American Fugitive – Nintendo Switch
Developed By : Fallen Tree Games
Published By : CurveDigital
Category : Action, Adventure, Racing
Release Date : May 23, 2019
Tried and tested
Grand Theft Auto is the greatest gaming series of all time. Period.
Now, whilst some may not echo the same sentiments as that highly subjective statement, there is no denying the success of Rockstar Games greatest works. Safe in the knowledge that this gaming formula has been tried and tested with the most incredible set of results, it is only natural that other developers follow suit. Among many in recent years, Volition have brought us Saints Row and Vblank Entertainment have also tried their hand with some top-down open-world action with Retro City Rampage and Shakedown: Hawaii. Both development teams have produced their own fresh take on the open-world crime series, and now we have the next in a long line of spiritual successors, American Fugitive by Fallen Tree Games.
Wrongly accused and trialed
Although lacking the same level of personality as Niko Belic or Trevor Phillips, American Fugitive offers the chance to take control of Will Riley. Wrongly accused and trialed for the murder of his father, Riley decides that enough is enough and believes a life on the run with vengeance in tow is better than more time in the slammer. So begins a journey through 1980s Redrock County – an American town offering criminal activity in abundance.
The 3D open-world sandbox that has been crafted is the perfect backdrop to the action, and has the look and feel of a county out in the sticks. The soundtrack is delightful albeit limited, with a small selection of acoustic guitar tracks setting the tone for a town only ever a moment away from destruction. I enjoyed driving around the town as much as I did destroying it, and both were done with suitably atmospheric tunes in the background.
Visually, American Fugitive does a fantastic job of presenting 3D gaming from a top-down perspective. I love the cel-shaded art style and think it’s an excellent move, as it is more forgiving than utilising an ultra-realistic view. The buildings, destructible items and the cars in American Fugitive are detailed enough, without having to be too impressive. This is great because the first of a few grievances I have with American Fugitive come to light here.
The game struggles to run smoothly at times, be it when driving around the expansive map or when running across town. Your character jolts and stutters, almost trying to keep up the pace. Although not game-breaking (we will get to that in a minute), it does affect the overall quality of the gameplay.
All the usual suspects
On the subject of gameplay, all the usual suspects associated with a crime-based open-world title are present and correct. From pick-up and drop-off missions, to shootouts in the street, there is a variety of mission types to access – although they are somewhat repetitive. The same can be said for the other games that inspired this genre, but with a top-down approach and a smaller map size, it becomes more apparent at a quicker rate with this title.
As expected, your character meets all manner of NPCs during the game which you befriend and complete missions for in the hope of gathering information regarding your fathers death. The characters are competent, and follow some of the social stereotypes commonly seen in games of this nature. The police are also ever-present, and you can receive up to 5 stars on your wanted rating, causing the cavalry to arrive in their masses. Ravenous to the smell of crime, even the most minor of indiscretions can heed terrible consequences. The report of a Road Traffic Incident after careering into a wooden garden fence was impressively realistic at first, before becoming an inconvenience very soon after. The police are easy to shake, almost too easy in fact, and that can hinder the level of immersion achieved.
Where American Fugitive attempts to buck the trend is in both the top-down 3D gameplay and in the inclusion of burglary. At any point during the game you can scout out a potential target building and steal the contents inside. In quite a realistic manner, you approach a window and can select to look inside to see if the room is empty. Once inside, you search the contents by selecting A and then move from room to room via the 2D floor plan presented on-screen. If you happen to enter a room where the occupant is present, you can choose to flee, attack or allow them to leave of their own accord. All the while, a timer is ticking which indicates the arrival of the police.
In terms of game design, I believe the development team have done very well. I love the top-down approach using 3D models, and the combat is intuitive and easy to pick up: you use the right stick to aim your weapon and the trigger to shoot. I think the driving could do with some work as the cars can be quite erratic, particularly at speed, and the missions can become a little stale when playing for too long a stint.
As stated above, there are still issues with the jerky movement of your character. Coupled with occasions where I had to restart missions as the enemy characters had got stuck in a cliff face or I was buried under a car that flipped itself for no apparent reason, it becomes evident that the game is in need of a patch. One was released on the 22nd May, but unfortunately these issues were not fixed. It is both playable and enjoyable in its current state, but an update to address these problems is essential to the success of this title. Whilst they are at it, an on-screen mini map wouldn’t go amiss either.
The expression ‘waiting for a bus and then two come along at once’ is very apt here. Hot on the heels of Saints Row: The Third being released on the Nintendo Switch, we are presented with both Shakedown: Hawaii and American Fugitive. Fortunately for the marketing teams of all concerned, each game has something significantly different to offer. At present, American Fugitive will be considered the least polished of the three, but with the aforementioned issues ironed out, it could provide a quick fix for an open-world crime-spree that gamers are looking for.