Not since Ramon touched the third rail chasing down Spit in Beat Street has graffiti inspired such tragic results as Marc Ecko's Getting Up. Built around fighting and tagging, inspired by both Grand Theft Auto III and, somewhat perplexingly, Prince of Persia, the game could have been a decent distraction if its attributes weren't buried beneath so many flaws.
You play as "Trane," an up-and-coming street artist who escapes the grottiness of the projects in order to ply his craft on walls and subways around the city. Along the way, you scale fences, get into scrapes with local gang members, and earn "cred" through your masterpieces of unintelligible wordage.
Unfortunately, your missions run the gamut from go here, spray here to go there, spray there—an endless list of far-too-similar objectives, with only repetitive, button-mashing battles to break the monotony. This in itself would merely be a bummer if the game's controls and camera were tight. They aren't, adding frustration into the mix with boredom.
The flawed camera is especially vexing, as Getting Up's reliance on freeform, acrobatic gameplay necessitates a fluid visual experience. Slapping around a punk can be a challenge when a fence blocks your view; leaping from a fence to a ledge can be damn impossible when you can't see past a tree. Such lapses are inexcusable in any game, but for Getting Up, which obviously prides itself on a polished presentation, they're nearly criminal. Much of the game is beautifully designed, and its fictional city of New Radius (think New York under Koch) has been well thought out and heavily detailed. Too bad then that running wild through the streets with spray paint in hand is such a jerky experience.
As clumsy and uninspired as the gameplay is, however, the same can't be said for the game's voice casting, which is as hefty as it is bizarre. Rosario Dawson, Giovanni Ribisi, Charlie Murphy, Brittany Murphy, Andy Dick, Adam West, and George Hamilton—ye gods, that's a lot of slumming and/or career ruins for one game to sift through, and Getting Up makes the most of it. And though many of the performances are straight-up government cheese—street cred rarely survives the heavy honkiness of the corporate world, no matter whose name is attached to the title—the stunt casting is never a drag, merely an often-pleasant distraction.
Clothing designer Marc Ecko may have indeed wanted to make a quality game. Or maybe he just wanted another medium in which to pimp his clothing line. Either way, Getting Up arrives stillborn, too frustrating for the effort, too derivative by a mile. Not to get all pseudo-street on your ass, but this game hates the playa.