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Marc Ecko's Getting Up: Contents Under Pressure

Score: 87%
ESRB: Mature
Publisher: Atari
Developer: The Collective
Media: DVD/1
Players: 1
Genre: Action/ Platformer (3D)

Graphics & Sound:

Right up front, I really didn’t have the highest of hopes for Marc Ecko’s Getting Up: Contents Under Pressure. I saw it once or twice at E3, but didn’t really keep as up to date with it as I should have. Call it a case of me being “streeted out”. It seems that every month, we’re hit with at least one or two games that try to cover up shallow, repetitive gameplay with a hip, urban attitude. However, to most developers this simply means hookers, random violence and lots of four letter words. Getting Up takes a more authentic approach to this notion and backs it up with fun, original gameplay.

Getting Up’s visuals are good, though spotty. Trane and the game’s urban environments look great. Trane moves naturally and really fits in with everything going on around him. What hinders the whole presentation is a lack of variety. Environments look great, though some areas look a little too similar. Enemies are the main offenders and show little to no variety, leading you to believe you’re fighting the same two people most of the time. One of the real stars is, of course, the number of tags available in the game. While I would have loved the opportunity to design my own tags (more on this later), I liked what I saw. As an added bonus, you’ll also find tags designed by real graffiti artists scattered throughout the game. These not only add to the game’s authenticity, but also serve as a bit of an educational moment for those, like myself, who aren’t familiar with the graffiti art culture.

Dialogue is good and adds to the game’s authentic feel. Talib Kweli, who portrays Trane, does an excellent job and is backed up by solid performances from the likes of Charlie Murphy, Giovanni Ribisi and Adam West. Throw in a fantastic soundtrack and you’ve got one hell of an aural experience. One of the few flaws I found was that the sound would sometimes cut out for a few seconds during story sequences.


Gameplay:

Getting Up follows the story of Trane, an up-and-coming graffitti artist looking to become one of the best. This, of course, means that he has to pick out the biggest, showiest places to tag in order to get his name out. Based on the number of people who simply want to kick Trane’s ass (which is every other person he meets), its clear that Trane has stepped on quite a few toes while trying to reach his goals. Trane’s story begins with him simply trying to get back at a rival gang, the Vandals of New Radius (VaNR), and their leader, Gabe. Things soon elevate to something much larger. What starts as a simple story of rivalries becomes a giant government plot with Trane at the center of it all.

Gameplay is original, though it does tend to break down into a rather formulaic structure. Things never degrade to the point where the action is tedious, though there were certainly times where I found myself sighing heavily as I said, “Here we go again…”

The game’s structure usually breaks down to entering a new level and having to tag a number of primary targets with graffiti. In addition, there are a number of secondary surfaces that can be defaced, earning additional rep points. More rep points mean better unlockables, including new fighting moves and added damage with certain weapons. Freeform Challenges round out the number of things you can do in any given level. These typically boil down to timed modes where you have to put so many of a certain mark in a set number of areas before time runs out. Most of these areas aren’t obvious and require the use of a special Intuition mode that will highlight surfaces for a few seconds.

One of the few downsides is that you aren’t allowed to paint wherever you want. Instead you’re limited to certain areas. When the game first kicks off, this feels like a bigger problem than it actually is given the number of places you can paint and the challenge of getting to them. Most require some tricky platforming and problem-solving to get to, setting up situations similar to those found in Prince of Persia. One of the more thrilling challenges has Trane tagging the sides of subway cars as they speed though tunnels. Areas like these help to lessen the disappointment of not being able to just paint anywhere.

Another, slightly more disappointing aspect is that you can’t make your own tags. I was actually really surprised to see that a create-a-tag option wasn’t included given the personal nature of graffiti art and the gaming industry’s recent movement towards more personalized content. While allowances can be made for the limited tagging areas, having to put someone else’s tag on an area I busted my ass getting to feels a little less fulfilling.


Difficulty:

Getting Up is hit-and-miss as far as difficulty goes. The platforming and tagging elements range from easy to challenging (like the subway segment). There will probably be a few segments that are harder than others, but overall the game is playable and offers enough for everyone.

Of the three core elements that make up Getting Up, combat is perhaps the easiest. Combat is incredibly simplistic and enemies rarely showcase a wide range of tactics during a fight other than just being stronger than the last one. Snagging a large number of rep points will net you a few special moves that will help make it easier to take down the stronger enemies (namely the CCK soldiers).


Game Mechanics:

Painting surfaces is easier than it sounds and takes on an almost mini-game feel. Once you come to a surface that can be painted on, an outline of your tag appears. From here you can cycle through a number of tags and adjust the size. From here you hold down the paint button and work your arm around the area until the tag is done. Bigger tags usually mean more rep points, so it is a good idea to try to go as big as possible.

However, there’s a catch; big tags may mean big points, but they’re also more challenging since you’re fighting against the clock while trying to leave your mark. In addition, neatness counts – so holding your arm over an area too long can cause the paint to drip. Painting feels slow when you first begin, but picks up once you begin to unlock skills and tools that can help the job go by faster. Eventually you’ll even move on to other paint styles, such as using a paint roller – also helping to keep tagging from becoming too stale.

Platforming is easily one of Getting Up’s more enjoyable aspects. Most of these areas require a lot of vertical acrobatics, again giving it a feel that is very similar to the platform puzzles found in Prince of Persia. One hitch to the entire platforming aspect is one that isn’t uncommon for most 3D platformers – the camera. Normally you’re able to move the camera around however you want, though once you’re climbing it will lock in place. The angle is usually useable, though at times you’ll find yourself tapping the controls hoping that you can somehow coerce the camera into nudging over just a bit.

The actual platforming controls make up for any camera problems you might encounter. Unlike Prince of Persia, which requires precision jumping in some areas, Getting Up is very forgiving. Jumps only look difficult and you'll usually nail them in the first try.

Seeing Marc Ecko’s name attached to a game is probably enough to turn a number of gamers away. After all, it’s just another outsider trying to make a quick cash in on the whole video game thing, right? Look beyond the name and you’ll find a game that isn’t flawless but still a surprisingly good, original experience.


-Starscream, GameVortex Communications
AKA Ricky Tucker

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