The Getaway: Was it just Grand Theft Auto with licenced cars?

Ross McGregor
We look back at the 2002 PlayStation 2 open-world game The Getaway and its roster of fully-licenced vehicles.
The Getaway: Was it just Grand Theft Auto with licenced cars?

The Getaway is a 1972 action movie starring Steve McQueen and soundtracked by Quincy Jones.  

The Getaway is also a 2002 Grand Theft Auto clone set in London.  

One exudes cool while the other is more likely to slap you across the face with a saveloy and call you a plonker. 

Can you guess which is which? 

Arriving on the PlayStation 2 in the winter of 2002, The Getaway was developed by Team Soho, a division of Sony Computer Entertainment. It offered a very British take on Rockstar’s infamous open-word GTA series (if you ignore its 2D Grand Theft Auto: London 1969 title released in the late ‘90s) and was geared towards realism, in contrast to the cartoonish Grand Theft Auto: Vice City released the same year.

Focusing on the story of retired gangster Mark Hammond and vigilante cop Frank Carter, the game sees their intertwining storylines play out amid an ongoing battle with London’s criminal underground.  

The Getaway: Grand Theft Auto with licenced cars?
A Citroen Saxo doing a handbrake turn. on a main street A normal, everyday sight in 2002

Borrowing dialogue and plot points from Guy Ritchie movies such as Snatch and Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, The Getaway contains a line-up of gravel-gargling villains, who use a Rover 75 for their nefarious operations. Hmm, hopefully they have an extended warranty on that.

The story is surprisingly solid, however, and the game’s authenticity oozes out the screen like jellied eels from an overfilled polystyrene container. Yum. 

London Calling  

London is front and centre in The Getaway, with Britain’s largest city accurately modelled in-game. Traffic bustles through the narrow streets, with familiar British street furniture like bollards, traffic lights and speed bumps littering your path. 

Go for a drive and you’ll see a branches of HMV, Carphone Warehouse and Dixons (RIP), with the Odeon cinema advertising ‘The World is Not Enough’, which, rather oddly, came out in 1999.

The Getaway: Grand Theft Auto with licenced cars?
Why not take in some of London’ sights between murderous gangland violence?

Black cabs and Routemaster buses are also present and correct, with landmarks such as the London Eye, Trafalgar Square and Piccadilly Circus adding an air of authenticity. 

And if you’re feeling a little Hank Marvin then why not visit one of the capital’s many Pret A Mangers? Blinding. 

The map is restricted, however, which is completely understandable given the sheer scale of London, and there are very few wide-open areas to fully exploit the sweet handling of your Fiat Punto… 

The Getaway: Grand Theft Auto with licenced cars?
Ahhhh, Pret. Also: ahhh, Brabus

Gangster Trippin 

Although The Getaway has an impressive car roster and setting, it is sadly let down by poor vehicle handling and shooting mechanics. Since Traxion.GG is a racing game website, we’ll focus on the vehicle physics most of all, but it would be remiss not to mention The Getaway’s on-foot sections were clunky and frustrating. 

Shoot-outs were annoying affairs; controls were confusing (the right analogue stick was never used in combat, for example, going against the open-world gaming grain) and auto-aim was controller-snappingly unreliable. Oh, and buttons couldn’t be re-mapped. Bonnet de douche, Rodders! 

The Getaway: Grand Theft Auto with licenced cars?
The main protagonist looks inexplicably like ex-footballer and personality vacuum Michael Owen

The car’s the star 

Now, onto the real stars of the show: the cars. What is most notable about the game’s cars is that they are fully licenced. Now, we’re used to seeing official vehicles in the likes of iRacing, rFactor 2 and Assetto Corsa, but seeing them in an open-world game is super rare (check out the full list of The Getaway’s licenced cars below). 

It’s an anomaly which The Getaway almost single-handedly addresses through its extensive fifty-plus car roster. As opposed to the GTA franchise, they were the type of normal vehicles you’d see on the roads every day. Citroën Saxo? Check. Nissan Micra? Check. BMW 5 Series? Check. 

The Getaway: Grand Theft Auto with licenced cars?
I didn’t cause this

Team Soho aimed for a realistic experience and this extended towards the fragility of its cars. Yes, prang your ‘motah a few too many times and it emits more smoke than a furious London cabbie when someone mentions Uber. 

The realism extends to the HUD – or lack of it. There are no health bars or ammo displays to speak of, and navigating London’s bustling streets is tricky thanks to the lack of an in-game map. However, The Getaway uses your car’s indicators to guide you by blinking left and right. Hazard lights flash when you’ve reached your destination.

