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The Getaway: Black Monday

One reason for this Pulp Fiction-esque 'evolution' to the chapter sequencing is that focus groups revealed that some gamers played through the first character in The Getaway and didn't bother playing through with the second character {their loss, to be frank). A situation Team Soho were, understandably, disappointed with. "After all that hard work, for some players not to play the second half of the game was a great shame. They saw it as playing through the same game with just another skin. This time we wanted to make sure that didn't happen," explains Naz.

An innovative and brave feature of The Getaway was the absence of any screen furniture whatsoever. It's fair to say that the game didn't receive the acclaim for this achievement that it deserved but it wasn't without its problems. "Due to the clean cinematic ethos of The Getaway, improvements needed to be made to key areas of the game," Naz admits. "Navigation, health state display, health regain have all been overhauled."

The resulting map and GPS-type system for the vehicle indicators (directions are now linked directly to road routes) has improved driving navigation. The lean-on-a-wall health recovery remains but is supplemented by 'natural' pick-ups, much in the vein of Max Payne's bathroom cabinet tablets. This area has been tweaked further by limiting the number of 'leaning' recoveries you use during a mission - so no more shoot one guy, go lean, shoot another guy, go lean and so on, which many saw as particularly amusing - and it did feel a tad like cheating. The reworked health state display (blood appearing through your clothing) supposedly indicates more clearly how injured your character is but, we have to admit, this isn't readily apparent to us.

Other overhauled aspects include the visuals, with a more detailed London, improved character skins and all-new motion-capture animations; the addition of motorbikes (they're great fun); more variety in the missions; and three playable characters, as opposed to The Getaway's two.

It's in this last feature that the most significant addition to the original has been made as Sam, a 19-year-old girl, is purely a stealth character. She can't fight, shoot or kick anyone in the nuts (and we thought all girls could do that) but she can creep. Using various stealth moves, from noise-reducing crouches to scooting under desks and jumping up to higher ledges, her missions are totally covert-based. While this does vary the gameplay, we're not convinced today's gaming public in general has the patience required to get the most out of Sam's levels because, once you're spotted, the chances of successfully completing a mission is extremely remote.

The gameplay overall breaks down in a similar fashion to the first game with "roughly the same mix of driving and on-foot action - I'd say about 60/40, driving to on-foot," informs Naz. The driving, which was excellent in The Getaway as it was, has been tightened up in how it's employed. Superfluous journeys are now handled via cutscenes, the GPS system reduces the frustration previously experienced on the odd occasion when you were sent round in circles, and twice the amount of licensed vehicles adds variety.

Where Black Monday really excels is in the cinematic experience. Apart from the obvious pluses of the film-like feel provided by the furniture-free screen, the structure of the game is a "discovery of narrative," as Katie Ellwood puts it. Team Soho invested a great deal of time and effort in nailing the story's content, feel and ultimate realisation. Which is evident when you consider a cast of 23 actors spent a month in rehearsals and two months of shooting. The dialogue is believable, heartfelt, at times compelling, other times repugnant and, yes, even moving - a true rarity in the gaming world.

London's seedy and violent underbelly is lived out through the three lives of a reinstated sergeant still trying to cope with past issues, an amateur boxer who's sinking fast, and convinced that he's caught up in a code of revenge, and a young girl who's trying to make the most out of what life's thrown at her. The icing on the cake is the inspiration of Tarantino's Pulp Fiction to run the chapters out of chronological sequence. It's perfect for the game - even if it does mean that Black Monday starts on a Tuesday - with the flashback and future flashes teasing and compelling the gamer on.

Dark, often seedy, at all times verbally offensive, forever violent, yet desperate and forlorn, Black Monday seals the deal and steals the show when it comes to a gritty cinematic experience. This isn't a cartoon version of mobster life in Vegas or a homeboy in the hood. Naz sums it up succinctly, informing us, "It's a gritty, cinematic, immersive game experience set in an ultra-realistic real world environment." The man's not wrong.

The Getaway: Black Monday is released for PS2 on 12 November

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