Reviewed: March 21, 2006
Released: February 14, 2006
Marc Ecko’s Getting Up: Contents Under Pressure is the brainchild of clothing designer, Mark Ecko, turned game designer for this ambitious project that was first conceived nearly seven years ago. I was treated to a tiny glimpse of this title two years ago at E3, and while the final version manages to live up to the hype and original vision, there is just something missing that keeps this from truly becoming a revolution game title.
Despite claims that this game is not a “graffiti simulation”, I have a hunch that those who are already immersed into the urban art culture will get more out of this game than this Indiana boy did. The closest thing to graffiti in my town is “Jeff Loves Robin” with a big heart around it on the local railroad bridge. Admittedly, I don’t have to be a professional carjacker to enjoy a GTA game, but Getting Up is so rich in a “foreign culture”, most of it just breezed right by me.
Set in the city of New Radius, Marc Ecko’s Getting Up: Contents Under Pressure features a world where freedom of expression is suppressed by a tyrannical city government. In the game, players assume the role of Trane - an unlikely hero just looking to get up until he realizes there is much more at stake.
Gamers learn and master various graf skills, starting as a toy (beginner) graffiti artist and using street smarts, athletic prowess and vision necessary to become an “All City King,” the most reputable of all graffiti artists.
During their quest, players risk their lives navigating vertical landscapes while battling rival crews, a corrupt Mayor and the city’s Civil Conduct Keepers (CCK) all in an effort to reach the sweet spots of New Radius, where a well-placed tag brings respect and reputation.
Gamers also find themselves with an even greater burden – to use their high-wire graffiti talents to expose the oppressive mayor and set the city free.
Being a stranger in a strange land I did appreciate the game’s ability to actually “educate” me in not only authentic slang and graffiti protocol, but also in the quasi-futuristic society and the oppressive rules that governed it. You’ll meet up with plenty of NPC graffiti artists and learn valuable lessons all the while filling up your “black book” with sample art and custom tags.
Getting Up, as the title might indicate, is a very vertical game so you can expect lots of challenging level navigation puzzles. While not as challenging as a Prince of Persia game, there are some pretty cool jumping, climbing, and balancing puzzles that are seamlessly integrated into the level design. And obviously, the higher you can get before you place a tag, the better your rep.
There is a significant amount of stealth involved as you try to avoid the CCK as well as rival gangs. Eventually you will get caught up in an encounter that turns violent and this is where you can explore a fairly rich fighting engine that mixes in standard punches and kicks with some down and dirty street fighting techniques.
There are melee weapons and an upgradeable combat system where you can earn new moves and animations as you progress through the title. While not as intricately detailed or evolved as Rockstars’, The Warriors it comes pretty close. I was particularly fond of the environmental interaction such as tossing a thug into traffic and letting the cars help you out.
The controls aren’t nearly as responsive as the need to be for a game that has this much focus on fighting. I’m not sure if it was a controller delay or simply animations that were too long, but I never felt totally in-synch while fighting. As with any game designed for console and ported to PC, you will probably want to use a gamepad otherwise you'll have to put up with some awkward keyboard and mouse issues.
Control issues carry over into level navigation as well, often made even worse with a problematic camera that can, and will, get hung up on random objects just when you can’t afford it to. Jumping is not always logical. There are some jumps and grabs that you should obviously be able to make, but for whatever reasons the game won’t allow it.
Tagging is the third major component in Getting Up, and you will need to explore the levels and use your intuition (yes there is actually a button for it) to reveal gold and blue markers that will guide you to prime tag locations. Gold tags are your primary objectives and blue give you secondary bonus awards.
Once you find the zone you are given an outline of the tag and you can tweak it with custom art or even change the size. Bigger tags give bigger rewards, but your overall tag size is restricted to the surface you are painting. You then use your spray can, roller, brush, or whatever tools is appropriate for the chosen tag and paint.
