Far from horrifying people with its crude depictions of brutal street violence, the Grand Theft Auto series of games has only whetted the world's appetite for simulated vigilante justice.
It's shocking how much fun a morally upstanding member of society can have tooling around a virtual city in a stolen car, bashing innocent bystanders on the head with a baseball bat and torching cops with a flame-thrower. Games like GTA bring out the thug in all of us, and their success means plenty of hand-wringing -- and sequels.
The Getaway isn't a total rip-off of the GTA series, but it has its similarities. The difference is style. Where GTA embraces the scum, grit and polyester shirts one associates with contract killing and street mayhem, The Getaway is all Saville Row suits and luxury cars.
Set in London, England, the game is essentially a virtual recreation of the British gangsterism of the film Lock, Stock And Two Smoking Barrels. Well-dressed hoods bark obscenities in cockney slang, calling each other wankers and diamond geezers (this is perhaps the only video game that comes with a glossary) and screaming through London streets in black cabs.
The detail is impeccable. Get past the difficulty of driving on the left -- it's harder than it looks -- and you've got to deal with the maze that is inner-city London. Forty square blocks have been recreated, and it can take up to 15 minutes to drive across town through narrow one-way streets, back lanes and across Hyde Park.
As in GTA, you're in the employ of different crime bosses and get sent on jobs across the city, burning down restaurants, instigating race wars and knocking off rival gangs. Unlike Grand Theft Auto, though, there's no real flow to this game.
The action feels wooden and stiff, and aside from the scenery, the sheer scope of games like GTA isn't there.
It's the setting that's most attractive, and the novelty of calling someone a "fucking wanker" before clubbing him has surprising staying power.
THE GETAWAY for PlayStation 2 ($80). Rating: NNNN
GRAPHICS: Bloody great.
ADDICTIVENESS: More compelling than a steak and kidney pie.
ANTI-SOCIAL FACTOR: Killing is a solitary pursuit.
PROXIMITY TO THE REAL THING: All you need is a warm pint of bitter and you're back in Blighty.