The Getaway: Grand Theft Auto with licenced cars?
I may have disturbed someone’s dinner in the process of taking this screenshot

It’s a neat idea but in practice – and in the middle of a high-speed police chase – it can be difficult to follow and a little vague. Worst of all, the system completely fails when your rear lights are destroyed by pesky ramming rozzers. You wot, guv?

It’s not just the police or gangsters you need to worry about either, as London’s traffic is out to get you as well. Fellow road users blindly cross junctions in front of you and the sheer volume of traffic makes progress ponderous. The tightness of some of London’s streets amplifies this effect, so looking after your fragile car is tricky. 

The Getaway: Grand Theft Auto with licenced cars?
The Getaway basks in its grittily realistic setting. And nothing is more grittily realistic than a stationary Rover 75.

Fords Traaaaansit 

Perhaps the biggest flaw with The Getaway is that its free-roam mode is locked from the outset, requiring players to either finish the game or cheat to enjoy it. This is a huge omission given how much work has gone into re-creating London’s intricate road network and its cars in my opinion. London is a huge part of the game’s character that it seems remiss to leave it out. (Leave it ‘ahhht?)

The knife-edge way the cars handle is also a disappointment, as each vehicle requires light dabs on the left Analog Stick to dodge between traffic and road furniture. Attempting a tight corner can result in an overly sharp turn-in response, followed by an extended counter-steering battle to address the situation, which is difficult in the narrower sections of London.  

The Getaway: Grand Theft Auto with licenced cars?
A Fords Traaaaansit in its most iconic Mk3 offering

Police cars are also ridiculously fast. PC Plod in his Peugeot 306 can somehow reel me in in my Lexus SC430. You’re ‘avin a giraffe, mate.

Team Soho is also responsible for the PlayStation racer Porsche Challenge, which makes The Getaway’s imperfect handling quite a surprise. It’s not terrible by any means but lacks the enjoyment of GTA’s arcadey mechanics without fully committing to hardcore realism. 

But look at those cars! Where else can you see a fully licenced Austin Metro, TVR Cerbera and Vauxhall Vectra in an open-world game? Nowhere! Well, except in The Getaway’s successor, The Getaway: Black Monday, which had some equally amazing British cars.

The Getaway: Grand Theft Auto with licenced cars?
A Mk1 Toyota MR2 is one of the more bizarre cars on offer. They don’t normally come with bullet holes, mind

Which begs the question; will we ever see an open-world role-playing game with The Getaway’s glut of licenced cars in the future?  

Given the cost of licences and manufacturers’ reluctance to see their cars running over pedestrians during police chases, I’d have to say no.

Which is a shame, given how incredible a modern take on The Getaway could be. 

The Getaway: Grand Theft Auto with licenced cars?
A ‘propa Chelsea tractor, that

The Getaway: licenced car list 

  • AEC Routemaster 
  • Alfa Romeo 156 
  • Austin Metro 
  • Bedford Astravan 
  • Bentley Mulsanne 
  • BMW 5 Series (E34) 
  • Caterham Super Seven 
  • Citroën Saxo 
  • Daihatsu Hijet 
  • Daihatsu Hijet Pickup 
  • Daihatsu Sirion 
  • Daimler Ferret Scout Car 
  • E-Z-Go Marathon (golf cart)
  • Fiat Punto 
  • Ford Transit MkIII 
  • Go-Kart 
  • Honda Accord 
  • Honda Civic 
  • Hyster H60 (forklift)
  • Iveco Cargo 
  • Jensen Interceptor
  • Jensen S-V8 
  • LDV Convoy 
  • Lexus IS 200 
  • Lexus LS 430 
  • Lexus SC 430 
  • Lotus Elite
  • Lotus Esprit
  • Lotus M250
  • LTI Fairway (London black cab)
  • Mercedes A Class BRABUS
  • Mercedes S Class BRABUS
  • MG ZT 
  • Nissan Micra MkII 
  • Nissan Skyline GT-R R33 
  • Optare Delta (bus)
  • Peugeot 306 
  • Range Rover Series I 
  • Renault Espace II 
  • Renault Laguna  
  • Rover 3500
  • Rover 3500 (SD1) 
  • Rover 75 
  • Saab 9-3 
  • Saab 9-X 
  • Saab 900 
  • Toyota Corolla 
  • Toyota HiAce 
  • Toyota MR2 MkI 
  • Toyota TownAce 
  • TVR Cerbera 
  • Vauxhall Vectra MkI 
  • Venom GT Concept 
  • Volvo FL6 (truck)
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