Is "The Getaway" a videogame, a movie or some mutant offspring of the two?
A creation of Sony's Team Soho for PlayStation 2, the game features perhaps the least sympathetic group of characters in recent history.
The "hero" of our adventure is Mark Hammond, a retired bank robber and former member of the evil Collins Crew. He witnesses the murder of his wife and the abduction of his son.
He follows the kidnappers, only to be captured by the gang, savagely beaten and then put to work at a series of lethal jobs for crime boss Charlie Jolson, who is holding young Hammond hostage.
To rescue his son, Hammond kills scores of people, including old friends, armies of police and citizens caught in the cross fire or run down as Hammond races from place to place to complete almost two dozen gory missions for his nemesis.
"The Getaway" is not a simple drive through London.
You're almost always pitted against an overwhelming number of enemies. Armed with a pistol, or weapons you pick up after dispatching bad guys, you usually have to fight your way to the end of each mission, and it only takes a few shots to dispatch you.
You can regain your health, but only by stopping and leaning against a wall. That method seems to take forever, and during that time you're often set upon by cops or crooks.
There's nothing on the screen to guide you, either. No ammo graphs -- you'll know you're out when the gun stops shooting -- no maps, no compass, no lifeline. When Hammond is shot, a stain of blood appears. A few more shots and he starts to stagger and gasp.
There are other problems with "The Getaway."
For one thing, you're constantly driving. The drive is either a simple case of getting from one place to another -- boring -- or having to battle cops and robbers the entire distance, which is often almost impossible.
Targeting is handled by one of the right shoulder buttons. Unfortunately, you have to hit the button to change targets, and while you're shooting each bad guy several times, everybody else with a gun is shooting at you.
And of course there's the moral issue -- how many people can you justify killing to retrieve your kidnapped child? Two? Five? Twenty?
To the developers, apparently, as many as it takes.
Graphics get a B. The detailed cityscapes took a lot of effort, and it shows. Characters aren't the most lifelike you'll ever see.
Control gets a C+. Driving and walking take a delicate touch, and targeting requires quick reflexes. There are some camera angle problems, also.
Sound gets a B. The British version of English is almost impossible to understand. On the other hand, there's a nice taste of accents from many parts of London. Weapons and driving effects are excellent, as is the evocative musical score.
I wasn't wild about "The Getaway," although I believe it's worthy of a B. It's an interesting effort that might have benefited from a few more months of fine-tuning -- and a sense of humor.
However, as a harbinger of things to come, it's a solid effort that will be imitated. The nonstop violence and endless cursing means this is not a game that should fall into the hands of children.