Sony must have been delighted that The Getaway was given a (cough) mixed critical reception. Why? Since the faults were: (a) obvious and (b) easy to fix. Result? Black Monday took just two years to develop (the original took six). The misleading PR guff about 'When is a movie more than a movie?' is history. And the developers have addressed the glaring flaws - poor targeting, maddening stealth and crappy camera. In short, the approach couldn't be more different, and the results... couldn't be more similar, bland or - whisper it - sporadically worse.
Playing Black Monday is like watching your favourite episode of The Bill on a wonky VHS - essentially good, but the picture keeps wobbling and you've seen the best bits before. This is a tweaked retread, with less glaring faults, but less of the - infrequent - touches of genius that illuminated the original. Worse, it's ambivalence gaming at its most... whatever. The early sections are formulaic and relatively unchallenging, while the highlights are director's cuts of the original - even including a messy finale on a boat. After the seven hours it takes to complete Mitch's missions, we couldn't recall a moment of true innovation or surprise - save, sadly, for some potato-faced acting and (perhaps intentionally) caustic one liners.
Good news. Driving is robust, with wince-inducing collisions, punchy handling and bustling intersections. You can ride bikes and shoot, creating welcome variety. There's even a cracking 'ahem' Enter the Matrix-style on-rails shooting mission (with almost-likeable ex-boxer Eddie) where you need to halt pursuing cars - a genuine cinematic thrill. There's an incredible shootout in a plush art deco home (better than the gallery from the original) and an incredibly tense infiltration mission in the gym where Eddie sees flashbacks of his comrades' brutal murders.
Faults have been patchily rectified. Targeting (hold R1) is snappier and usually locates the nearest threat. You still need to lean against walls to recover but at least you won't get shot in the back any more. You can even move the camera 30-40? (right analog) to increase your field of view. Sadly, the camera's still schizophrenic (characters get locked on invisible walls and 'vibrate'), especially in tight corridors and bends - a real handicap in the Underground. In fact, the best (only?) way to navigate safely around scenery is to hold R1 and auto-target distant foes, since the manual camera can't react in time.
Objectives are clearer, but there's still no on-screen furniture (unlike GTA:SA). Sam barking "Not over 'ere" is no replacement for a flashing direction arrow. On one occasion, lost, we were forced to return to the car 100m away to see where the indicators were pointing - while improved, there's too much guesswork, with invisible 'hot' zones that trigger cut scenes and advance play. In one of Sam's missions, you need to drop off a gantry with no way of knowing who lies below, invariably getting spotted - pure trial and error.
The script is amusing (Copper asks gangster: "Ring any bells?" Reply: "Yes, the one on the end of my f**king dick"). The plot's passable double-cross nonsense, marred by monkey-faced cop Mitch who consistently grimaces like he's fighting a bowel movement - notably during a tender scene with a lady. The scenery lacks interactivity with spookily few pedestrians. It feels like cruising a film set looking for the odd furnished interior.
Two years on, we expect more than old scenery, wonky cameras and duff stealth. In the same time period, Rockstar have created an entire state - consisting of three unique, huge, entirely interactive cities - with over 90 explicitly structured and incredibly balanced missions. In comparison, it's just, well, a little underwhelming.
Black Monday feels like a game at war with itself - trapped between lazily satisfying the millions who bought the original and breaking into risky, innovative turf (like the all too brief gang powered Bank Heist, or thrilling on-rails shooting section). Sadly, the only loser is you, the player. Most damingly Black Monday feels more like a product than a labour of love.
The Getaway: Black Monday is out now for PS2