Developer: The Collective
Release Date: February 14, 2006
You know, I was sure I was going to hate this. Yet another "urban" game where you gain "respect" ("reputation" in this game, actually); we've already seen that this formula's a proven winner with classics such as Crime Life: Gang Wars and 25 to Life.
Yet, I was pleasantly surprised more often than not with Marc Ecko's Getting Up: Contents Under Pressure. Keep that guy designing games, I say; it's clear that he's new at it, but at least he wants to bring something to the street genre other than mindless violence (even if it is a small part of the equation in this game). Getting Up, while not exactly the most cohesive product, is easy to derive its fair share of fun from. It's also somewhat poetic in its narrative.
The story is a bit cheesy; you play as a young man who goes by the simple call sign of "Trane," who's put his entire life up to this point behind him on a quest to "get up" - that is, get his reputation up amongst the graffiti artists of New Radius City. (New Radius City is more or less a copy of New York City, by the way; I actually recognized some of the buildings and stores.) The theme is rebellion and self-expression; you've seen the exact same theme used on the Dreamcast years ago, but here, it's less idealized, less romanticized, and grittier in nature. Instead of being part of a happy-go-lucky group of rebels, you're instead a loner fighting under the shadow of Big Brother for his right … to write.
You start off as a "toy," a virtual unknown who's classified as a pretender. You "get up" by putting your mark on strategic walls and surfaces around the city. These surfaces are everywhere - on buildings, basketball courts, subway tunnels, the sides of moving trains … anywhere you might be able to think of, odds are you'll be throwing your tag on it at some point in time.
Always at your back are your sworn rivals, the Vandals of New Radius, and the CCK, an armored police force who shows no mercy to graf writers. In your quest to splatter graffiti everywhere you can, you'll punch, kick, bash, tiptoe, walk, run and jump your way past these and other hazards to reach your spraying objectives.
Getting Up borrows from its fair share of games, and adapts their play styles well. There's platforming a la Prince of Persia, tagging from Jet Set Radio, and fighting that's almost straight out of Rockstar's The Warriors. The platforming is well-implemented; rarely did I have any trouble navigating even the most precarious of surfaces.
The graffiti tagging is actually what I like most about the game. It's not as abstract as in Jet Set Radio, but not as ruthlessly unforgiving as in The Warriors. Here, an outline of the finished tag is set up, which you spray your spray can over until the entire graffiti piece is laid out. You're scored by different factors such as the size of the tag, your tagging speed, how high up from the ground it is, etc. There's even a can-shaking bit that helps to further simulate actual graffiti painting.
The game also has a rudimentary stealth mechanic built in, where you avoid people or security cameras in order to get that perfect mark with no one knowing. Finally, a neat feature is the "intuition" button, which will let you know several things, such as the locations of handy weapons, security camera fields of vision, or potential tag spots. It's like a giant scavenger hunt, with the entire city (in bite-sized scenario chunks) as your oyster.
Pretty much the only things that don't work out all that well would be the camera, which can be erratic to the point of shaking your controller in frustration, and the fighting. You won't be using standard punches and kicks much - it's all about the weapons and power moves. They're the only things that really do any damage. Grab attacks sound useful on paper, but are almost impossible to implement. Thus, having only two options available to you can make fights against more than one person at a time much harder than they should be.
There are lots of ways to leave your mark on New Radius, from classic aerosol paint, to markers, to nametags, stencils, and almost 10 other items. Curiously and conspicuously absent, however, is the ability to create your own tags, either by scratch in some sort of in-game editor, or even better, by uploading your own via the Internet. Why do we have a graffiti game without the design aspect that's central to graffiti culture? The world may never know.
New Radius actually looks quite nice, especially in high-definition. It's hard to knock a city where so much attention is paid to detail. You can see this detail in the walls, which are well-textured and literally awash with graffiti of all types. None of the graffiti looks tacked on, either. Everything melds, and in the end, New Radius looks like a natural city. It really does look like New York before the graffiti cleanup and crackdown that took place just over a decade ago.
The game, for the most part, is easy on the ears as well. Talib Kweli's narration of Trane is spot-on and sometimes filled with emotion. The generic enemies, in contrast, all have amusing, cheesy lines. The hip-hop soundtrack doesn't feel out of place, and isn't completely covered in predictable gangsta-rap, and the sound effects, such as the trains passing by in the underground subway, are convincing.
Unlike just about every other "street life" game that's come down the pike since GTA: San Andreas, Getting Up shows tremendous potential, contains gameplay that isn't mindless, and overall, doesn't go out of your way insult your intelligence with its premise. If the Jet Set Radio games didn't exist, I'd probably be giving this a higher score than I am, based on concept alone. It'd also be getting a higher score if its gameplay mechanics were a bit more polished. As it stands, if you can't get enough graffiti action, I'd advise trying this game out once you're done with Jet Set, and seeing how the other half lives, as it were. While by no means perfect, it's deeper and more original than you'd first think.
Give Getting Up a chance. At the very least, it's worth a rent. It may surprise you.
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