Hello World, I would like to share a game that you might not know about. This game was developed by The Collective, which is now part of Double Helix Games. Both The Collective and Double Helix have earned a reputation for making sloppy licensed games. Recently Double Helix's releases have given people reasons to avoid their games. Another reason you might not have heard about this game is because the game itself didn't receive much press. Prior to its release Marc Eckō, the game's creative director, said some stupid things in an interview and stole the focus away from the game. To make things worse, the game's release date was pushed back two and a half months due to the game not being finished, so any hype left over died out. Of the few people that did try the game, many were put off by the overwhelming product placement. As a result the majority of the people who sought out this game fell under the category of “looking for a graffiti-type game other than Jet Grind Radio/Jet Set Radio Future” including myself. Let's take a look at a great game and a true Buried Treasure, Marc Eckō's Getting Up: Contents Under Pressure.
Getting Up is set in the not too distant future in the city of New Radius, a metropolis similar to New York. The story is surprisingly good and unintentionally funny at times. You play as Coltrane Crowley a.k.a. Trane. Trane fights on the streets to “get up” or make a name for himself as a graffiti writer. The characters in Getting Up are unique and memorable, and they are voiced by familiar celebrities that include hip-hop artists, actual graffiti legends, comedians, and actors. There are three main groups: the VaNR, the SFC, and the CCK. The VaNR, or the Vandals of New Radius are the “rich kids rebelling against how good they got it,” and include Trane's graffiti rivals Gabe, Dip, and Spleen. They worship the city's basketball team, the New Radius Stunners and sport their jerseys. The Still Free Crew is composed of Trane, Kry-1, and White Mike. They are the outcasts that look out for each other. The CCK are the Helghast soldiers in orange hunting vests. CCK stands for Civil Conduct Keeper and they're the city's anti-graffiti police force. They are commonly referred to as the Vandal Squad. There are some minor groups such as the WWA (Wrong Way Assassins) and Graffiti Legends, but they serve as cameo characters that don’t have much to do with the story.
As Trane you fight your way through the VaNR ranks and write over their pieces, all the while trying to mac on Gabe's girlfriend, Tina. The CCK doesn’t play a big part in the first half of the game but become your primary enemy later on. Posters stating “Sung Knew, 9/06” mysteriously start appearing and cause Mayor Sung to begin aggressively eradicating vandals so you must team up with VaNR to take on the CCK. As Trane tries to find out what the mayor is hiding he discovers that he's involved in the mayor’s dark past. While it’s not the greatest story it is entertaining and deeper than you’d expect a video game about spray painting to be. It also has some depth as you see Trane go from being a troubled orphan trying to get his name up, to a decent artist painting for a purpose.
As for the story being unintentionally funny, there's a scene where it's revealed that the CCK was pitting Trane and VaNR against each other. The dialog makes it seem like the CCK was writing “Trane” over Gabe's pieces and vice versa. The realization that the CCK was doing this strengthens Trane and Gabe's bond. The funny thing is, you know you wrote over Gabe's pieces and he wrote over yours, but from this point on they're content to blame the CCK for their deeds.
Now regarding the game style, Getting Up is somewhat hard to put in a genre. Its primary game mechanic is graffiti. It also has a decent fighting system. Though, if you'd prefer you can stealth. On top of that, this is a 3D platformer.
The graffiti is what drives the story. It works well and it's quite enjoyable. You can use stickers, aerosols, markers, and stencils to lay quick tags just about anywhere. Your big pieces can only go in predetermined spots, but they're still fun to do. You can change any of these before every mission and you quickly build up a decent amount of choices.
The fighting isn't bad either, but can quickly get repetitive in enemy-heavy areas. You have a button for punch and a button for kick. You can string together a combo of three moves. While in combat, if you press punch and kick at the same time you attempt a grab. Move the analog stick from left to right quickly while pressing kick and punch to grab. If you succeed you can punch the enemy to increase your skill bar, kick them to deal double damage, or push in a direction to throw them (this is particularly satisfying when you're on the highway or roof, or near a fire!). You can also double tap towards an enemy and kick or punch, stunning them for a short time. As you earn rep you unlock new moves such as Spray Taunt, Spray Can Flamethrower, and Wall-Jump Punch which make for some pretty bad-ass beat downs!
In enemy-heavy areas, the stealth system comes in handy. In most situations you can sneak past enemies entirely but you'll miss out on extra Rep (short for reputation), and some stages require confrontation. There is a stealth-knockout that allows you to sneak up behind an enemy and hit 'em with a bottle of spray-paint. It's a one-hit kill and fittingly it's not an easy hit to land. It requires you to push the kick button and the punch button at the same time. This often times leads to just punching or just kicking the person without knocking them out which causes them to call for support. It can also be pretty tricky to land on moving enemies as you have to practically be touching them for it to hit. You can also whistle to get an enemy’s attention like knocking on a wall in Metal Gear Solid. Just like in Metal Gear Solid they come right to your location, however Trane can’t hide in his cardboard box because he cut it up for stencils.
The 3D platforming adds a lot to this game too. You scale tall buildings in order to get your name spotted. To improve your reputation you must climb to dangerous spots such as moving trains in the subway, signs overhanging the highway, and cable cars over the river. This game even has wall jumping that you can use for getting hard to reach secrets.
Getting Up has quite a large roster of celebrities. Trane is voiced by Talib Kweli and many of the graffiti artists are voiced by hip-hop artists. Even if you're not familiar with hip-hop you'll surely recognize some voices. Actors like Adam West and Brittany Murphy can be heard, and comedians like Charlie Murphy and Andy Dick voice unexpected characters. In addition to a great cast, this game has an amazing soundtrack. Many of the hip-hop artists that voice characters in the game have their music featured in-game. The soundtrack also contains music of other genres such as R&B and rock. Getting Up starts and finishes with Nina Simone's Sinnerman ramping up in the background, and I think it's my favorite moment in any video game.
If that doesn't sound awesome enough, there's also bonus content! Getting Up features a leveling system based on your Rep. You unlock extras in the game by getting a certain amount of Rep. You can unlock in-game combat abilities, graffiti tools and styles, as well as concept art. There is a multiplayer fighting mode called Beatdown that you can unlock characters and arenas for.
Even the controls aren't bad [for the Xbox and PlayStation 2 versions]. The camera can sometimes be a pain, but everything else works fairly well. I initially played Marc Eckō's Getting Up: Contents Under Pressure for the Xbox and later on PS2, but I played the PC version in preparation for this review. I do not recommend the retail PC version. It is a console port and suffers for it. The controls are unchangeable and force you to use the mouse in a way that doesn't work at all. To lay a piece you have to hold middle mouse button (yup, the mouse wheel has a button under it) to go into Spray mode and use left or right click to spray. Keep in mind that the camera is super sensitive, and if you're using a mouse without a middle mouse button it's unplayable. This game was designed for Windows 2000/XP and getting it to run in Windows 7 was a chore. Unless you have a gamepad and decent key-mapping software and find the PC version for $4 or less in new condition, I don't recommend the PC version. It has since been given an HD re-release by Devolver Digital but they stated it was just upscaled and patched to work on Windows 7. Since I have not played it I cannot judge its quality. I can however recommend the Xbox and PS2 versions which you can find for less than $10 used, and around $15 for a new copy. Marc Eckō's Getting Up: Contents Under Pressure is a lot of fun and didn't get a fair chance. It's sitting at your local game store patiently waiting to be discovered! If you see this game I recommend picking it up.
Thanks for reading folks! I'd also like to thank the fine folks here at 1MoreCastle that made this holiday happen. Events like this are why I love being part of the gaming community.