I deftly slip down the side of the garage and make my way towards the back door, evading the two cameras sweeping the front lawn. My mark tonight is a large, detached house on the outskirts of Twin Lakes, the overt security presence behaving as anything but a deterrent. Confident of a good haul, it will make a nice change of pace from the trailers and general stores I've been holding up so far - sports memorabilia and statues of cats don't fetch a great deal at Reese Pawn it turns out.
Having cased the joint through the rear windows, my only worry is that I won't have time to clear out every room before the inevitable alarm draws the attention of local law enforcement. With no sign of the owner, and thus no opportunity to knock them out and take the door key, I'm forced to break and enter. Concealed, I hope, by the cover of nightfall, I scrabble around the back garden for a tool to break in with. By a patio table and an old, burned up grill, I spy a pile of bricks, a hammer and a crowbar - the ingredients for any good barbecue. Taking all three, I leave most unnecessary clutter behind, wanting to make sure I can get in and have enough space to fill my rucksack with the riches lying in wait.
I return to the window which leads into the kitchen. Hurling my hammer at the glass, I'm met with a resounding thud. The glass remains intact, and the hammer lies in two at my feet. Wanting to hold onto the crowbar, I instead crack the glass with the brick. Sure enough the alarm blares out, my wits telling me I have about a minute and a half to get everything I can carry and run like the wind. For now though that doesn't matter, because I'm inside!
I leave the kitchen, and head through into a dining area. No silverware here though, just a child's toy car left by the doorway for me to skate across in the dark. Wasting a good twenty-five seconds, I pick myself up and fling open another door, this time taking me into a hallway. A clock, and another cat statue. Great. I grab them, clamouring for a good haul as I vault the stairs and head into an impressive master bedroom; and straight into the face of the lord of the manor.
With only seconds to react, I decide threatening behaviour is my best bet, and reach into my pack to grab my trusty boomstick. I come out wielding a crowbar. My shotgun, along with a pile of amassed near worthless shit has been discarded in the back garden, the glee at finding such an opulent home prime for burgling clouding my judgement. Next thing I know, he has the crowbar, I'm being hurled out of the front door, the sun's coming up and both security cameras are staring me down. Sirens blaring, I sprint to the rear of the house still desperately clutching the clock and the porcelain cat, worth four dollars between them, and run to my gear just as the squad car comes hurtling through the hedgerow, landing right on top of everything I own. Out get two cops, and in a panic I take one on hand-to-hand. Downing him in a few hits, I scrabble around for his revolver, but accidentally put on his uniform. My wanted level goes through the roof, so I get in the squad car and hit the gas. It's wedged on the now flattened patio furniture, and I see-saw back and forth for a moment before escaping the vehicle, which bursts into flames a second later thanks to the over-zealous shooting of the remaining cop.
A familiar thrashing noise grows louder, and the searchlight from the chopper sticks to me like the gum left in my pocket on laundry day. Running across the open field in front of me seems useless, and then I see it coming in the distance: An open road!
Let it be said here that a tractor does not the best getaway vehicle make. It does look spectacular as a flaming mass of metal being pulverised by a freight train at a level crossing, but that really didn't help my criminal career in the opening hours of American Fugitive. It did make me realise something though: That this game can be an emergent gem when it all goes tits up.
Will, the protagonist you play as, can do many things in this top-down, GTA2 inspired rob 'em up. The plot device of his fathers death, a catalyst which sets in motion a series of funny, over the top and occasionally poignant missions is lost somewhere along the way, which is unfortunate. With Will being blamed for the death and sentenced to life in prison, which you escape from in the prologue lending the game it's title, simultaneously seeks revenge whilst trying to clear his name of murder; but it's hard to suspend disbelief when you can flatten civilians in a JCB and shoot cops in the face with a SPAS. So, plot aside, we're left with the gameplay, which thankfully is top notch.
In true GTA fashion, you can jack any vehicle you see, whether stationary or being driven, and there are a plethora of weapons to wield from baseball bats to machine guns. You progress through the game working on missions given out by various handlers you meet along the way, starting with your brother Dwayne at his local scrap yard. Finish the various mission trees in an area, and the next part of the map opens up to you, refreshing things when they just begin to feel slightly stale. A few missions are the standard drive here, kill something, but some missions are really good. One early favourite of mine saw me stealing the sheriff's car, using a crane to crush it into a small metal cube and towing said cube back to where he'd parked it. Another one had me collecting five bin bags of body parts for an undertaker using a garbage truck, although when I arrived at the cabin in the woods I'd been directed to, I was surprised to see two of the five bags going off like jumping beans, desperately trying to get away... So there's plenty of variety and dark humour during the story. The thing which sets it apart from it's peers and obvious early-era Rockstar influence though, is the way you play in the sandbox between missions.
