Which one of you was there when Grand Theft Auto was very different from the current games and you only played from the top? With American Fugitive the British Fallen Tree Games try to recreate the charm of those early games, albeit with more modern 3D graphics. Let’s see what the results are.
From the point of view of history and setting, American Fugitive is openly inspired by the 1960s TV show The Fugitive or its remakes, including the famous 1993 film with Harrison Ford. The protagonist of that story was unfairly convicted for the murder of his wife, not having been able to expose evidence of the presence of another person who had killed her; a similar situation we find in the title of Fallen Tree Games, except for the fact that it is the father of the protagonist who dies, a young man named Will Riley who saw his life destroyed by a miscarriage of justice, with his family to pieces because of an unjust sentence. But when an old friend of his starts to find clues as to who the culprit might have been, he decides to run away from the penitentiary in search of the truth. But Will is still a character with a criminal past, and even if he hasn’t committed that crime he knows all too well how to juggle thefts, shootings and revenge. His desire for justice quickly turns into a journey in search of redemption and revenge, and where Harrison Ford tried to prove his innocence, here the drive comes from pride and the desire to make the real culprit of the murder pay.
This is the premise that catapults us into an open world title with a top-down view, albeit 3D, in U.S. city environments of the ’80s, to eye and cross to the south of the country. The protagonist’s path of revenge leads him to meet different characters, to find himself in the midst of wars between clans, settlement of accounts, robberies and much more, with a significant escalation of violence experienced by the player himself. At the base can be summed up American Fugitive as a more modern version of the first two GTAs (or of the Chinatown Wars spin-off): an action with a high rate of adrenaline in an urban open world where it is possible to commit numerous crimes and with the police who will hunt us down without stopping.
The game presents us, in this open world, a sequence of missions, presented at the level of plot is represented with drawings and old-fashioned textual dialogues. These activities begin with an old friend of Will’s who begins to ask for favors from his newly escaped partner: a series of settlements of accounts that soon lead him to appear in other areas, other people, other situations. I don’t want to enter the territory of the spoilers, but the story immerses Will in many different situations including shootings, robberies, car thefts, vehicle destruction and much more. But it’s not a linear experience, because in the spirit of the open world you can use many different approaches to each mission. You can use all kinds of weapons, steal vehicles on the street or use those already given, aim for a more stealth approach (you can also crouch and move silently in fact) or enter the scene at the Rambo, rely only on fists or explode everything with arrogance. Freedom of choice is certainly one of the elements in which American Fugitive excels.
And of course this freedom is also felt outside the missions, with a structure that is very reminiscent of that of GTA. It’s possible to avoid resorting to violence, as well as we can get out of the city. You can steal vehicles, buy useful items or new weapons, but also rob shops or homes. This last mechanic is one of the peculiarities of the title of Fallen Tree Games: entering a building, in fact, snaps a kind of minigame, where we have to move our two-dimensional checker around the rooms of the building. Usually these thefts trigger the police alarm, with a timer that indicates how much time you have before they arrive. The exploration of each room takes a few seconds, so you have to consider well what is worth the risk of checking, bearing in mind that you might even meet people who interfere in the robbery. Don’t worry: just threaten them with your gun and tie them up (if you have something to gag them) and they won’t cause any more problems. Or attack them directly. The choice is yours, just don’t let the police catch you.
And, of course, law enforcement is one of the key elements of the title, because for every crime committed (from road accidents to the most brutal violence) police patrols are activated, who will try to capture or kill Will in the shortest possible time. From here, then, shootings and chases arise breathtaking (in the latter case with a convincing model of arcade driving) where the goal, as in GTA, is to “lose the stars”, that is to be able to take off the eyes of law enforcement just enough to stop being sought, disappearing in the middle of the city for example. That’s why you can even take advantage of the clothes found around the world of the game: even a well-designed change of clothes can be enough to make us lose track, even allowing us to wear the clothes of the cops themselves. In short, there seems to be a bit of Hitman in this homage to the classic GTA.