Tagging is almost a mini-game in itself. You must move Trane’s arm and follow the prompts to paint the tag in the required time or sooner to get your rep points. The only downside to the entire tagging element is that you are only allowed to tag predetermined areas in New Radius. This takes a bit of the “freedom” out of what is clearly a rebellion-centered game.
Even more limiting is the player’s inability to create your own custom artwork or tags. Admittedly, the game is packed with volumes of artwork that you can mix and match for near-endless possibilities, but not being able to insert your own designs into this game (especially on the PC) just shortchanges the entire graffiti mindset.
Getting Up features a massive cityscape that is sufficiently complex with a sense of verticality rarely seen in a video game. With a reward vs. risk (usually a vertical risk) system in place, exploring the upper-most parts of the city is a visually breathtaking experience.
The city is realistic in its architecture with excellent texture maps and lighting. Some of the areas seem a bit contrived, probably to create a string of navigation puzzles and key tag zones, but it all works well within the confines of the game.
Character design is excellent, both in body style and clothing style. Seeing as how the designer (Mark Ecko) is first and foremost a fashion designer, you can expect a lot of attention to detail in the clothing that Trane and everyone else in the game are wearing. Even the futuristic CCK have a hip storm trooper style about them.
Animation is both good and average. Trane glides through the levels with a graceful style but once in combat things get a bit jerky. Each of the individual animations look great but they don’t blend together all that well, so there is a noticeable hiccup when you go from a grapple to a punch or head butt. I’m probably nitpicking, since even I tuned out these minor glitches about an hour into the game.
The selection of graffiti and artwork is extensive and quite remarkable allowing you to use Aerosol, Rollers, Markers, Wheat Paste, Stickers and Stencils to recreate thousands of designs from more than 65 actual graffiti artists from around the world, six of whom appear as in-game characters.
As previously mentioned, the camera angles can be a problem at times, either forcing you to reposition or worse, relocate Trane to force the camera to change on its own. It’s never a good thing when the camera dictates your playing style.
Getting Up puts a polish on its authentic urban style with one of the best soundtracks of recent memory. More than 30 licensed tracks give this game the perfect background and with artists like Isaac Hayes, Sean Combs, and Jane’s Addiction (just to name a few), this is one game that is as much fun to listen to as it is to play. The Apple iPod interface is a nice touch.
But the designers didn’t stop with great music. They recruited some top Hollywood talent and a few cult favorites to bring the population of New Radius to life. Talib Kweli, Sean Combs, Rosario Dawson, Brittany Murphy, George Hamilton, Giovanni Ribisi, Adam West, Andy Dick, Charlie Murphy, and others turn out topnotch performances.
The rest of the sound package is pretty much environmental audio; the typical night sounds of a major city, and the hiss of your spray can as you paint the town. The Dolby Digital mix does a great job of putting you right in the middle of all this action.
Getting Up features 11 chapters in its Story mode and is about a 10-15 hour adventure for the typical gamer. Once unlocked in Story mode you can revisit these levels in Browse mode.
It’s definitely driven by story and given the relative lack of freedom to explore and paint the town outside of this story; there is no real reason to replay the game once you finish it unless you just enjoy the virtual rebellion of tagging New Radius with new art.
A two-player combat mode might offer a bit of a distraction for a few minutes, but it can hardly be considered added value content. There are much better fighting games out there.
Marc Ecko’s Getting Up: Contents Under Pressure has been compared to everything from GTA to Jet Grind Radio, and none of these are entirely accurate. Sure, there is a “rebel” them and sure, you get to paint the town with gallons of paint, but Getting Up manages to evolve into something unlike anything you have played before. You’ll recognize the parts, but the whole is so much more.
And even though the game is a bit light in its scope, the treatment of the subject is handled with as much attention to detail as you can possibly imagine, and with a stellar cast of voice actors and a music selection to set the mood, Contents Under Pressure is just waiting to explode on your PC.