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Title: The Getaway
Developer: Team Soho
Publisher: Sony
Release Date: 11th December 2002 (UK)
Format: DVD-ROM
Platform: Playstation 2

More than three years in the making, The Getaway was released on Wednesday 11th December amid a wave of anticipation. Much had been hyped, but little had been seen. Gamers were eager to see how well the 40 square kilometres of London had been mapped out, while the moral quarter waited to see how far over the line the language, violence and sex stepped.

THE FACTS

The Getaway is an attempt to make a game similar in style to Grand Theft Auto III but transplanted into a real-life city, in this case London. A central area of the city, 40 km2 (incorrectly converted to 25 miles2 on many a website) in size, has been painstakingly recreated, complete with shops in the correct places, traffic systems working as expected and even mundane things like phone boxes right where you'd expect them.

Interface
The interface is surprisingly intuitive. The screen is completely uncluttered, there are absolutely no icons, no health bar, no ammo indicator, no map, no nothing. The controls are also a complete breeze to pickup, especially as they are very very similar to those of GTA III. There are some interesting moves in the game, such as being able to (Metal Gear Solid 2 style) flatten yourself against a wall and edge along it, peer around corners and also shoot round a corner without looking (fun, but essentially useless).

Mission Structure
The Getaway is heavily reliant on it's strong storyline. The first 12 missions are played as Mark Hammond, an ex-gangster who is pulled back into a life of crime by big time crook Charlie Jolson after his wife is murdered and child kidnapped, while the next 12 are played as Frank Carter, a corrupt policeman who will stop at nothing to put Charlie away. Each mission may have up to four or five parts (sub-missions, if you will).

Basically, there are two types of sub-mission - driving around London to get somewhere specific and stealth shooting thingies in interior locations. The driving missions are generally pretty simple, involving driving from A to B - something you would assume would be pretty tough given the lack of a map. To make it a little easier for non-London residents (and those without an encyclopedic knowledge of the city), the cars back lights indicate which general direction you should be going in and both flash when you have reached your destination. The shooting levels generally involve being heavily outnumbered and having to employ stealth tactics to take out a single enemy at a time until a certain room is reached or a certain enemy taken out.

There is a free roam mode, in which you can drive around London to your heart's content, but this is only unlocked on completion of the mission based main game.

Combat
Shooting at people could not be simpler. You hold down R1 to target an enemy and press square to shoot. Tapping R1 will then move the target to the next enemy, whether they be in front or behind you. If the enemy is close enough to you, you will pistol whip them instead of shooting. You can also, if close enough, grab hold of an enemy and essentially take them hostage. You can then shoot them, break their neck (if Mark Hammond) or arrest them (if Frank Carter).

There are basically only four weapons in the game. You start off with a pistol, and it is possible to pick up another from dead enemies and hold one in each hand. The next weapon you'll find is a shotgun, which takes quite a long time to reload but packs a big punch. Lastly, there are two types of automatic - they are essentially identical, but the first is two-handed while the second can be dualled, much like the pistol.

Cut Scenes
Much has been made of the cut-scenes in The Getaway, with a total of more than an hour included in the game. A clip of a couple of minutes precedes each mission and sets the scene for your objectives. As far as I know, no famous actors (a la Ray Liotta in Vice City) have been used.

CONTROVERSY

The Getaway is rightly rated an 18 and the fact that such a massive company as Sony has released a game so obviously aimed at adults is seen by many as a big step forward. Obviously, there are those who do not see it this way, and there has been a massive outcry from some areas about the overt nature of the violence and language in the game. Everything in the game is comparable with what you would find in a film rated 18, but I think the problem many people have is the idea that computer game ratings are much less likely to be upheld than those of movies.

Language
If South Park: Bigger, Longer, and Uncut currently holds the record for the most uses of the word fuck in a motion picture, then The Getaway must surely hold the associated computer game record. The cutscenes contain an almost ridiculous amount of swearing, and there is even some in-game as people shout out 'fuck' as you narrowly miss running them over. At times, the barrage of profanity can be jarring, but overall it's just quite amusing. You won't find the dreaded c word - presumably no-one at Sony had the balls to go that far just yet.

