Developer: The Collective
Release Date: September 2005
Atari's been hiding Getting Up: Contents Under Pressure for a while. I mean that literally; to hear word one about the game at last year's E3, you had to navigate through their weird art-deco buffet lounge to an exterior balcony in the Staples Center. There, you'd find Getting Up inside a locked room, which only opened at irregular intervals. For all we knew coming out of E3, Getting Up was a fishing sim.
A year later, they aren't being quite as secretive. Getting Up, the brainchild of the fashion designer Marc Ecko, is a little bit of a lot of things. The first time you see it, you might expect a free-roaming urban action game like Grand Theft Auto. Instead, it's a brawler, a platformer, and a stealth game, all at once, and all based around graffiti.
(Don't do what I did, and immediately think of and mention Jet Grind Radio. The two games are nothing alike, and more to the point, the developers hate that.)
When you start, your character, Trane (as voiced by hip-hop artist Talib Kweli), is a "toy": a novice graffiti artist. In the city of New Radius, which Ecko describes as "New York fifteen minutes into the future," the corrupt mayor has suppressed the citizens' right to freedom of expression. To get respect, build his reputation, and bring down the mayor, Trane has to infiltrate various neighborhoods within the city, and find the best places to put his tags.
"Best," in this context, is video game slang for "most dangerous." Getting Up's central gameplay mechanic is called "Get In, Get Up, and Get Out"; a given stage will see you fighting or sneaking into hostile territory, scaling buildings or scaffolding to place your tags, and escaping pursuit on your way back out. Each level comes with specific parameters you'll need to fulfill to complete your mission, like time limits or avoiding detection, and you can find extra mini-games and challenges if you explore.
One stage will see Trane stepping onto a rival gang's turf, beating guys up with his fists, feet, and whatever improvised weaponry he can lay his hands on, such as a car battery. After taking them out, he'll have to figure out a way to get to the billboards and signposts above a busy freeway, where one missed jump means he falls three stories down into rush-hour traffic.
Another one of Getting Up's twenty stages takes place on the outside of a speeding subway train. Trane has to jump from car to car, etching his tags on the window or side before ducking obstacles or avoiding the tunnel's edge. It's a fast-paced level with a great sense of speed and danger, and a really strong visual hook.
When you're out to place a tag, Trane's equipped with a "graffiti intuition" system, which creates a sort of phantom tag on appropriate places in the area. To leave your mark, you can use markers, spray paint, stickers, stencils, rollers, or wheat paste. You work by rotating the sticks over the area you're tagging, and if you linger too long in one spot, you can actually mess up the design, as wet paint beads and runs.
The graffiti designs in Getting Up were contributed by more than fifty real graffiti artists from all over the United States, and six of them - Cope 2, FUTURA, OBEY: Shepard Fairey, Seen, Smith, and T-kid - actually appear in the game. (I don't question it, I just report it.) They'll teach Trane their various specialties, allowing him to use new tools and moves.
Getting Up could be decent, as the Collective has some experience making quality beat-‘em-ups, with games like Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Indiana Jones and the Emperor's Tomb. Getting Up's got a solid hook, some quality talent, and gameplay that at least looks good. We'll see how this one turns out.