Sunday, 23 January 2011

Marc Ecko's Getting Up: Contents Under Pressure

So, after playing Batman: Arkham Asylum and finding it to match my high expectations I was excited to to try out the other game I specifically went out to buy,  Marc Ecko's Getting Up: Contents Under Pressure. It may have been a bit of a let down.

Marc Ecko's Getting Up is a simple game to describe, really. It's a linear 3rd person beat em up platformer where your main goal is to scribble your name on walls and be proud of it. Now, it may not seem like a game majority of people would care much about, but in theory it is a game that I, due my uncanny taste, would find very enjoyable. Not great, but enjoyable.
First off, I like beat em ups and Marc Eck... MEGUCUP's combat isn't total shit. You have your punch and kick attacks that you can alternate to make three-move combos  with a possible power-move at the end. You have a grapple move that after a bit of struggling with your opponent let's you punch, kick or throw the poor sap around a bit. Blocking and targeting is assigned to the same key, which isn't unheard of, and you also have an evade move that allows you to do a cool looking roll that usually let's you quickly dodge attacks while at the same time allowing you to pick up health and weapons from the ground. There's also some sort of taunt moves that allow you to verbally assault your opponent while he's down, though I never used those much. The combat is very simple and once you learn to use evade instead of the useless block it becomes easy to beat just about everything by rolling on the floor between the punches. So you can get by with the combat controls, but the amount of fights and the time you spend handing out asskickings to the various losers each time does get pretty boring pretty soon.
What I like about the fights is that stuff does break here and there, which crappier beat em ups (bmups?) rarely do. Bathroom stalls do break, and immediately disappear, when you're thrown through them, and kicking a guy into pipes or walls does make the pipe shoot out water or make some flakes of paint fly off the wall. I'm not saying the destruction is that detailed and this certainly isn't The Warriors, but little things here and there make the constant smacking of guys a little bit more bearable, feels a little more like you're hitting stuff when you see shit break.

The sneaking aspect of the game is crap. You press crouch to walk sneakily and occasionally you'll get a chance to bonk a guy in the head and one hit KO him, but it's relatively rare. Most of the time, as far as I can tell, the areas are built and the enemies are placed in such a manner that there's no sneaking to be discussed and walking silently could've as well been removed from the game entirely. The few times it's sort of an option, whatever fight you would skip is something you really don't need to, and the area you'd have to pass by tends to have bonus objectives to complete.
Furthermore, the walking controls are very loose and they're somehow, in a really weird way, tied to the camera's point of view when the game feels like it, so every now and then your controls may be inverted in the middle of moving if the camera decides to go to  a fixed position, and you'll hit a wall. Then you'll hit the wall again since the game itself has problems realizing when the camera and controls have changed. What I'm saying is, there are a few points where choosing the right direction to walk to is just guesswork and controls slightly suck.
Climbing is a big part of traversing the levels, and it's simple and works. You want to climb a pipe or something, walk into it. Want to hoist up ledge, jump to it and press up. Everything's simple to do, and although the places you can climb up don't stick out from the rest of the scenery much you'll have no problems figuring out the right route if you just look at your objective and what's around it.
Speaking of looking at objectives, Trane, the main character, is very intuitive and can use his Intuition, by pressing the F key, to see all objectives in the level relatively nearby. This works only part of the time. I intended to finish every single bonus objective during my short-lived playthrough and the Intuition mode refused to show me some objectives until I had died and started the level over. What if I hadn't been the obsessive F-key tapping gameplay sucking nut I am? I would've missed bonus objectives in this video game and cried! It's serious shit. Well, point is, the game's objective finder can be rather problematic.

The painting and tagging and whatever you happen to call doodling on walls is relatively simple. Smaller stuff that you can do everywhere is as difficult as choosing the tool from a menu, then holding down the middle mouse button and picking one out of four styles you chose from your blackbook prior to entering the level, then choosing a color from a few different ones that mostly don't stick out that well and then clicking left or right mouse button to place your mark on the wall. Larger pieces, your primary objectives, demand a sort of a minigame where you keep holding the middle mouse button, press and hold left or right mouse button to spray and occasionally stop spraying when the pressure drops to shake the can all the while using movement keys to move Trane left and right and the paint can up and down around the outlined area to evenly spread the paint and create your masterpiece. To score maximum amount of points you must avoid drips, meaning you avoid painting continuously on areas flashing red, finish the piece under a time limit and go big, meaning you choose the larger version of the graffiti. You also get points for heaven spots, but this is something you can't control since the available spots for graffiti are preset. Early on in the game you also get the option of painting faster than normal, but this also has the drawback of causing drips more easily, and with the normal painting speed you have more than enough time to finish anyway.
If you're wondering if the painting is anything at all like The Warriors tagging, no, it's not. It's actually just simple enough for being something you do a LOT in every single level, as it is the main focus of the game, but not too simple to bore you outright. At first it may be a bit of a challenge, but once you learn the correct rhythm to moving the paintcan around it gets easier, which fits well with the game's story of an aspiring toy writer slowly getting bigger. On mouse and keyboard the controls for tagging are generally way too clumsy, though, and it doesn't help that the menu for the smaller stuff resets back to whatever tool the game thinks should be the default, that usually being marker pen, so you may eventually just give up everything but the marker tags and main objectives as choosing the tool over and over again becomes a little cumbersome.