Violence
The violence in The Getaway isn't any worse than you'll find in a handful of other games, it is certainly no worse than that found in GTA III for example. The context is somewhat different though, you are positively encouraged at some points to mow down the police - one level in particular involves fighting your way out of a police station, and it is impossible unless you kill everyone on sight.

Nudity
This is just plain bizarre, and I think the first time I've seen nudity in a computer game (no, I haven't played BMX XXX). There is a cutscene near the beginning of the game set in a strip club with a topless lady gyrating in the background and a later level takes place in another strip club and involves happily shooting lap dancers (in the breasts if you like). There is no full frontal nudity, but the whole thing seems mightily bizarre to me.

BT
A story appeared in late december 2002 regarding the usage of a BT van in one mission in the game. The van is stolen and the BT engineer's uniform used as a disguise to infiltrate a police station. It appears BT were not asked for permission, and did not like the idea of violence associated with them. Future copies of the game will not include this mission.
Thanks to SEoD for the heads-up.

REVIEW

Now, where to start? Suffice it to say that, while The Getaway is an extremely enjoyable game, it is not the next step in gaming that many have proclaimed. The sensation of bombing down Oxford Street in a stolen Lexus and knowing instinctively to turn left into Regent Street is not something gamers will have experienced before and is certainly a major achievement, but this is only really an issue for the relatively small set of people who reside in London.

The Mapping
Just to say it again - the mapping out of London is an astonishing technical feat, and probably enough of a reason to buy the game on it's own. Unforunately, there are some (minor) problems. Firstly, it's not the whole of London. I live in Archway, and the disappointment when I reached King's Cross and realized that I was at the edge of the playable area and wasn't going to be able to park outside my house, was tangible. Secondly, the London we have is almost a utopian vision of London. The traffic is permanently light (a compromise to make the game more playable, I'm sure), Oxford Street isn't packed full of shoppers and, as my mum so rightly said over my shoulder, 'that's not London, there's no litter'. The only other minor point of disappointment is the layout of the shops - it can be a bit of a distraction to be driving down a road and suddenly think to yourself 'that's not right, there shouldn't be a Burger King there'. It is a bit unreasonable to expect the developers to map out every shop correctly, but after the massive hype, expectations were high, and so this is a disappointment.

Graphics
The graphics are very good, but don't really seem to be pushing the PS2 to its limits. The car models are nowhere near the detail level of Gran Turismo 3 (but what is?) and the textures can seem very repetitive at times (but maybe this is more of an insight into London than anything else).

The human models are all very well done, with realistic walking, crouching, shooting and dieing. The cut scenes (all seemingly done in-engine) are also very good, with lip-sync being only a minor problem. The only problem is that the cut scenes cannot be skipped.

Sound
After Grand Theft Auto: Vice City and its absolutely incredible in game music (who expected ever to hear Billie Jean in a computer game?!), this feels like a real let-down. There is no in-game music, except for a faint dance-y tune as your time-limit runs out on some of the driving missions. One can only assume that the budget ran out and this was the bit that got hit. The sound effects are all very pleasant and well done, but music is a big miss.

Overall
The Getaway is a strong contender for game of the year, if only because of the achievements that Team Soho have made in bringing something that has not even been attempted before so successfuly into a game. While I'm not sure it's quite that good, it's certainly a step in the right direction for photo-realistic gaming. The mission-based gameplay is incredibly fun, if a little too short (the 24 missions are unlikely to take you more than a couple of weeks to complete) and despite a few niggling flaws (healing back up to full health simply by leaning against a wall for a bit is incredibly dumb), it's a game that most people will want to play through till the end - something you can't say about many games these days.


Update: 8/1/03
It was reported today in the Metro newspaper that a member of the Metropolitan Police's special operations branch is thought to have been given Playstation 2s in return for details of police firearms tactics, used in the making of the Getaway.


(r) RalphyK says re The Getaway: There is occasional use of the c-word, both spoken, and in one of Mr Wu's subtitles - I was quite shocked, but pleased.

The Getaway
It takes two to make it ... the big two

Written by Jim Thompson (novel) and Walter Hill
Directed by Sam Peckinpah
1994 remake written by Amy Holden Jones and directed by Roger Donaldson

The Getaway refers simultaneously to the classic 1972 Sam Peckinpah action film starring Steve McQueen and Ali MacGraw, as well as to the inferior 1994 remake starring Alec Baldwin and Kim Basinger.

