Two years ago, PS2 owners were introduced to The Getaway, a gritty crime drama of murder and betrayal. Team Soho's creative decision to remove all onscreen HUDs, facial animation capture system and faithful recreation of London streets were hailed as a cinematic achievement. However, clunky controls, incomprehensible game mechanics and vehicle navigation problems ultimately overwhelmed the action title, making it a mediocre game at best. Hoping to avoid this problem is the recently released "sequel," The Getaway: Black Monday.
Sequel is loosely used in the sense of the word, considering that there really aren't any returning characters, situations or scenarios from the first title that connect to the second. Black Monday is the completely new (and somewhat convoluted) story of three radically different characters. Without spoiling much of the story, here are some of the basics: Players start off as Ben "Mitch" Mitchell, a police officer who constantly seems on the edge. After shooting a teenager during a tense standoff, Mitch's fellow squadmates constantly give him grief as a loose cannon. On the other side of the law is Eddie O'Connor, a down on his luck boxer. He and his partner in crime, a runaway teen hacker named Sam Thompson find themselves fighting for their lives after a bank heist goes wrong. As the game goes on, you'll discover just how these three character's tales weave in and out of each other's lives, as well as a larger "conspiracy" headed up by Latvian gangsters. This description may sound convoluted, but it's actually a rather complex plot that's tied up neatly by the end of the game.
While Mitch and Eddie share a couple of moves, each one of the characters essentially have their own abilities in the game. Mitch typically winds up going into areas guns blazing. As a police officer, he has access to certain assault weapons and handguns, as well as receiving a certain amount of backup from other police officers. However, he doesn’t have to kill every criminal he meets. Mitch can run up to and arrest thugs, slapping cuffs on their hands and incapacitating them quickly. Eddie, on the other hand, is a more physical character thanks to his boxing skills. He can dish out a number of brutal combos: for instance, he can throw opponents around, fling punches into ribs or slam heads into walls. Sam, on the other hand, isn’t skilled in combat. She relies on stealth and sneaking around to evade foes or avoid damage. Fortunately, she’s got some gymnastic ability, allowing her to vault objects or dismount from high places.
However, once you get past the subtle differences in playing mechanics, you run into some of the more overt problems with Black Monday. Perhaps one of the most damning faults of the game itself is that two years have passed, yet the game plays almost identically to its predecessor, without fixing any of those associated problems. For instance, AI is still completely shoddy and unrealistic. Mitch can run up to a criminal in the middle of a raging gunfight and arrest him; instead of plugging Mitch as an easy target, the other thugs stop shooting entirely. What’s that all about? Other times, characters react solely upon triggered events with minor actions, running away from you and suddenly stopping or charging towards you absentmindedly. These latter situations make it incredibly easy to shoot down these targets, which is fortunate, since aiming and firing at opponents or trusting in the oft-faulty tracking system is imperfect at best. Plus, the nonsensical healing convention of leaning against a wall returns, although it’s somewhat tempered by a number of health kits scattered across some levels. Considering that this can also be done in the midst of gunfights, you’ll quickly pickup on some of the game issues.
However, apart from some of these repetitive problems, you’ll easily be able to detect other issues. First of all, Mitch, Eddie and Sam control like clunky tanks, with awkward, clumsy motions for running and other actions. Mitch is somewhat limited with his weapons; in fact, there were plenty of gunfights where I ran out of ammunition thanks to the poor aim of the game. However, thanks to this handcuff move, you can easily slide through most of those stages. Eddie, on the other hand, merely needs to rely upon the same punching combo to defeat his opponents, regardless of the number of firearms scattered through each level.
Sam, on the other hand, is completely pathetic. First of all, she has no stealth attacks, which makes the sneaking missions tedious, boring and incredibly slow to play. Secondly, the ability to sneak around in these levels, including hiding behind objects in painfully obvious places or walking behind oblivious guards destroys the believability of the stealth convention itself. This is further complicated by the fact that as long as you stay out of any perceived “eyesight” of a guard, you’re fine. Break this tenuous line, even if it’s a fleeting glance, and you’re basically hunted down without mercy. It’s the lack of consistency in this manner that makes even the inclusion of these missions extremely annoying to play through.
Driving through London streets has managed to get improved somewhat, thanks to a reduction in the number of cars on city streets and an increase in the strength of the vehicles themselves. There’s also been an inclusion of motorcycles to give an additional bit of maneuverability. However, you’re still stuck with the incredibly inaccurate turn signal indicators and radical lack of information as to what you need to do. It’s easy to often fail missions by exiting a vehicle even if you reach your destination, for instance, which is incredibly frustrating. What’s more, the extra driving modes, race, chase, cab and free roam are nice to explore the city, but its much more of an afterthought than a solid game feature.
Black Monday still has a number of things going for it technically. The recreated London streets are still accurately represented, and the facial capture of the actors used to create the in-game character models are nicely animated. The cutscenes that take advantage of this technology are perhaps the best scenes of the game; however, there are some muddy textures that crop up every now and then that make the game’s detail look less than impressive. You’ll also run into plenty of clipping and collision detection issues that screw up the presentation of the game. Fortunately, the game is saved somewhat by solid voice acting, although you might have a ton of trouble understanding just what’s being said at times due to the extreme reliance on English slang. You’ll also want to beware some of the language, because there is some pretty rough dialogue in here. Coupled with plenty of techno (which actually seems to fit with some of the in-game action), the sound is perhaps the most impressive feature of the entire title.
What can actually be said about Black Monday in the end? Well, the concept of the game itself (and of the series) is a decent one that’s hampered by a lot of AI and gameplay issues. What’s more, the inclusion of stealth play that is weakly implemented compared to other titles further sheds light on the problems of Black Monday. Only serious fans of the original should seriously look at this title, otherwise, it’s a rental game at best.