It has been noted repeatedly that The Getaway is not, in fact, a Grand Theft Auto clone, and this goes as much for the finished product as it did with the various previews. Whereas Rockstar's best-selling series focuses on non-linearity and ease of use, The Getaway aims for a more compelling story and complements it with realistic and cinematic changes to gameplay, including the recreation of some 20 square miles of London down to local businesses, some 60 licensed vehicles with accompanying physics, new motion capture technology, and the elimination of all on-screen indicators.
The first thing that one notices when starting The Getaway is that the game pulls no punches, starting with the blatant use of "f**k" throughout the game. A kidnapping goes awry, leaving Mark Hammond's wife dying in his arms as a woman in the background drops her shopping bags in a scream. With his wife dead and his son kidnapped, Hammond jumps into his car and hits the chase. Team Soho's message is clear - they're taking this seriously, with none of GTA's trademark sense of humor that accompanies its violence.
Players starting this sequence without reading the manual or prior knowledge about The Getaway will no doubt find themselves confused at first, for thus enters what may be The Getaway's most controversial problem. As aforementioned, there are absolutely no arrows, maps, or gauges to tell you what to do. Everything you need to know is conveyed through in-game indicators, starting with the turning signals on your car telling you where to turn and when to stop. This takes some getting used to, as the indicators don't take into account the labyrnithic design of London so much as they do the player's position relative to the target location. If not careful, players could find themselves speeding down the wrong way on a one-way street.
The car physics prove quite realistic, as slamming on the handbrake can and will send certain cars spinning, and each car handles differently. Flipping cars doesn't seem to be possible, which may be due to the protests of manufacturers as much as the emphasis on realism. Damage modeling, too, seems a mix of the realistic and conservative. It's satisfying to rear-end another car and see its rear windshield shatter and its bumper dented, and more that a severe crash will affect a car's steering. Manufacturers, however, seem to shy away from the idea of damage to the body of the car more severe than popped tires, broken windshields, and numerous dents. Hoods cannot be popped, nor the car severely warped, nor anything removed from the car itself.
Notoriously absent is the option for multiple camera angles. While not really a problem with on foot segments, the option to change the camera to one looking backwards or sideways is notoriously absent. It's hard to see how this would have detracted from the realism or cinematic appeal of The Getaway, as the game is already in third person and keeps the camera locked behind the car at all times. Being unable to look left or right while in the car led to a few crashes, but none so severe as to hinder progress.
The Police and enemy AI during these sequences is a mixed bag. On the one hand, they both exhibit some clever tricks, not the least of which is boxing you in with cars on either side, cutting you off, shooting out your tires, and in the case of the Police, setting up tire strips and arresting you. Conversely, the Police can't arrest you while in your car, and roadblocks that are supposed to check for you seem to ignore you as you drive through it. And while the police can and will arrest you for running red lights or driving in the wrong lane, there are times when they seem to ignore your violations altogether.