: The Getaway: Black Monday
: Team Soho
: 11/12/2004 (EUR)
The Getaway: Black Monday
is the sequel to infamous vapourware Playstation 2
title, The Getaway
Set three years after the events of the original story, life in the Big Smoke has continued much as we know it. Mayor Ken Livingston has brought in the Congestion Charge, Trafalgar Square has been partially closed to traffic, and the city continues to be an overrated, overpriced shithole.
For the Met's Organized Crime Squad, though, the shithole needs cleaning. And Sgt Ben Mitchell has just come off leave following his controversial shooting of an armed suspect.
Now, I've tried to avoid the seedier parts of London, but the kind of all-out battle Sgt. Mitchell and his squad enter is not the sort of thing I imagine happens very often. In spite of the thrill of running around a council estate blasting the chav inhabitants, the blastfest that opens the game is positively tame compared to what follows.
Mitchell and his squad eventually uncover some kind of shady dealings between the Yardies and a group of Latvian mobsters. At the crucial moment, the action rewinds back to the beginning of the day and the focus shifts, following the action from the perspective of amateur boxer Eddie O'Connor (who just happens to sound like Phil Mitchell) and the Tasha Slappa-esque Sam Thompson as they embark on the most ridiculous heist ever.
That's right, folks, this plucky rag-tag band of misfits is only going to break into a highrise bank and nick the Icon of Jebus or the Arse of Nebuchadnezzar or something from the Latvia Don's safe. Nothing goes according to plan and everyone gets perforated except Sam and Eddie, who go on a murderous rampage for vengeance.
There can be no denying that Black Monday is one of the most cinematic games ever. The characters are all well-voiced and stunningly animated, the composition of each scene is immaculate, and the plot is genuinely enthralling and compelling to the point you can almost forget about the increasingly ludicrous situations and contrived, stereotypical characters. Sgt. Mitchell comes across as a total badass, Eddie a mighty meathead and Sam a shrill, common tart who's trying to pull herself out of the dole queue. The game manages to exceed the exciting story and swear-happy dialogue of the original.
However, it also falls into the original's trap of offering utterly rubbish gameplay that cannot possibly hope to compete with the presentation. In a shocking move, the developers have listened carefully to every criticism of the original Getaway... and ignored them. The auto-aim system is still hopeless. You still have to lean on walls to recover health. The car handling is still unpredictable and unrealistic. The AI of your foes is lobotomized at best. London itself is still little more than a ghost town. Worst of all, the game still relies horrendously on scripting.
Much of the game's emphasis is on gunplay and close quarters combat. However, the auto-aimer is still your worst foe. It will target enemies miles away while a gangster ten yards away fills your face with lead. When fistfighting as Eddie, the autoaimer determines which of the crowd in front of you will be punched first. Except, Eddie prefers to try and punch someone on the other side of a dining table, while two thugs right next to him pound the crap out of him. This doesn't matter, though, because Eddie can 'grapple' with foes. The game provides elaborate sets of controls with different moves in the grapple, but all you ever need to do is spin the enemy away from you and hit the square button to snap their neck with the best (and most sickening) crunch noise in a game ever. As a result, you can waltz through armies of thugs grabbing and snapping each one's neck in turn. Yawn!
Leaning makes an unwelcome and ludicrous return. Eddie's grey jumper will become bloodsoaked and then miraclously clean repeatedly like a detergent commercial. However, in a hamfisted effort to make the game harder, you can only heal a limited amount of health per level before your character will refuse to lean. This would be fair enough, but for the medikits you can spot throughout each level, each containing a bottle of magic healing medicine that instantly heals you to full virility. However, you have no warning if these are coming, so you may well waste some of your precious 'leaning quota' (which you have absolutely no way of gauging) right before stumbling across one. And before you think of going back to a medikit after doing a bit more of the level, the levels often block your return path to the kit once you've passed it. Bastard!
So, driven a real car? Good. Forget how, though, and you'll enjoy Black Monday a lot more. Cars don't behave in any sort of convincing manner. A car will maintain a steady line through a tight turn at high speed, but then be spun helplessly around by a minor impact. Forget trying to pull any clever stunts or tricks during a chase, you'll only crash and look silly. The new motorcycles are extremely unpleasant to drive, and are much less manueverable than you'd expect - far off the transcendant fun of the bikes in the Grand Theft Auto series. In an absolute godsend, there is finally a map. Yes, pause the game and get a nice map showing both your present facing and your destination. Driving is that tiny bit less painful in Black Monday. You can still follow your indicators, but you can now plan a bit further ahead.