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Along with The French Connection and The Great Escape, The Getaway can be fairly described as the standard for action movies in the 1970s, and thus serves as a prototype for the modern action movie. In this film genre, the plot generally takes second billing to two other vital aspects of the film: the characters and the action sequences. In The Getaway, the viewer gets both in droves.

The central character of The Getaway is Carter "Doc" McCoy, masterfully played by Steve McQueen (but doesn't Steve McQueen always master his role? He may not be the greatest actor of all time, but he has a mesmerizing screen presence.). McQueen was pretty much the top dog in terms of 1970s action-adventure films, and he doesn't disappoint here. Doc McCoy is a career criminal serving ten years in the joint down in Texas for armed robbery; his wife, Carol (played by the mesmerizing Ali MacGraw), is still on the outside waiting his escape.

Doc and Carol come off as a latter-day Bonnie and Clyde, playing off of each other and driving each other further down a criminal path throughout the film. The film gives Carol a touch of innocence, but her actions clearly contradict this. This blatant contradiction in her character paints the broad strokes; the fine touches of Carol appear when she interacts with her husband. She attempts to be tough much of the time, but Doc is really a rough character; he often hits her. Darkly enough, Steve McQueen apparently did this a fair amount with Ali MacGraw in real life.

Doc is clearly painted as a cutthroat individualist; it's clear that the only softness in his heart in any way is brought there by his caring for Carol, but even that doesn't shine through most of the time. Doc is quite willing to do whatever it takes to get out of the joint; he's desperate and doesn't have any silly morals holding him back.

So we have Doc and Carol; what other characters pop up in this picture? Jack Benyon plays the man who gives Doc an offer he can't refuse, a Faustian bargain, if you will. Benyon's motivations and resulting actions provide the major impetus for the forward movement of the plot in this movie, discussed shortly. It is Benyon's duality as a crook and as a man of the law that creates the depth in his character, much like Gene Hackman in Unforgiven.

Several other characters play significant if minor roles in the film: Fran Clinton is the figurative damsel in distress (played well by Sally Struthers) with a lack of confidence and a complete absence of common sense; Harold Clinton plays her husband without a backbone; Rudy Butler and Frank Jackson as Doc's accomplices in crime who manage to be scum to the level of making Doc seem heroic; and Slim, whose small role adds some interesting perspective to the whole mess.

It's a mix of intriguing characters mixed up in a sordid mess, and that's the genesis of any good action movie.

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So, the characters seem interesting, but what happens? If you don't want any spoilers, don't read this section.

Doc is in prison and will likely be there for several more years until his parole officer Benyon offers him a deal: he'll let him out now in exchange for Doc pulling off a bank heist for him. Doc agrees, gets out of prison, finds his wife, and lives up to his word: he assembles a team to rob a bank.

The first half of the film is the setup for the heist, which involves an odd affair between the mentally blank Fran and the conniving Rudy, who Doc recruits to help with the bank robbery. Along with Frank, Rudy and Doc attempt to rob the bank, but the heist goes haywire even if they manage to escape with the money. After the robbery, Rudy kills Frank, and in retribution Doc shoots Rudy, thinking the shot to be lethal, but it is not.

So, we have Doc on the run with the money from a bank heist along with his wife, an angry Benyon chasing after demanding his rightful money, and a wounded Rudy (with Fran in tow) giving chase planning to kill everyone, the remainder of the movie becomes an adrenaline-pumped chase scene with some plot swerves (Carol and Benyon had an affair?!) and an ending that puts some real perspective on the whole situation: the couple is saved by Slim, who holds a belief that the two must be righteous simply because they're a married couple in a time of sin.

Most of the movie consists of well-placed action scenes: car chases, a botched bank heist, an intense series of scenes in an abandoned hotel near the end where all of the characters hunt each other. It flows along quickly as any action movie should, pushed along mostly by the characters from scene to scene. In essence, it's an example of a quality popcorn action flick.

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As with any action movie, the real cement that holds everything together comes from the direction, editing, and cinematography, and with The Rundown, the film hits a real home run.

