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Last Updated: Monday, 15 November, 2004, 16:40 GMT
Black Monday is a good day for gamers
By James Bregman
BBC News Online

Don't be fooled by the low-key arrival of Getaway 2: Black Monday or the fact that it is overshadowed by the likes of Halo 2 and GTA: San Andreas.

Screenshot from The Getaway: Black Monday
Guns and gangsters: But it is not San Andreas
GBM is a lightweight but enjoyable sequel, which should please both fans of the original game and those who bewailed its flaws.

Though it is short and sweet it is also more fluid, tidy and meaty than its 2002 predecessor.

The setting is once again London, and centres on the experiences of three characters over a 48-hour period.

That trio comprises a shady ex-boxer from the East End, a moody policeman with a chequered background, and a thief with hi-tech skills.

Controlling each in turn, the player is tasked with completing third-person missions on foot and on the road in the midst of murky criminal enterprises in the city's underworld.

Rhyme and rhythm

With its industrial language, rampant gunplay and abundance of armed-to-the-hilt thugs, some might liken it to a Lock Stock-style film romp.

But the game deserves a better comparison than that. Despite the proliferation of far-fetched Eastern European crooks and colourful rhyming slang, it is more intelligent and better-written than anything from the recent Brit-flick stable.

The street map it uses is pinpoint accurate to the Capital's real layout. You can only actually visit a small portion of it, but driving irresponsibly around the geographically-accurate central areas is still an amusing experience for Londoners.

You even get to descend into the tube.

Screenshot from The Getaway: Black Monday
Pickyour vehicle carefully when you plan your get away
The in-and-out of vehicles theme invites obvious comparisons with Grand Theft Auto. That is largely unfair, since Black Monday is in many ways a different animal.

It is much more structured than Rockstar's record-breaking franchise, placing a major emphasis on narrative and delivering an unhurried storytelling element that you progress through in linear fashion.

However, it is still difficult to erase memories of just how much better San Andreas does cars, combat, and almost everything else, even though Black Monday is very competent indeed - it is certainly no Driv3r.

The graphics are superb. Vehicles, streets and a lot of buildings look very real indeed, and good character animation complements the very satisfactory control system.

But Black Monday's magnificent audio is what really stands out a mile. From the marvellous, pumping intro track to the pacy in-game score, the music is first-rate. Sound effects are also hard to fault, with gunfire that is crisp and dramatic.

Meanwhile, the actors go full throttle at their voice-over tasks, and it pays off with some great cut-scenes and continual banter.

The dialogue and its delivery are thoroughly dependable, and could have been plucked out of an episode of The Bill.

Bangers and shooters

The driving physics are sturdy enough. Cars handle pleasingly - if sometimes a little over-responsive. Collisions pack a real punch, and there's no shortage of other traffic to plough into.

The first game's hellbent determination to minimise on-screen clutter is continued, with zero facts, figures or radars on the screen.

Format: PlayStation2
Graphics: 8
Sound: 10
Gameplay: 7
Enduring appeal: 6
Overall: 7.5
Navigating the streets is achieved by following a flashing indicator light, which isn't always ideal in practice when you're haring through the streets at speed.

Similarly, you'll only know when you're low on ammo or health because the character will mutter as much to himself / herself.

Imperfect though they are, these systems certainly add a cinematic quality.

On the same token, aiming weapons is done without a crosshair. An automatic targetting system picks out the baddies for you, which can make things artificially simplistic, but overall it is a smart system that makes for flowing action.

The developers deserve praise for wisely chopping missions into segments, so that you're not thrown back several hours when you come a cropper at the end of a long task. Less satisfactory is the fact that you can't save games in the middle of one of these chapters.

Overall, Black Monday is fun to play, although diehard types might whinge that it's slightly too easy and definitely much too short.

But even if the gameplay hadn't been as accomplished as it is, you'd still have had to credit Team Soho for producing such a tremendously slick overall package.

The timing is unfortunate since this just can't muster the wow factor, scale and sheer charisma of last month's GTA: San Andreas.

But on its own merits, Black Monday oozes class, and is as suave and confident as a Kray twin.

The Getaway: Black Monday is out now for the PlayStation 2

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