While Grand Theft Auto may be a common name in the world of gaming now, it came from small beginnings. Originally a top-down action game, American Fugitive on the PS4 seeks to capture that same magic with its own twists on the formula.
You play as Will Riley, a man accused of murdering his father. Having escaped from prison, his one and only goal in the beginning is to clear his name, but things get more complicated than that as time goes on. Should you join Will on his quest for vengeance and answers, or would you be better off leaving him in his cell? Let’s find out.
An Homage to Gaming Classics
American Fugitive wears its influences on its sleeve with pride. The game takes a top-down approach and packs in a fairly large open world into one slick looking package. Inspired by GTA, action movies, and with talent from a variety of classic game teams, this game has a lot going for it.
American Fugitive begins with a murder. Will goes to see his father and finds that someone else is outside his house. One thing leads to another, and before you know it, Will is in prison for a murder he didn’t commit. Naturally, he breaks out.
After a short opening, you’re given access to the open world. It’s a little overwhelming at first, but you have a contact you can go to for your first several missions. New contacts open up as the game progresses, and the story expands in scope as well.
The game’s length, which can be well above 10 hours, offers a nice amount of content, but the story’s pacing makes it hard to be consistently invested. For starters, many of the missions are simple fetch quests or running cars off the road. The story also meanders in the beginning, focusing on small time revenge instead of the larger issue at hand.
Thankfully, as things go on and you open up new contacts, both the story and missions gain some variety. I just wish they had done this from the beginning. There are certainly highlights through the campaign, despite some dips in pacing. I particularly enjoyed an early mission that involved stealing and crushing a car. I’ll leave the rest for you to see, but it really brought back some good memories of crushing cars in GTA.
Inconsistencies in story and pacing aside, the gameplay of American Fugitive is solid for the most part. The game also does an admirable job of adding in some unique mechanics to the open world formula. While missions rarely offer anything truly unique, options like holding up stores and businesses or breaking into houses give you chances to score big.
It’s a major gamble though as you’ll need quality weapons and a bit of luck to succeed in these activities. When it comes to holding up a business, I’ve been overpowered even with a 70 percent chance of success. It’s frustrating, but kind of funny when you’re character flies out of the front door and rag dolls across the pavement.
Breaking into house requires careful planning. You can look in through windows but more often than not an alarm countdown will begin when you enter. I would have liked to see the alarm mechanic as a random element, but it seems to be in every home I’ve broken into.
With your limited time, you use a map of the house to move between rooms and search. Once you get out, you’ll need to make a run for it, which brings me to the police mechanics. Much like similar games, American Fugitive uses a five-star wanted system, but the criteria are a little different.
Obviously doing things like hitting people or shooting will attract cops, but you can also get people calling the police on you for small collisions, minor property damage, and other relatively normal things. It keeps you on your toes for sure, especially because cops seem to be everywhere in Redrock County.
Repainting your car, ditching it entirely, or changing your clothes can instantly reduce your wanted level. No clothing is safe either, if you see a dress hanging from a clothesline, you can throw it on and sprint through the fields of the American countryside like a crime version of The Sound of Music.
Among all of this is a levelling system that requires both skill points and cash to buy upgrades. You’ll also use cash to purchase guns, ammo, and vehicles through your phone. Stores also sell their own items like melee weapons or health.
Death during a mission simply resets the mission in American Fugitive, but dying in the open world causes you to spawn near a drain pipe in the area with nothing but the clothes on your back. It’s a steep price for death, which comes quickly if you’re not careful. I would have preferred some sort of stash system or something to offset the high penalty here.
One of the best parts of American Fugitive is going crazy in the open world. That fear of losing your items makes you less likely to experiment (you do keep your skills and such). Even so, experiment I did, and my favorite moment involved a tow truck and some police cars that got turned into projectile weapons. I’ll let you do the math as to how that worked, but suffice to say, American Fugitive mostly succeeds in creating a chaotic open world to explore.
A Mixed Bag When it Comes to Presentation
American Fugitive has a wide spread when it comes to the presentation. Environments, animation, and overall world detail look fantastic. Cutscenes boil down to text exchanges between small profile pictures of the characters. They do have some unique facial expressions or reactions, but I would have preferred larger character portraits or still art to convey the story.
Menus like the map and upgrade screen work fine, as do the inventory, but the map lacks any real detail about what locations offer. There’s a legend and icons spread throughout, but no more detail than that.
Overall I enjoyed my time with American Fugitive. With a tighter pacing to the story, some mission variety, it could have easily stood toe-to-toe with classic GTA, but as it stands, Redrock County is just slightly behind the times. Even so, fans of open world shenanigans should take a look.
Final Score: 7.5/10
A copy of American Fugitive was provided to PS4 Experts for review purposes
Article by - Bradley Ramsey
Insert date - 5/30/19