Overall User Average: 7.30 / 10 (73.0%)
Gameplay User Average: 6.50 / 10
Graphics User Average: 7.50 / 10
Sound User Average: 9.20 / 10Variation-XBA
Date reviewed: November 9, 2007.
Mark Ecko’s Getting Up: Contents Under Pressure takes many different game elements and combines them into one. You get the Graffiti gameplay that Jet Set Radio pioneered, similar acrobatic skills much like Prince of Persia, and you are even given some stealth moves and kills to go along with a game enriched with Hip-hop culture. Great ideas when put together on paper, but execution is much more complicated it seems to excel further than average.
You are Trane, a gifted guy that wants to make a name for himself and become a legend graffiti artist. New Radius is your home, which could relate to a slightly futuristic New York City. Opposing gangs will constantly get in your path, causing you to take them out so you can freely tag your name. Tough times call for tough measures, and you will even have the Civil Conduct Keepers (CCK) doing anything they can to annihilate you for good, which are basically like police with a license to do whatever necessary to put an end to all graf writers.
Obviously the focus of the game is the graffiti tagging and the culture it has, as this is what your main goals to accomplish are. You are given different tools that will be used depending on the king of tag, how big, where it is, and what style you want it to look. Basic markers, spray-paint, stencils, and even a squeegee-like broom to glue your banners onto things is how you are going to get New Radius to recognize who you are.
Your black book is your bible; this is where graf writers practice their tags and art, and if given the opportunity to meet a legend, where they will sign their tag. Before you go into a mission, you can decide what tags you want to bring in your black book this time for variety, since you only have a certain amount of slots of choices in any given mission.
When you see a surface like a wall, window, billboard, or even side of a building, you are able to freely tag your name how ever many times you wish, in different colors and styles…almost. For some reason, there are certain walls and fixtures that simply don’t allow you to tag there, which doesn’t make much sense considering the premise of the game. Numerous times I’ve been denied of not being able to ink my name on a bench or somewhere obscure which really felt like it took away something from character, since he’s so ambitious and wants to get his name everywhere.
With the press of a button, you can active your ‘Instinct’ which will show you gold and blue vapors that point you to where you want to make your mark. With the gold ones being your primary targets for the missions, and blue for bonus missions and points. Now that you are standing in front of your marked X, a white outline of a design will show on the surface, and from your black book, you can decide what art you want to showcase. When it’s a simple just “Trane” tag, you can pick the color and design, but when it’s a bigger marker or in certain spots, you are given a choice of some pre-determined art where you don’t really get to pick the color scheme. More art becomes unlocked as you progress through the game, and in the later parts where you are literally tagging a whole banner or side of a building, the art is quite a piece to admire. Bonus missions also come in the form as simple tasks like tagging a certain wall 10 times within a set amount of time. The more missions you complete, the higher your Rep becomes.
Now that you are in position to start your tagging, you actually have to make Trane do the motions, not just a simple button press. You actually have to move his arm up, down, left and right to fill within the borders and complete your art. Much like using spray-paint in real life; if you don’t keep moving as you spray, you will get drips in your art which then take away from your total score. In time you never really get drips after you learn the form of spraying properly, although the controls for doing so on the PC were quite tiresome in the later levels with much stricter time limits.
One huge downfall of the whole graffiti aspect of the game is that you can not make your own art and tags. You are forced to layer the city in “Trane” tags and art that you may not possibly appeal to. A game about freeform and expressing yourself, yet you can only pick a few different styles and colors. This is one of the reasons that it felt almost like completely no reason to replay the game upon completion, I just had no desire to see TRANE plastered everywhere. If it could have something of my own choosing, or any kind of customization, it may have had a longer life left in it.
People generally don’t kindly take to you vandalizing their property, and in a large part of the game, you are fighting your way out of a tough predicament, or against rival gangs and the CCK. You are given your basic punch and kicks, with many combinations in between; you also can roll, block, and grapple your enemies. You can even embarr@!%#*! adversaries by using your spray paint in their face to get the needed time to rest up or start another flurry of attacks.
If you grapple with someone, you can rapidly press the punch and kick buttons to try and get the upper hand from which you can go into combos, or even throw them into oncoming traffic or trains for easy kills. If you are patient enough, you can attempt to go for stealth kills, where if you are not seen and come behind someone, you can get a one-hit kill by slamming them over the head with a can of your paint. Since usually not many enemies hang around solo, once you are uncovered, you are left to fend for yourself against the rest of the bad guys.
