Not Jonesing To Ford This One

HIGH Getting chased by the fuzz.

LOW Getting caught by the fuzz .

WTF He might not have murdered his father, but that seems moot.

Some games really nail a feeling or a mood, and that can be enough to carry me through to the end. In American Fugitive, there’s a certain way that the cars take corners, sliding around them with a drift that feels just right, from the weighty trucks, to the nippy, barely-in-control hot rods. Every chase, mission, and race offers a base enjoyment that comes from simply traveling from point A to point B. However, the feel of the cars isn’t quite enough…

American Fugitive revolves around William Riley, a man that discovers his father’s body and is subsequently charged with the murder. Riley escapes prison and sets out to clear his name, which means siding with the seediest elements of his town, be it a millionaire crime family, a suspicious FBI agent, or a hillbilly moonshiner.

Fugitive is a top-down open-world game, similar to the GTA series circa 1996. Principally, the protagonist runs from one questgiver to another, doing fetch quests, racing, stealing cars, robbing stores and breaking into houses. Completing these asks doles out cash and experience points that can be spent on supplies or put into stats that improve health, stealth, melee, etc.

There are lots of good interlocking systems here. Committing any kind of crimes in front of civilians causes them to be alerted. If they get away, they report the actions to the police, but the player can catch or kill them to stop this. If they do get away, they only report what they saw. So, if Will is in a car when reported, the alert goes out for his vehicle with no reference to his physical appearance, and vice versa. This allows for the player to escape detection by changing cars, and clothes.

American Fugitive is at its most interesting when its systems collide with the mission structure. Having to swap vehicles or snatch a new set of threads from a clothesline to fool the cops adds an emphasis on cautious driving and subtlety instead of the ‘lead-pipe-through-a-window’ pragmatism that might otherwise dominate. Similarly, approaching a mission at different times of day will change the patterns and numbers of civilians present.
For example, showing up to rob a house during the day will have more people milling around, whereas going at night will reduce visibility.

Unfortunately, the main missions are victim to the same thing all open-world games suffer from – repetition and undermining the narrative.

No matter how much varnish the devs might try to put on it, the structure is still ‘go to A, do B, then return to C to trigger D’ — and when B is ‘murder 8 sheriff deputies/gangsters’ it kind of makes it hilarious to watch D, a cutscene in which Riley professes his status as a good man and a need for justice. This formula gets rinsed and repeated for at least 10 hours, and regardless of the twists, turns, crosses and double-crosses, it grates.

Like others in the genre, there are side missions to break up that repetition, but the problem is that there’s little need to engage with any of the peripheral challenges. Despite the secret stashes to find, pictures to fence to pawn shops, and stores to hold up, the main story provides enough money and XP to complete the game, and I even had a surplus of $10,000 when it was over. I did the race missions because the cars felt good to drive and I wanted an excuse to throw them around dirt tracks and busy tarmac roads, but I couldn’t be bothered with the rest.

American Fugitive will probably strike a note with people wanting to play a solid old-old-school GTA impersonator with modern adornments, but those looking for a meaningful story and evolution in the gameplay won’t find much.

That car handling, though.  

Rating: 5 out of 10

Disclosures: This game is developed by Fallen Tree Games, ltd. and published by Curve Digital. It is currently available on PC, PS4, Switch and XBO. This copy of the game was obtained via publisher code and reviewed on the XBO-X.Approximately 11 hours of play were devoted to the single-player mode, and the game was completed.  There are no multiplayer modes.

Parents: According to the ESRB, this game is rated T. It contains
Language, Blood, Use of Alcohol and Tobacco, and Violence. The game very much earns the rating — there’s a lot of written swearing, violence with weapons and guns occur on a fairly regular basis and the each mission involves criminal activity like threatening people and robbing them.

Colorblind Modes: There are no colorblind modes available in the options.

Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: The game is fully playable without sound. Text size cannot be altered.

Remappable Controls: No, this game’s controls are not remappable.

AJ Small
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