For a start, every building in the game can be broken into. Houses, factories, banks, coffee shops, general stores, gas stations, trailer park homes... The lot. Some of them are specific to certain missions for sure, but only things like banks and police stations. The rest can be robbed at any time, and the attention to detail in the gameplay which surrounds this mechanic is brilliant fun.
If you want, you can just pick up a stone and hurl it through a window, before climbing inside and stealing what you can before the cops show up. If you're planning on taking a little more care, why not case the joint first? This way you'll know before hand if a room is occupied or not and roughly how long it will take you to search it. Sneaking around the house, peeking through the windows gives you a more intelligent edge to your burgling. Or, in one of my favourite touches, wait for the owner to head out to / come back from their daily routine. Take the opportunity before they enter the house to knock them out from behind with a wrench or other suitable implement, and steal the key off their body before dragging them into the dumpster around the back. As long as no one saw you, you can now take all the time in the world to go through the house, as long as no one else is inside of course. Not every room has a window...
When going into the gas station, what do you do? Shop for chocolate bars? It's a viable option. As is threatening the employee with the business end of a pump action. But then what? Waste them? Tie them up? If so, with what, the string you've been carrying around, or the cuffs you took off that cop who found himself in the wrong place at the wrong time?
It all sounds pretty awesome, and it is, but it's kept simple to handle thanks to the view the game uses when robbing places. You get the floor plan of the building on screen, Cluedo-style, with an icon representing you. Moving room to room you choose whether or not to spend time searching, which depletes the timer alerting you of the cops' arrival. After leaving the building via whichever window or door you choose, being careful not to spring out into the face of a passing civilian, you haul your goods to the Reese Pawn shop to fence them for cash, which you can use to rent cars and weapons, or level your character, improving anything from their inventory space to how effective they are at intimidating people during a robbery.
The wanted system is really cool too: You have the standard star system as seen in GTA, but if you get into a car, the car gets it's own wanted level. So you could be on the run, find a parked car, take it unnoticed and stay low and avoid the cops or, you know, turning people into human pancakes, and wait out the wanted level reset. Or, you might cause havoc in a vehicle, but escape and dump it somewhere unseen, and you'll be free - you can even hang around nearby to see the police turn up, stating on the radio that they've found the vehicle abandoned. There are multiple ways to get it down in other ways too, from stealing clothes hanging on a washing line to knocking out someone in a secluded spot and taking what they're wearing. Of course, getting your car resprayed is an option too.
Every system in the game works really well, and the driving is pleasingly satisfying, with muscle cars drifting around corners, buggies being nippy off-road and garbage trucks ploughing through everything in their path. Most of the scenery, including walls, fences and furniture, can be destroyed as you rampage across the county. Corpses ragdoll around the screen as they're hit by traffic or blown up, but bizarrely there's no blood: Presumably to satisfy releasing the game on the Switch alongside the usual platforms.
Although not (yet) Xbox One X enhanced, the game still looks good, and the 30fps lock retains the cinematic feel that you lose with the smoothness of 60fps, so if it ever does get enhanced hopefully it will be an optional feature.
This is one of those games where there's a good selection of achievements related to pretty much every activity in the game. At the time or writing no one has completed it, with two achievements relating to collectibles not being unlocked by anyone. The game has only been out a couple of days though, so it won't be long until they fall. You'll be finding 100 'stashes', some of which are in houses and some buried outdoors, as well as stealing 20 valuable paintings to fence. You'll also need to collect 15 different advertisement flyers for the various in-game businesses, as well as take on every mission and complete side missions such as vehicle races. There's a smattering of miscellaneous objectives too, like running over 10 people in 60 seconds whilst driving a hearse or jumping a car over 70 metres. There's nothing here that should be unachievable, and apart from one particularly frustrating time trial against a train, nothing too difficult. It's just about the longevity of the game, and the effect it has on completion time. Also, my full walkthrough is right here on TA.
A really great game which I'm enjoying immensely. It genuinely reminds me of the fantastic hours I spent playing GTA 1 & 2 back in the late 90s, and does everything a modern-day take on them a game from a small independent team could do. It's fun, it's funny, it's got loads of character and it's just damn good to play.
Also, it's a steal at £18. Yeah, I went there.