Instead of having a health bar, damage to the player was all communicated through visual language, and as players continued to take hits, Hammond would hunch and limp, his suit rapidly becoming soaked with blood. (Similarly, the driving sequences in The Getaway were imprecisely navigated solely through the use of turn signals in whatever car you happened to be in at any given time.) Since people in real life (or the movies) can't just run over a health pack and instantly regenerate any sustained injuries, Team Soho had to figure out some other way of keeping the player alive. So why not give Hammond (non-narrative-based) powers similar to Wolverine?
Perhaps a design like this could be considered a commentary on the fundamentally dichotomous uncanny valleys that do exist between films and video games, but in order to actually get funding, The Getaway could not play like Counter-Strike: East End. Technically the game "punished" you for having to recover—unlike the breakneck pace of contemporary action games, watching the blood miraculously evaporate from Hammond's suit could take upwards of three or four minutes, not unlike how the gunplay in Mirror's Edge was made intentionally slow and difficult to use to deter you from breaking your sense of speed and momentum. In a narrative sense, it was impossible to get around this wildly unrealistic suspension of disbelief in a game that otherwise demanded to be taken seriously, though the game remained an entertaining take on British crime as interactive fiction if you could stomach its uneven design and linear non-linearity.
The game sold well enough for a sequel, Black Monday, to be made two years later, though the second installment's lower sales and general disinterest in such a niche setting have since put the series on indefinite hold. Regenerating health, on the other hand, is clearly here to stay, as countless games now employ the technique, which at this point is practically a defacto state of game design. Very rarely does health regeneration make any more sense than it did in The Getaway, either. Shepard's biotics in Mass Effect actually can bestow a player some degree of healing powers, and, say, the sci-fi tech of Vanquish's ARS armor monitors health restoration, but for better or worse, health regeneration on your average soldier or space marine breaks—perhaps unavoidably—the fiction of complete immersion.
Perhaps the most telling metric to regenerating health, however, is that it shows just how much more ADD-addled and twitch-driven the game industry seems to have become. As design has evolved even from sixth generation games, the faster pace, brevity, and demand for instant action has made Michael Bay-fests like Call of Duty among the most popular franchises—something mechanics like regenerating health complement by getting players back in the fight faster. Compared to Black Ops, then, a game like the almost-ten-year-old Getaway feels positively glacial. And that makes its legacy, if it can lay claim to any, less a product of its mechanics than one of circumstance.
CCC Freelance Writer
*The views expressed within this article are solely the opinion of the author and do not express the views held by Cheat Code Central.*