What's his name again? Oh, right, Trane.
The selection of choices for what to paint is a tad disappointing. First of all, you can only choose four different images for each type of doodles for each level at a time, which is explained by Trane not carrying his blackbook around with him even though he really does, and even then there's not THAT many good choices to choose from once you have everything unlocked. I know, because I had to use the unlock all levels cheat and it also unlocked everything in the blackbook, and I went through all of them. You would basically get the same results if you just wrote a random word in Microsoft Word and copy/pasted it in different font styles, that's how sad writing the same word, Trane, everywhere is. Just slightly different curves on the top line of the T.
The game also always has one specific graffiti locked in one of the four slots for every level and it's usually the one I liked the least, and painting only three of my own choices annoyed me. I would understand if it was to ensure that you have at least one graffiti selected so you can actually finish the main objectives in the levels, but you can't empty any slots out anyway and even if you could, forcing you to choose one before letting you move onward would be a better way to reach the same goal. Why limit choices further for no reason?
The other graffiti artists in the game must also be a bit out of ideas, as you end up seeing the same shit wall after wall in each level. You'd think a game about graffiti art that includes apparently legendary graffiti artists as in-game characters would focus on the creativity and art side of the graffiti artistry, but hey, maybe imagination in our time is overrated anyway. Let's just go beat up and kill a lot of competing artists that paint the same thing over and over again and just paint the same thing over and over again over their repetitive pieces, who cares? Well, I do, for starters.
On a closely related note, the game also missed a chance at letting the player create their own graffiti. Even Tony Hawk's Underground and THUG 2, two games not about graffiti but skating let you combine a couple of preset  images from a rather large library to customise your board and tags. MEGUCUP doesn't, and on the PC I can't even edit the image files to replace them with my own creations. Apparently I'm too creative for this game about 'art'.
Must kill creativity.
Must conform.
The game does allow you to choose basic letters and numbers for stencils, but since you can only pick four different ones at one time, all you could write are words with only four different letters and even then moving Trane only slightly is so incredibly frustrating that within only one minute you will definitely give up trying get the letters ART to follow F instead of going over it and messing up the message.

"Camera is within a sector that is not in memory!"
I see...
The music in the game is pretty good. It's nothing that I frequently choose to listen to on my own, but it is something I don't mind listening to when available. Voice acting is miss and slightly less miss. The main main characters like the game's protagonist Trane himself sound alright, but everyone else, especially the graffiti legends sound like... me in my Mortal Kombat LP, just scripted. I didn't have a script, so I'm more pro.
The story starts out meh, drops to blah, and then jumps through eh to yeh, and it seems like it could become a real urban epic before the end despite the slow start. I'm actually very sad that I can't experience the promising story myself. Why can't I see it myself? Well...
There's one BIG problem I have with MEGUCUP, a problem so big I can't finish the game legitimately, probably not by cheating either. The problem is that I have the PC version, and the PC version is a port. A very BAAAAD port. At least I hope it's just a bad port, or it's a very shitty game on the consoles.
Trippy. Looks like I got hit by a syringe from Postal 2: AWiP
You can tell that the game wasn't made for PC specifically because the mouse isn't supported in any of the menu screens and the control scheme is absolute crap for anything but a gamepad, but the biggest problem is the camera. The camera is bad, very bad. I don't mean bad like it gets hung up a few times or is hard to move, I mean bad like it shows you either a black screen or spins around you and shows you about 30 different, distorted viewpoints per second. No, seriously, look at those last three screenshots, two of them I took during the camera-spin of what-the-fuck and the black screen one is from the action level where Trane rides a train (Trane on train, funny). Apparently the train goes so fast it leaves the camera behind, but the camera also once got stuck inside the train where it shouldn't even go in the first place and I saw only the passengers.
I can forgive almost every other problem the game has, like the insane skips and... well, horrificly insane skips, but the camera actually prevents me from seeing anything so I can't possibly finish levels. I can't tag because I don't see where to move the paintcan, I can't fight because I can't see the opponents or avoid their attacks, I can't even see some levels at all, and after hours of searching online I didn't even find any fixes, official or unofficial, nor did I find any mods. All I could find were people posting about various problems they had with the PC version and complaining that they couldn't finish the levels. I resorted to using the unlock all levels cheat in order to skip over levels I can't finish, but the problems persisted level after level and actually got worse, and it was even more disappointing to see all the graffiti art that the cheat unlocked as well and find out there wasn't that much to see, so I am not going to try playing the game again.
I'm pretty angry. Well, I'm not that angry anymore, because I started writing this post three days after playing the game and have been writing it slowly over the course of the past three days, so I've mellowed out, but I really think I could've enjoyed the game a lot if the camera just wasn't a broken piece of shit. I really thought the story was going somewhere interesting.

If you want to know whether I recommend the game or not, for the PC absolutely NOT. Consoles, I can't tell. If I ever see MEGUCUP for the PS2 for the same 4,90€ I paid for the PC version I think I might buy it, but the PC version is definitely something people should try to avoid because although you could be a lucky winner and be able to actually play the game, is a mediocre beat em up platformer about graffiti art really worth the time and trouble? I don't think so, and I actually like the concept.
I could endure every other problem the game has, but not being effectively blind. If I must draw the line somewhere, I better be able to see it.

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