How PlayStation’s The Getaway managed to outperform GTA 3, but fell short

“In many ways, GTA 3 was inferior to what we had created,” says Mike Rouse, “and that was encouraging.”

This may sound like hubris or rejection coming from a developer The escape. When GTA5 celebrating its third major launch in a third generation of consoles, it’s safe to say that the pre-release competition between Sony’s Team Soho and Rockstar North has long been settled in the latter’s favor. There are no Oasis vs. Blur-style discussions raging over who won this particular battle for pop culture dominance.

But Rouse is right in some respects. While The Getaway’s linear adventure across London hasn’t kept pace with GTA’s new free-roaming paradigm, time has shown it to be a forward-thinking game – bringing the faces and performances of actors to the game and arcade -Rejects similar elements in favor of infusing his city with detail and authenticity. In fact, Rockstar’s eventual decision to fund and release LA Noire – a follow-up to The Getaway built by some members of his core team – was a tacit acknowledgment that his rivals at Team Soho had done something all those years ago.

Back then, Rouse had joined Sony as an intern, initially working on This is Football 2002 – a handy way to date his career. Within months he had graduated from university and joined Team Soho full-time to contribute to The Getaway. “It was an extremely exciting time for me,” he says. “Working for PlayStation and making a AAA game as my first title was more than I thought I could achieve.”

If everything about developing The Getaway was new to Rouse, so was the rest of the team, regardless of their level of experience. “It was one of the first games of this kind,” he says. “Every day felt like doing something that had never been done before. There were extremely few reference points.”

Motion capture, then a new art in the entertainment industry and not the backbone of AAA games as it is today, was heavily exploited to deliver the playable version of Snatch that The Getaway promised. “It was amazing to see the actors interacting with wooden props,” says Rouse. “And then, in real time, seeing the characters on the screen that the actors are mimicking. Seeing it in a game was relatively rare.” As blackmailed gangster Mark Hammond visibly wrapped his fingers around a clunky cell phone – the only lifeline for his kidnapped child – the tension was palpable.

It may look a bit aged now but the Mo cap was top notch.

It’s a decision that reflects Team Soho’s determination to commit its budget to meticulous, granular detail – despite the massive scale that occupied 10 square miles of London. Rouse and a colleague traveled across Britain with a list of cars to photograph; Although The Getaway included many licensed vehicles, the team could not rely on reference materials sent in by the manufacturers.

“Everything we created had to be real or as real as possible,” he says. “Everything from tire deflation to window smashing to body deformation in real time. The cars were miles ahead of anything you could find in other games at the time, and they were great fun to create.” As the studio built a condensed but faithful reflection of the capital’s streets, Rouse’s daily two-hour commute was replicated Soho surreal, its virtual world and its reality converged.

Up in the Scottish capital, Rockstar North was aware of Team Soho’s open-world ambitions and vice versa. “We actively fought with them for first place,” says Rouse. “Both teams were aware of each other’s projects.”

Team Soho certainly got London’s gray palette right.

Ultimately, The Getaway’s complexity meant a year-long delay, and so GTA III got there first. It quickly defined public expectations about what an open world is and how it should work, and hurt The Getaway upon release. “Looking back, I think we created something very different,” says Rouse. “Open world was the big new thing back then and gamers couldn’t ignore it. In many ways I think The Getaway is closer to a game like Uncharted than GTA.”

In the years since, some have managed to reevaluate The Getaway on its own terms – like Nik, a 26-year-old translator known on YouTube as RacingFreak. Nik runs, a portal intended to replace the defunct official websites for the Getaway games and provide a home for his community and preservation efforts.


To this day, the game’s cinematic focus stands up to scrutiny.

The Getaway was the very first PS2 game Nik ever played and won him over with its immaculately animated cutscenes and mostly bare HUD. He even enjoyed the challenge of navigating London with subtle turn signals rather than a directional arrow. “As a car enthusiast, what really struck me right away was seeing all these licensed vehicles in such an accurate and detailed open-world rendition of London,” he says. “It was really mind-blowing, and frankly still is.” A love of British heist films and reliable TV police procedures The Bill sealed a relationship with The Getaway that has become lifelong. In the early 2010s, with the series dead and stashed in a trunk in Sony’s parking lot, Nik was forced to dig into the game to discover its secrets.

“The myths about the cut BMWs and Jaguars being lost forever were still being debated,” he says. “It wasn’t long before my first breakthrough came with the discovery of the abridged beta cars. Since then, I’ve been on a fairly one-man mission to document and research almost every aspect of the game to the best of my ability – sometimes switching to The Getaway: Black Monday, aided by the fact that they both run on the same engine. ”

Black Monday was the successor to Team Soho. Launched in 2004, it stubbornly stuck to London rather than explore new cities and was decidedly less celebrated. “It was a more dynamic story, there was more content, more city and more unique game mechanics,” says Rouse. “But at that point there were quite a few open-world games and those games were more focused on an arcade experience, while the Getaway series was still heavily focused on its narrative play and cover shooter mechanics .”


You just can’t argue with the quality of the game’s cars.

A few more sequels went into production at Sony but were discontinued at various stages of development. Perhaps the true sequel was LA Noire – “obviously influenced by the experiences of the teams at The Getaway,” according to Rouse – which even briefly included a cameo from Don Kembry, the former Mark Hammond, who is an older relative of his Getaway- character played. In this era of canon and crossover, it has to be argued that the two games exist in the same universe.

Over the past few years, Nik has continued his work searching The Getaway for hidden wonders – developing relationships with the game’s developers who made this article possible and posting his discoveries online. A personal highlight was to successfully bring a beta Ford Capri into play after years of failed attempts. Not long ago, Nik figured out The Getaway’s texture format and unlocked the potential for advanced mods like custom cars and characters.

Rouse, on the other hand, still thinks of The Getaway when he’s in London. “To this day, I can find my way around just playing and creating the world,” he says. “I find myself on a street and recognize it and know where I am without having been there before.”


Even the pub frontage is spot on. How PlayStation’s The Getaway managed to outperform GTA 3, but fell short

Fry Electronics Team

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