`Getaway' delivers dark romp

Game: The PS2 offering has a film-like feel, stellar audio-visual effects, dual perspective - and lots and lots of gore.

February 13, 2003|By Chip Carter and Jonathan Carter | Chip Carter and Jonathan Carter,KNIGHT RIDDER/TRIBUNE

Talk about a joyride! This dark classic has more twists and turns than a Quentin Tarantino movie.

And just like a Tarantino movie, this game is loaded with gratuitous gore and violence, plus lots and lots of dirty words - including random droppings of the F-bomb.

Just didn't want you to say we didn't warn you.

Our first thought is to compare The Getaway ($50, PlayStation 2) to Grand Theft Auto. It's the same style of play, and you are a brutal, heartless thug. But to say they're the same kind of game is like saying Tarantino's Pulp Fiction and the British crime movie Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels are the same kind of movie. (OK, so they are ... sort of.)

But while GTA is a freestyle romp through America's mean streets (except for GTA London, of course, though the action is the same), The Getaway has more of a cinematic feel to it. Superb movie scenes and actual good acting (still a rarity in a game) propel the action.

You begin the game as Mark Hammond, an ex-con fresh off a stretch in stir. Hammond's old gang murders his wife and kidnaps his son. The idea is to force him to keep working for a nasty crime boss who wants Hammond to do some pretty dicey stuff.

You're Hammond through the game's first 12 missions, doing whatever you have to do to have a chance of seeing your son again. Arson, robbery, even murder - it's all there.

Once you finish the first dirty dozen missions, a new character enters the picture: renegade cop DC Carter. His job is to follow the trail of terror you just blazed as Hammond. It's a unique perspective for a video game, and seeing both sides of the same story makes it seem more complete.

Like GTA, there's plenty of driving and crashing going on, as well as lots of gunplay and other random acts of violence. Hammond's habit of breaking necks with a single sharp twist is especially disturbing - or cool - depending how you look at it.

The Getaway is an amazing audio-visual treat. The acting is terrific, the soundtrack superb. The graphics are as close to film as we've seen. This virtual London looks utterly real, right down to the red double-decker buses and the Fed Ex vans you see on the streets.

There are a few technical foibles - the control could be a little crisper, for starters - but for the most part, The Getaway is right on the money.

Rated for ages 18 and up.

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