The plot of the game is certainly not comparable in length or variety to the giants of Rockstar Games, but still offers a dozen hours of fun. The game world also features numerous side quests and alternative activities, such as checkpoint races that make us earn money, these additional challenges can virtually double the duration of the title. Unfortunately, however, the Italian localization is missing.
Crimes of all kinds – Don’t be fooled by the top-down view that undoubtedly betrays the indie origins of the title compared to giants like GTA V or Watch Dogs 2: American Fugitive is a crime simulator where nothing is really missing, indeed. Weapons and explosives, theft of cars, armed robberies, burglaries, the possibility to take hostages and tie them up, invasion of private property, heartbreaking chases: it’s always nice to give a concrete name to the atrocities done!
The Art of Escape – The title of the game is translatable “American fugitive”, and is a description more than adequate to the experience of the game since we are almost always on the run because of our crimes. So we will have to run a lot, resort to stealth, change clothes to not be recognized, steal vehicles to escape from the police, disappear after a theft … in short, the escape is the essence of the title, and manages to convey a feeling of urgency even greater than more noble titles.
It hurdles! – Especially the phases on four wheels work best, because the driving model is very comfortable and fun. Between drifts, jumps and accidents it seems to be an episode of the famous series of the 80s Hazzard. The small towns that make up the game world manage to give you an extra sense of speed when you hurtle a few inches from passers-by or animals on the farm, and the accident is always around the corner. The driving system is really satisfying, and would not disfigure in a game centered entirely on driving. It’s almost a shame to have to spend so much time on foot!
The inconstant arm of the law – American Fugitive takes some freedom with regard to the management of law enforcement, not punishing the player if he drives too fast or if he jumps a red, nor if he knocks down half a park with his own car. Accidents usually lead to a search, but there are bizarre exceptions, such as when shooting down a vehicle using a tow. Sometimes, with an apparent sixth sense, police officers also detect the presence of a stolen vehicle or if we are on private property, and almost every break-in is automatically reported to the police, even if there is no one within a hundred meters. It is usually enough to put a short distance between oneself and the patrols to lose one’s tracks in record time, to the limit a change of clothes and it is as if nothing had happened – even this management is inconsistent, however, with sometimes unforeseen results.
Burglary but without fun – Already in the very first mission of the game you have to enter a house, and here it becomes clear that the developers had to take some shortcuts because the buildings are not really explored in 3D, but you face a kind of minigame where the exploration of each room passes a few seconds and can give items to collect, but also to blow up inhabitants or salespeople frightened to neutralize. It’s a variant on the gameplay that adds a sense of urgency to their actions, but already after a few times it becomes quite boring, especially since the imminent arrival of the police usually leads to be able to explore a maximum of two rooms.
Not very successful shootings – Due to the top-down view, American Fugitive manages the fights like a twin stick shooter, with the left analog dedicated to movement and the right to aim at 360 degrees, with a system of hooking the enemies when the viewfinder is close enough. Unfortunately, however, this system was a bit ‘cumbersome and imprecise, with an annoying delay in the aim that makes the shootings much less fun than they should be, and that led me in the course of the adventure to try to eliminate opponents with alternative stratagems such as the explosion of vehicles.
Problematic view at the wheel – Even the excellent driving model is not free from defects, and in this case it is the fairly close view that offers us a field of view too small, so as to bring out unexpected obstacles at the last moment, especially when we go very fast. This risks involving us in accidents that make us lose time or even the entire mission. It’s a problem that becomes particularly evident in time trials, where the unpredictability of the traffic and the inability to anticipate what is off the screen leads to some too much frustration to those who aim for all the gold medals.
American Fugitive is a good modern transposition of the old GTA formula, with a lot of criminal action from above, but this time with good 3D graphics. The high-speed chases are really hilarious and the total freedom offered offers many options to the player, almost all with high adrenaline rate. The gameplay certainly has some very weak side, first of all the thefts and shootings, plus it also lacks the Italian location, but overall it is a good old-fashioned action game, as there are very few on the market and certainly deserves to be played by those who spent hours and hours on the very first Grand Theft Auto.