The Getaway Review

You'll know that The Getaway is not your typical game right from the start.  The game opens with a long cinematic that involves the gunning down of a woman, the kidnapping of her child, and a liberal sprinkling of expletives deleted.  The woman is the wife of an ex-gangster on the mend, Mark Hammond, who you will play as for the first half of the game.  An underworld kingpin wants you to do some jobs for him, and is using the life of your kid as a motivating factor.  You hop in your car to chase the gangsters down and the game begins.

The streets of London.

Playing The Getaway is like taking part in a movie, a dark and very violent movie, and this has both good and bad points.  On the downside, the game is very linear and filled with long cinematics.  The cinematics are all of good quality, but the game's London setting and attention to authentic dialog will often leave North American players scratching their heads while trying to understand not just what the characters are saying, but also about what they are talking about.  At least you can enable subtitles to get a better clue of what's happening.  On the positive side of the ledger, the game enhances its movie-like feel and your immersion into the game by doing away with such video game staples as health bars, power-ups, and navigational aids, and by providing some of the most photorealistic graphics to appear on the PS to date.

The game has two main modes of play: driving and on-foot gun battles.  For the driving sequences, the developers have done an incredible job of recreating 40 square kilometers of London.  The shops and buildings, streets, parks, and bridges are all here.  The streets are also filled with traffic and pedestrians which realistically go about their business and react to your actions.

The game features a first-class damage model.

The driving sequences of the game are a lot of fun once you get used to driving on the left side of the road (or not).  There are a very large number of different car makes and models in the game and the game's realistic physics engine makes each one drive and handle differently.  You can get out of your car and hijack another at any time, perfect for when your current set of wheels is too damaged or you need a nice delivery truck to bust through a police roadblock.  The damage model is also excellent, with location-based damage that both appears on your car and affects its handling.  At various times during play I blew a tire out and was driving on a rim, lost a passenger door, and picked up innumerous dents, broken windows, and bullet holes.

In keeping with the game's deep immersion philosophy, you are not given any kind of maps or arrows directing you where to go.  Instead you'll need to watch your car's turn signals, as they will flash in the direction that you need to go and will blink when you've reached your destination.  To compensate for the lack of a rearview mirror, the game allows you to hear the police radio chatter so that you know when you're no longer being chased.  However, this doesn't do you much good when a rival gang is speeding up behind you.  The turn signal system is also a bit flawed, as the winding streets of London combined with the fact that you are usually traveling at high speed away from the police will have you sometimes circling the area of your destination while you try and figure out just where the game wants you to go.