Do you know what slightly irks me with movie releases? When they announce a sequel and it has almost none of the original cast with the tagline of “by the producer/writer of the original”. It doesn’t exactly fill me with hope and it’s not really a proof of quality. You could even slap the name of a cameraman from the original and call it a day. It’s more like a bait to sell the movie to you. But in this case, I’ll bite. When I read the description of American Fugitive, a small blurb of text caught my attention. “Developed by Fallen Tree Games, the two studio founders have extended AAA backgrounds; including titles such as TimeSplitters, Crysis, Black, and Goldeneye 007: Reloaded“. Are you kidding me?!! THE Black? One of the most visually impressive shooters on PS2 with the groundbreaking destructible environment (at that time)? I mean, the other titles listed as just as impressive but this got me most hyped. So yeah, I’ll bite. Let’s see what American Fugitive is all about.
In the game, we play as Will Riley, a man framed for murder and a fresh jail escapee on his quest to find out the truth. Not exactly original, but I’m still interested. Your base of operations (or a mayhem playground) will be the Redrock County, a cozy American town with plenty of cops and houses to steal from (hey, proving your innocence costs money!). Follow the story (and some side missions if you feel like it) to get to the bottom of the conspiracy and find out who exactly wanted to murder your father and put you behind bars. If that means I have to rob every house in the vicinity, so be it!
American Fugitive is a 3D top-down sandbox car stealer/shooter/burglary sim. Seeing what kind of previous games the studio had under its belt, I was kinda confused why they wanted to take the top down camera approach for the game but it worked rather well. The game is an arcadey GTA clone with some Dukes of Hazzard: Racing for Home thrown in (bonus points if you remember that PsOne gem). On your way to unravel the story, you can take on the side missions, time trials, steal & tow cars, collect garbage, break into houses for valuables, play tag with cops, dress up as a woman (more on that later) and upgrade your skills. They range from everything such as expanding your inventory, be more efficient in fights, be better with handling firearms, stealthier, make your vehicle sturdier and so on. As you go through those activities, the police will usually not be fond of them. Especially if you decide to tow a car while some guy is still driving it (and I don’t even need to mention their stance with robbing houses and murder). The more havoc you create, the more stars you earn but that can easily be resolved by finding fresh clothes in someone’s yard. This is why I decided to change into a red dress after my first carjack since no one would ever look for a bearded woman.
You won’t find anything visually groundbreaking in American Fugitive but there are a bunch of neat details to make up for that. I like the change of night & day and how every car that looks different feels different when driving as well. Locations never feel copy pasted and after some time, you can easily know where you are without constantly looking at the map screen. The town feels alive with its residents going about their daily lives and frequent traffic and train schedules.
While so far I could give every other aspect of the game a passable grade at worst, this bit is the most disappointing. Besides some expected sound effects, you won’t find any memorable audio except during scripted events and missions. Everything feels too silent and characters never talk, even during still image cutscenes. I also noticed some tunes would loop after a while. All in all, I wish this portion of the game got more attention during the development.
With all said and done, American Fugitive is still a treat for old GTA fans and top-down arcade games from the glory days of PsOne. The game is packed with lots of extra activities, car handling is incredible and it is a great stress reliever when you just feel like playing cat and mouse with cops or break some wooden fences. There is a lot of value here for an affordable price and fun doesn’t stop even after you complete the main story.
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