Two months and 2 ounces (just kiddin', Mom) later, Grand Theft Auto Vice City's starting to feel a bit played out; only so many times I can hear "I Ran" while driving a stolen sports car through a city that looks like Miami and feels like soggy Cleveland. And who do you know who's actually bought a building or biz with any of that mad loot made from completing insane missions for guys who sound like Luis Guzman and Burt Reynolds but look like animated Legos? Sorry, but at the end of the day I want more from my video games, even if it's just the vaguest sense of accomplishment, and chainsawing dudes for fake dough isn't much of a kick. And that goes triple for offing pros in back alleys; dare say I don't get the guy who plays his GTAVCin serial-killer mode all the bloody time (by bloody I mean the kind that gets on your tires and leaves skid marks everywhere).
At the end of the day (or start, considering I've played GTAVCtill day becomes night becomes day becomes...what time is it?), you just want a little purpose to your mayhem, something more than the vacant, glazed entertainment that comes with sinnin' and grinnin'. Which is where The Getaway comes in: From jump, when you're watching your old lady get gunned down and your son get snatched by thugs and a leather-clad veddy bad babe, you're in the thick of a plot-heavy, emotionally vested game that plays like an amalgam of The Long Good Fridayand Get Carterand everything else Guy Ritchie ever plagiarized from. The Getaway, available in England in December, defines the notion of interactive entertainment: It's the movie that plays like a game, a game that entertains like a film--the quintessential hybrid, really, intended for the passive audience member who's always wondered how it felt to unleash a little two-fisted fury on coppers and crims standing between you and a loved one gone missing. (The controls are even stripped down to accommodate PS2 novices; shoot and duck, pretty much.)
On first glance The Getaway seems like a Britified GTAVC--the Beatles' first album to Chuck Berry's fourth (OK, I have no idea what that means, except to say it's the same ol' done slightly dif). But the devil's in the details, and this game is nothing but: Team Soho spent almost three years developing the game, and most of that time appears to have been spent photographing and digitizing 21 square miles of London, from the East End to Hyde Park to the majestic St. Pancras train station; the game's cheaper than a plane ticket, if nothing else. The whole thing's intended to feel and play real, from the licensed cars (Alfa Romeos, BMWs, double-decker buses, etc.) to the gray grime covering the city like a shroud. (Downside: You can't visit most, if any, of the tourist attractions; there's no entrance to Buckingham Palace, for instance.) Also, Team Soho's done away with the graphic clutter that constantly reminds you this is nothing but a game: Instead of maps, your car's blinker tells you in which direction to travel, and when you get shot, you bleed and limp and gasp for air; no need for those pesky icons to tell you the end is nigh.
Essentially you play the game twice: as Mark Hammond, the gangster lured back into the underworld by bossman Charlie Jolson, then as Frank Carter, a bad cop who retraces the steps you made as Mark. Got it? It's not so confusing, especially since Team Soho went so far as to motion-capture most of the game's action and "cast" the game with British actors who did quite a bit more than stand in a recording studio for a week and cash a paycheck, since their faces and body movements were filmed and digitized. Never has a game looked like less of one. There goes this weekend. And the next. And the next. Bloody.'ell.