I played a bunch of the 2D Grand Theft Auto games back in the day for two reasons, 1. Rockstar Games was called DMA Productions back then, which are my initials so I was pretty jazzed about that at age ten, 2. When you died in GTA London, it said “You’re Brown Bread!” and that tickled me at the time. American Fugitive has neither of these things going for it. so good luck, game.
What It Is
American Fugitive is a crime drama about a man framed for his own father’s murder. He escapes prison to seek revenge, and finds himself on a crime caper along the similar lines of a Rockstar game. American Fugitive emulates the over-head camera of the original games, but forgoes the overhead perspective for more of an isometric angle. I would say this is the right decision, because even with this little compromise the player viewpoint can be an issue.
Moving around on foot is completely fine, but driving can be tricky. You can only see so far ahead, so drive fast at your own risk. Whenever the game put me behind the wheel of a fast car, problems occurred. It was like walking on eggshells, holding back on speeding up for fear that an oncoming car was just beyond the edge of the screen. The game works a lot better when on foot but this is the GTA fan club, so there’s plenty of mandatory driving to do.
What You Do
On foot you’ll be doing a lot of punching. shooting, breaking and entering. Combat isn’t much to write home about, twin-stick shooting with the standard bevy of weaponry. There’s an old-school, arcade-y feel to the game. You can just shoot and punch your way through the world without worry of consequences. Your biggest issue will likely be your wanted level. Again it’s all familiar, you gain stars when you are seen committing crimes.
The more severe the crime, the more stars and more cops. You can drive your car into a garage to respray it or if you’re on foot you can change your clothes. If at all possible, avoid gaining stars when you want to start a mission. I spent a painfully long time standing outside the home of a mission giver while I waited for my wanted level to subside. I had no car and being as far from a clothes shop as possible meant it really wasn’t worth my time to travel.
How It’s Different
The unique hook of American Fugitive is the breaking and entering system. You can break into just about any property, and doing so triggers the break-in mini-game. For example, there is an early mission to retrieve a necklace from a particular house. You approach the house and first thing to do is check the windows. You can check each window, which will tell you which room is inside and if there is anyone in there. When you have a window you like. You smash it and break in.
This brings up a floor-plan map of the house. You start in the room you broke into, and are given the option to search the room or move to another one. Searching takes time but if you’re here to rob the place this is what you’ve got to do. You search the room, and move to the next. Repeat until you are done. Two things to be aware of, breaking in may alert someone and a countdown will indicate how long you have until police arrive. Also, there may be someone home. If you encounter a person you will be given options to interact with them; attack them, tie them up or let them be. So long as you get out before the police show up, you should be good.
How it’s The Same
I would argue there’s a cardinal rule to making a nostalgia game, which is you really shouldn’t make the same mistakes when they’ve long since been solved. The plot of American Fugitive follows a man framed for his own father’s murder, escaping from prison to track down the real killer. That is your introduction to the game, however within ten minutes you’ll find yourself stealing cars and crushing them, or repainting them. You’ll spend quite a while doing random, pointless mission for a man who tells you he’s doing his best to track down the killer while you do his busy work. You move from one mission giver to another, and spend about seventy percent of your time doing filler missions to pad out the game. This game could stand to trim some of the fat.
The last ten years or so have shown us that games don’t need to continue innovating on absolutely every aspect. For a long time games had to have most modern graphics and gameplay to succeed, but eventually that slowed down. Now games can look and play almost however they want and so long as they have a decent hook, they can succeed. A game like American Fugitive can be great, and in many ways it does succeed.
This game has appeal, but those few wrinkles that have long since been ironed out of gaming stand out like sore thumbs. I think there is value in the nostalgia here, this era of Grand Theft Auto games hasn’t seen as much revisiting as other classic games. That said, I just can’t truly recommend this game. If you really need a bit of classic GTA, this game might scratch that itch. Otherwise, I’d advise to give this one a miss.
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