Does anyone remember the original Grand Theft Auto? The top-down classic where you go around the city fulfilling missions given to you via a public payphone as you mow down pedestrians and avoid the cops? It seems Fallen Tree Games remember it fondly as they’ve recently released American Fugitive, a modern take on the core mechanics and concept we saw within the original GTA combined with a few rather intriguing and innovative new mechanics.
Although the gameplay does tend to get a bit repetitive, there are a few things that the game does which helps to keep the whole experience entertaining and enjoyable, let’s take a look at what they are…
American Fugitive is, surprisingly, about a fugitive within America. Wrongly accused of the murder of your father, you’re locked away in one of the lowest security prisons I’ve ever seen. Upon breaking out, you seek out your old friend as you go in search of evidence which will lead you towards the real killer. However, nothing is as simple as it sounds as you bounce between a number of different contacts, all offering to help you, but at a cost. You must complete the challenges given to you, uncover new information, and expand your reach across the entire city if you wish to find out the truth.
You’ll get to meet a number of unique characters as you make your way around the city, some of which will be with you until the end; others aren’t as lucky. However, who do you trust? What pieces of information can be held as helpful or simply sending you towards your death? Also, why am I in a shipyard operating Fork-Lift trucks, moving boxes? This isn’t Shenmue! Either way, you’ll do anything to find out the truth behind the horrific events with your father, even if it means putting your own safety on the line. The question is, can you find out who was actually responsible, and what will you do when you do eventually catch up to them?
American Fugitive is a hard game to talk about. I think I can sum up the entire game in two words; Fetch Quests. The vast majority of the game (and by this I mean the entire game) consists of you talking to a contact, receive backstory or a clue, being given a mission and then set out to complete said mission. Thankfully the missions you are given are all unique (in terms of their narrative) but gameplay wise, there’s only a handful of actual mission mechanics you’ll be using. However, I thoroughly enjoyed my time with the game, easily taking me over twelve hours in order to experience the whole story, but I was tempted at times to give up due to repetition and monotony setting it – This is coming from someone who loves the Dynasty Warriors series.
Let’s step back a little though, let’s actually look at the core gameplay elements which you’ll be engaged within during the missions; some will include all elements below, some will just be comprised of a few.
As you’d expect, there’s a lot of driving involved within American Fugitive. Just like GTA, you can jump in and out of pretty much any vehicle you see driving around, from Garbage trucks to police cars. However, there’s a level of realism in place which means you must ‘break into’ any static vehicle, meaning if anyone sees you then expect the cops to instantly begin to search for the description of the car. Driving itself is fun, and quite responsive. You’ll have no trouble quickly turning corners when trying to make a getaway, smashing through any obstacles that get in your way (including pedestrians), and performing massive jumps via the strategically-placed ramps.
Also, as I just briefly mentioned, the world in American Fugitive is pretty much an open sandbox for your destruction and enjoyment. Almost anything which isn’t screwed down can be smashed into as debris is thrown all over the place without any impact to the overall performance (thanks to a post-launch patch). So, if you’re trying to make a getaway but can’t find a way to shake off those pecky cops – simply make a sharp turn and smash through numerous fences as you drive across people’s backyards in hopes the police won’t follow you.
Alternatively, you can jump in a tow truck and literally grab any police car that’s following you, drive away with it still attached, then dump it in a river!
American Fugitive delivers very satisfying twin-stick shooting as it’s main combat mechanic. From short-range shotguns to long-range pistols, there’s a multitude of different weapons to pick up, all with their own stats, that you can use to eliminate gangs, the police, or simply go on a crazy killing spree (should you chose to do so). Although considering you’re trying to prove your innocence, maybe it’s best to use your firearms on the bad guys rather than innocent bystanders! The gunplay feels weighty, with each weapon feeling unique and fit for its specific purpose. There are even a number of melee weapons for you to use, should you wish to take people out without actually killing them – a blunt force to the back of the head never hurt anyone, right?!
Breaking and Entering
Okay, this is one of the unique gameplay mechanics which I loved within American Fugitive. Each building you approach can’t simply be entered without causing alarm unless you possess the front door key. So, you must first case the joint by peeping through the windows and seeing if anyone is home (without being spotted doing this, as people will call the police if they see you). Once you’re sure there’s nobody home, choose your point of entry and smash a window/break down a door. Once inside, you have a set time until the police respond to your actions, so it’s time to work quickly!
The building is shown as a blueprint with each room labelled and a number in brackets. As you move from room to room, you can choose to search them – this means the time until the cops get there is reduced by the number within the brackets. Whilst within the property, you can find clothes, guns, valuables, money, and clues. This mechanic adds a whole new layer onto the GTA-style gameplay, making the entire experience more exciting and interesting, whilst presenting you with a feeling of tension and suspense as you try and search all the rooms before the cops turn up and arrest your ass.
Escape the po-po
Okay, so you’ve run over Mrs. Wiggins, shunted a police car, been seen breaking into a house, or shot someone in plain sight of other people, and the police are now on your tail – what do you do now? First of all, you could simply jump into a car and try to outrun them, but as soon as they realise what car you’re in, expect the force to pile on you like a bunch of metal files on a magnet. Alternatively, if you can get ahead of them by a few screens, you can visit the paint-job shop and get the car repainted. This’ll reset your wanted level as they won’t know where you are – similarly, if you hop out of your car and into another when nobody’s looking, you’ll also lose your wanted level.
