Let me start off by saying that I really wanted to like this game. Maybe it is the concept -- a brash, ballsy rampage through the streets of London. Or maybe it is the advertising -- TV and Web spots, magazine ads, and more, proclaiming Black Monday, the follow-up to 2003's The Getaway, a must-play game. Or maybe it is the developer's ambition that in effect makes Black Monday a movie within a game. Ultimately, however, for all the qualities that drew me to it, there are many that cause it to fall short of the game it could have been.
Rated Mature, The Getaway is part of the new generation of "adult" games. Smothered in cursing, sex, and violence, it is a sort of Grant Theft Auto set in the UK, though I often felt many of the mature elements were for shock value only, lending little to making the game more enjoyable to play. Watching the cinematic intro and listening to the immersive surround sound, a gamer can tell that Black Monday oozes high production value (there is even a setting for widescreen TVs).
The driving scenes are the most impressive example of the detail Team Soho, who developed the original Getaway, paid to recreating London. You might even want to spend some time in the side-game cruising around London, hitting anything and everything including pedestrians, or enjoying one of the many other unlockable side-games.
So you've talked about the background of the game, but what about the core gameplay? This is where Black Monday really fails and is the only reason that I wouldn't recommend it for a straight buy. Rent first and see what you think. The game boasts 3 playable characters that traverse a mission-based, multi-path story taking you into danger on foot and in vehicles that you can "borrow" and store for later if you so choose. Tons of weapons and Guy Ritchie-like dialogue don't save Black Monday from some serious problems in the gameplay department.
Even running the game via component video in widescreen mode, it's stuttery. You'll notice this as you are dropped right into the middle of a drug bust that quickly gets complicated, and bloody. Your character just doesn't move smoothly nor does the camera, and quite frankly, the combat system is boring. Rolling, aiming, using the enemy as a shield, hand-to-hand combat -- it's all been done before, and better. Aiming is questionable, especially for those who have been spoiled recently by Resident Evil 4 and its precise, laser-sighted targeting. Once you get close enough to the enemy your character goes into hand-to-hand mode, though the distance is iffy, where you might be out of range for the gun, yet not close enough to make contact as you attempt to hit the enemy with your fist or the butt of your gun. And the enemy AI is cookie-cutter at best.
Playable character Eddie, a boxer, has the most diverse action set, involving grappling, uppercuts, and other moves, but what it all comes down to is that I was more interested in watching the game than playing it. In-game movies, surround sound, widescreen mode, detailed backgrounds, and sidequests are all icing on a cake that is just a little too stale to warrant an immediate buy.
As a new entry in the ever-expanding mature gangster genre, Black Monday is worthy of a nod for its cinematic flair. Had the developers spent more time on core gameplay, perhaps introducing new elements not already done better in other games, Team Soho would have had an "A" title on their hands.