To reach many distant sweet spots for tagging, you are going to need to be intuitive and figure out how to get up to that billboard when there is no ladder. This has you jumping caps, climbing ledges, shimmying across balance beams, hanging over ledges and slowly crawling much like a Tomb Raider setup of controls. Much like most platformers, you will run into areas what you should be able to jump across or grab onto, but you simply wont as it was not the designed path to take to get to the area you need. Frustration can set in easily just because you didn’t see that one pipe that you needed to climb in the corner, rather than you trying to jump impossible gaps.
Perhaps the greatest example of the most enjoyable portions of the games controls would be a level where you need to graf the sides of a moving subway train, and yes, you are riding it on the roof and sides, not the comfort of the seats within. Having to switch sides, lean against the side of the subway, and duck on the roof to avoid being knocked off by the pillars screaming by you, all when you need to complete your tag within the time limit as well. It can feel very rewarding at times, and completely frustrating at others, though a Keyboard and Mouse were simply not meant to play this game, you need a console version, or joypad to get the most ease of use out of it and avoid much disappointment.
The graffiti in the game simply looks astonishing, and the fact that all the pieces are done by real graf artists even further enhance the fact that this is a very gritty environment. Your tags can look great, or if you drip a lot while painting can look like something you’d rather no one see.
New Radius looks gritty and downtown urban, but even more importantly, it feels like it as well. Dark filters and the graf all around you from other people really bring you into the world and truly make you think it is the slums.
The cutscenes feel very unique and tell the story while painting the picture (no pun intended) clearly for you. The art style and storytelling really makes you feel like you connect with Trane. Though the gameplay graphics may not be up to par with many of the bigger titles out there, it does it’s job and immerses you into Trane’s world filled with fear and culture.
Easily the strong point of the game, the soundtrack and voice acting are almost unparallel by anything else out there. You have actual hip-hop talent like Talib Kweli (Who also voices Trane), Rakim, Eric B, Mobb Deep, Pharoahe Monch and some other big names as well. A notable feature as well is that not only is great music put into the experience, but they are all played at carefully selected portions of the game so you don’t hear the same song over and over wishing you had your own music playing in the background.
With an in-game iPod player, you can also pick and choose your favorite songs to hear while playing as well; the only feature missing from this is actually loading an MP3 folder on your PC, or play list from your Xbox.
The voice acting is more than your typical B grade talent saying their few lines of dialogue that you are forced to listen to throughout the game. The script is quite clever and the lines are not cheesy that usually make you roll your eyes. Talib Kweli does the honors of Trane’s voice and makes it sound authentic and MC Serch does Trane’s rival Gabe. Looking into the credits, other actual big names such as P. Ditty, Charlie Murphy, Giovanni Ribisi, and even Adam West, yes, Batman, grace the cast list as well.
Sound effects are also more than your usual “bang” and “crash” noises. As you tag walls and use your aerosol, you can hear it spraying, and as you refill and shake the can, you can even hear that as well. Using a simple marker on the wall even gives you that squeak that new markers do. Combat sounds are deep and feel very powerful because of it, and doing a combo into someone’s face makes you bite your lip from the sounds of it alone.
Should you opt for the extra $10 and purchase the Limited Edition of the game, which you should since there’s many extras, you will also get the soundtrack of the game that even has music that isn’t in the game portion, but made for the title from other famous artists as well.
With an average 12 to 15 hours of gameplay, there are many unlockables to obtain such as new tags, songs, and fight moves. Unfortunately, due to the lack of being unable to incorporate your own art into the game, there isn’t much incentive to spray TRANE all over the city again. Sure I would put probably something profane or toilet words, but something that simple as even editing the words, would have added much more.
The camera work gives a very cinematic feel and Trane is simply just an awesome character that develops and you find yourself enjoying him much more as the game progresses. The only thing that kept coming to mind was everything gameplay related was very average and didn’t stand out as a champion of its own. Very unique idea and concept to compile all these different styles into one, but just doesn’t seem to exceptionally shine in one unfortunately. .
Splurge for the Limited Edition to get a quality soundtrack, a silver sharpie to start your own graf all over your own city, and your own black book to record all your art, the big shiny looking box also is a bonus too.