One of the awesome things you can do is change your clothes. The police don’t only chase you based on your car, if they get a description of you then your clothes become compromised and you must ditch them – just like in Hitman 2. So, if you manage to get a little in front of the cops, like when getting your car repainted, then simply grab whatever you find on a washing line and throw it on to lose your wanted level! When I say ‘whatever’, I mean ‘whatever’ – you can run around in pink or yellow dresses, throw on a pair of jeans and a shirt, or go all elegant with a nice black dress. Surprisingly, the cops don’t mind you walking around in a dress, but they hate it when you opt to just ditch your clothes and run around in your underwear!
Also, inventory space is limited and the game doesn’t let you hoard clothing (which was a smart idea), so you can’t carry a wardrobe around with you. If you’ve been compromised, you have to find, buy or remove the clothing.
Another way you can escape your imprisonment would be to open fire and kill all the brave men who are only doing their job. This ‘may’ give you time to run and hide so they can’t find you as they patrol your last known location, but it may also bump your wanted level up to S.W.A.T. – if it does, expect a lot more police presence and even a helicopter which will search for you whilst you’re on foot. But why are you running from the cops? If you get caught then you lose all of the items you’ve acquired. So, it’s not a massive punishment, but it does mean you may lose key items and have to find them again, as well as items you could fence.
Finally, there’s a train which goes around the entire city (like a model train set in someone attic) which you can run up to and grab hold of. I only realised you could do this because I was trying to kill myself (to see if you could) but my character ended up jumping onto the side of it and grabbing on, like Spider-Man, as the train proceeded around the map. There’s no fast travel within the game, but this method is quite efficient and fun!
Is that it?
Yes and no. As you progress through the story, which I found to be very interesting as it held the whole game together and gave me a reason for doing the things I was doing, you’ll unlock new parts of the town and new contacts. These contacts will all do pretty much the same thing – offer exposition then send you on your way to take someone out, fetch evidence, trash cars, rob someone, etc… But you can also just freely ride around and explore the world should you chose to do so.
There are various things within the city for you to do, most of which come with trophies, such as successfully landing all of the jumps you find, selling all the expensive artwork to the dealer, and fencing a certain amount of stolen loot. You can break into anyone’s house (except your contact’s) so you’ll have to explore every nook and cranny if you wish to find all of the required items without any form of a guide. Also, just like later GTA games, when you enter shops you can opt to either become a customer or hold the shop up – you can even tie up the shopkeeper if you want to make sure you’re not disturbed by the cops whilst you clean the place out!
As you work your way through the game, you’ll also obtain skill points which you can use to unlock various boosts and abilities. These range from simply increasing how much stuff you can shove into your underwear (as you still have them if you shed your clothes), to making you more stealthier and harder to detect when breaking into peoples homes. As the gameplay gets more difficult, with the AI becoming more aggressive towards the end of the game, these skills are required if you want any chance at completing the game.
Honestly, I would have loved for more variety with the missions and more side-missions scattered around the city which aren’t part of the main quest. A lot of the game felt like I was simply talking to someone, doing their bidding, talking again, doing another quest, talking again, doing a quest etc… If this was a five or six-hour game then fair enough, but considering the length of the game, the concept was wearing thin by the end of the game. However, the beautiful world and creative gameplay mechanics, along with the interesting narrative, kept me entertained right until I pulled my trigger in the final scene!
Graphically, American Fugitive looks great. The dynamic lighting, the quality of the assets, the overall art-style, it all works really well. I did have a few performance issues pre-launch, but they were all cleaned up within a few days of release, so the game runs really smooth on the PS4 Pro now. However, there’s another aspect of the game which needs further tweaking…
The AI NPCs all need to retake their driving test! Seriously, if you stand in the road then you’d expect a civilian or police car to slow down, in this game they try to stop but if they bump into you then they speed up and literally run you over with no remorse. I’ve also seen the police cars (not whilst searching for me) just knock people over, go off-road and smash into fences and outdoor furniture, drive through red lights and smash into cars, and I’ve even seen some cars willingly drive onto the train tracks as a train is coming!
It really takes you out of the immersion when you experience a city of drunken drivers every time you turn a corner!
Soundwise, there’s no vocals in American Fugitive, outside of the cops one-liners as they call for backup and search for you, but that’s fine. The music itself is almost a Country-style, with a dynamic switch to more dramatic music once the action picks up. However, other than the menu, map and mission complete screen, be prepared to hear a lot of Crickets! That ambient sound-byte was playing throughout the entire game!
Despite the repetitive and monotonous nature of American Fugitive, I really enjoyed the story and the unique gameplay aspects. Rather than a simple twin-stick shooter or GTA classic clone, the developers introduced realistic mechanics such as breaking and entering and having to avoid being seen whilst carrying out criminal actions. There’s a lot of game to play through, although you’ll instantly feel the strain of the limited amount of gameplay mechanics on offer after a few hours. As such, I’d say this game is perfect for playing in small bursts as the missions aren’t too long, doing that will eliminate any monotonous and déjà vu gameplay.
If you’re looking for a game you can pick up and play from time to time, either at home or on the go, American Fugitive is a great candidate. It looks great, has an interesting story, unique mechanics, and a beautiful open world sandbox to mess around within. I can’t wait to see what the developers come up with next!
- - Interesting story of investigation and revenge
- - Open sandbox for you to play within
- - The breaking and entering mechanics are a nice touch
- - You can wear a dress if you choose to do so
- - Lots of missions to do, preferably best played in short bursts
- - The core gameplay mechanics don't vary much, leading to repetitive and monotonous missions after a few hours
- - The AI can't drive at all. They all seriously need to stop drinking and retake their test!
- - The Crickets get a little annoying as they never shut up (not a negative, just an observation)