of metal and other surfaces. A lot of games cop out and just have one generic footstep, and it’s understandable, but they went the extra mile here, and it’s that type of thing that adds more reality to the goings on.
With so many little things done well, it’s a shame that the main message of the importance of individuality and self-expression is lost amid the other statements of “BUY THE IPOD!” and the constant shilling of Ecko’s clothing. Compared to the Jet Grind/Set games, where that message seemed heartfelt and genuine, this just comes off as a middle-aged school teacher’s attempt at being hip. This makes me very conflicted about the overall product.
Getting Up is a solid game, but not spectacular in any way outside of the tagging interface. It also does a lot of things well, but features a disturbing amount of product placement that takes you right out of the adventure while also needing some fine-tuning with its controls and camera. I can’t help but feel that this would have been a much better game with a little more development time and far less product placement. As it is, just rent it for a week. You’ll get all of the fun there is to be had, and won’t pay full-price for something that you’d think would be $20 new given all of the ads it contains.