Sam Peckinpah, the director, is the master of 1960s-1970s action films, helming The Wild Bunch, Straw Dogs, Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid, and one of the most underrated films of all time, Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia. With this movie, he created a sense of unstructured mayhem, as The Getaway comes together mostly as a sequence of blood-soaked subplots, which fits the dry and dangerous acting of the principals (mainly Steve McQueen) to a tee.

Lucien Ballard, the cinematographer, deserves a great deal of credit, too: many of the shots create a sense of desperate claustrophobia, as if all of the characters are trapped on a roller coaster of death and are unable to escape. Each shot frames the characters carefully, holding them into place in such a way that they seemed trapped in their bloody lifestyle. To contrast this, the shots of Slim near the end represent a very open feeling, showing him as a sort of beacon of hope in the whole sordid mess.

The combination of efforts here, along with great editing, create a disturbing portrayal of desperate people, a portrayal in which the film is spliced together with blood and cheap whiskey. It's a stellar achievement, and it's clear after a few viewings that the shot selection and framing are the real stars of the film.

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The cast and crew of this film did a tremendous job and deserve significant applause.

Major Cast
Steve McQueen as Carter 'Doc' McCoy
Ali MacGraw as Carol McCoy
Ben Johnson as Jack Beynon
Sally Struthers as Fran Clinton
Al Lettieri as Rudy Butler
Slim Pickens as Slim
Jack Dodson as Harold Clinton
Bo Hopkins as Frank Jackson

Major Crew
Sam Peckinpah (director)
Jim Thompson (writer)
Walter Hill (writer)
Mitchell Brower (producer)
David Foster (producer)
Quincy Jones (music)
Lucien Ballard (cinematography)

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In the early 1990s, Alec Baldwin (who would play Doc) and Kim Basinger (Carol, of course), who were a couple at the time, decided to push for a remake of one of their favorite action films with a bit of "modern spice" and an attempt to add some prettiness to the grime and intensity that filled the original. Needless to say, it was a train wreck.

The first problem is taking Alec Baldwin seriously as a cutthroat robber; I can potentially buy him as a white collar criminal (as in Glengarry Glen Ross), but more often I picture him as the character he plays in Beetlejuice: the comedic and inept house husband. He simply doesn't seem to have that icy edge needed to really carry through the character he's playing; instead, he reminds me of Vince Gill attempting to make a mob movie.

The "modernization" of the movie is pretty terrible as well. They introduce a lengthy, terrible subplot involving Rudy (watch Michael Madsen wasted in a role!) and Fran (watch Jennifer Tilly be... Jennifer Tilly!), in which Fran is married to a veterinarian (James Stephens). Fran is a complete simpleton here, far beyond the simplistic worldview of Sally Struthers in the original, and winds up cheating on her husband with Rudy in this weird interlude in the hotel that goes on and on. Her husband watches and hangs himself with a belt while Michael Madsen urinates. Like I said, weird. James Woods (another underrated actor) plays Jack Benyon in this version, but the role is significantly reduced; the size of the role of Benyon and that of Rudy are roughly equal in the remake, whereas Benyon was one of the true principals in the original.

In the end, this remake is strictly inferior to the original in every way, unless you're simply renting it to see a fantastic Jennifer Tilly sex scene.

Major Cast (1994 remake)
Alec Baldwin as Doc McCoy
Kim Basinger as Carol McCoy
Michael Madsen as Rudy Travis
James Woods as Jack Benyon
David Morse as Jim Deer Jackson
Jennifer Tilly as Fran Carvey
James Stephens as Harold Carvey
Richard Farnsworth as "Slim" (i.e., the cowboy played by Slim Pickens in the original)
Philip Seymour Hoffman as Frank Hansen

Major Crew (1994 remake)
Roger Donaldson (director)
Amy Holden Jones (re-writer)
David Foster (producer)
John Alan Simon (producer)
Lawrence Turman (producer)
Mark Isham (music)
Peter Menzies (cinematography)

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Sources for this writeup include:
IMDb, The Getaway (1972), http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0068638/
IMDb, The Getaway (1994), http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0109890/
DVD, The Getaway (1972), film and production notes, ASIN: 6304698593
DVD, The Getaway (1994), film and production notes, ASIN: 0783226993

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