Your enemies are braindead fools with only two real abilities: charge at you firing/punching continuously, or hide behind a wall and emerge in a perfectly timed pattern to enable you to easily headshot them. However, they're also extremely polite. Sgt. Mitchell has the ability to arrest suspects - do so and his mates will kindly refrain from shooting you doing the 'you're nicked, sunshine' animation. Watching a heavily-armed cop cuffing a suspect as three of the suspect's buddies track him with their guns is pure comedy. Likewise, thugs are reluctant to try and save a friend from a vicious neck-snapping at the hands of Eddie, preferring to calmly stand still and allow themselves to be grabbed for a bit of snappy fun.
London has been brought up to date since the last installment, with any changes to road layout being carefully implemented. A few extra roads in the city are also added, and there's a whole new chunk of Shoreditch in the East End to explore. However, the city is still lifeless. Few people wander the streets, and those that do are little more than zombies who have no real objective. The sparse traffic of the original remains, with buses and taxis not stopping to pick up or set down passengers. And, except during a few missions, the city's many railway bridges are deserted.
The most criminal sin Black Monday commits is by being inexorably tied to its scripting. Events can only be triggered by meeting a very specific set of criteria, and fail to do so will result either in failure or a general lack of anything happening. Want to save Jackie the journalist from falling off the railing? You'll have to have punched Yuri the enforcer enough to make him fall down and stay down first. Boss characters run around absorbing your bullets but cannot be killed until they reach the showdown area of the level. Enemies trying to escape in cars are unstoppable - no amount of smashing, shooting and damaging will stop them until they reach their destination. What's worse, these scripted cars corner like they're on rails, shattering what little disbelief you have in driving through Mayfair with a dozen police cars and half again as many Latvian Mafia gunmen all firing at you. At many points I failed a mission because I wasn't standing in exactly the right spot when the timer (which you're not giving any warning of even running) ran out.
Extras, cars and guns
Black Monday features a healthy collection of cars to steal. The Lancia Delta Integrale makes an appearance, as do numerous favourites like the TVR Speed 6, Lotus Esprit, and Vauxhall VX220. Sadly, these are often presented like a fanboy's menu at the start of missions for you to pick from ("Blimey, guv'nor, they're gettin' away! Should I take the TVR, the Clio GT, the Stratos or the superbike?").
Guns are well represented with the Saiga 12k making an appropriate appearance as a smuggled Eastern Bloc firearm, alongside a variety of SMGs and machine pistols. The AK-47 is back, as is the Glock 17. Sgt. Mitchell's squad sadly stick by their MP5s no matter how juicy the hardware the crims drop at the feet.
After many criticized the original game for focusing almost exclusively on the story, Black Monday offers a few minigames to keep you entertained. There's a taxi mission, a police chase mission and a street race mission in addition to the usual free roam mode, although none of these are especially polished or entertaining.
Tits n' bums (and swearing)
Ever controversial, you once again encounter women with their baps out. Get over it.
The swearing is much worse than the original, though, with Eddie and Sam being especially crude. The langauge alone would earn this game its 18 rating but at times it's almost Eddie Murphy levels of ridiculousness. In its favour, though, at least it suits the characters - Sam's character in particular is an incredibly realistic rendition of a southeastern girl in her mannerisms and vocabulary.
In a cute touch, you almost don't need to scream expletives at the screen as four mafia cars ram you simultaneously any more, as Eddie will bellow, "FUCKIN'!!!" for you.
I realize I've been extremely harsh on Black Monday, but then, Team Soho have had two years and more piles of Sony's money to sort their game out. Sadly, it still smacks of do-nothing London media poshboys who sat in the pub one day with their mates Tarquin and Crispin, and over a round of three pints costing £45, thought it would be a 'right laugh' to make a game where London gets shot to hell like in a Hollywood movie. There's a few glimmers of the style seen in the recent wave of British crime movies like Layer Cake and Snatch, but outside of the cutscenes the sheen becomes dulled very quickly.
With the upcoming Playstation 3 I have no doubt that Team Soho will have the immense processing power needed to finally do their virtual London justice. If you enjoyed the original (there must be someone else) or find the faltering cockney accents on Eastenders and The Bill amusing, you'll like The Getaway: Black Monday. I paid £12.99 for it new in May 2005, and feel I just about got my money's worth. It's not a patch on its peers Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas or Mafia, but it is at least a solid, playable game. If you insist on a numerical score, I would say this is a 6.5/10.
Just be prepared for the most ridiculously unfair car chases since The President's Run, you fuckin' muppet.
Update 20/01/2006: Black Monday was scarily prophetic. The tagline on the box was 'London doesn't know what's about it hit it'... July 7, 2005 was indeed a case of this. The level where you, as Sgt Mitchell, chase 'ethnic' people through a tube station before boarding a train and making your way through the carriages, shooting them in the face is also a sickly ironic coincidence.