When a 'celebrity' endorses a game a few alarm bells start ringing. Marc Ecko's Getting Up: Contents Under Pressure, as you might gather, is at least partially created by Marc Ecko, a man whose celebrity status is so great that I hadn't heard of him before this game was announced. He is apparently involved in fashion and is good friends with P Diddy, so that probably makes him at least twice as famous as the D-list celebs that recently appeared in Celebrity Big Brother here in the UK. Anyway, enough about Ecko. The game itself is about Trane, a man who loves to draw graffiti (graf for the cool kids), but is suffering in New Radius, a fictitious city overrun with cops and other law enforcers eager to get people like him off the streets.
The focus of the game is to get your graffiti plastered all over each and every area you come across. You'll usually be required to paint in a few select sections in order to move the story on, but each area also includes some free-form challenges that aren't necessary to complete unless you want to do everything in the game. The tags used in the free-form challenges simply require you to hold down a button until the tag appears, but the essential pieces take more time and need a little more attention. Once you start a piece a timer will start and you must spray the can while moving across the outline until all the areas have been covered. No artistic talent is required, but you need to watch out for low pressure and maintain a steady motion across the wall in order to prevent drips.
The system works well enough, but anyone with a real interest in graffiti may well find it all a little too simple. Throughout the game you find new art for your black book and can vary the designs you paint, but the real challenge comes from the location of the required pieces. Some of these are easy to get to, but are in dangerous locations, such as the walls of underground tunnels, while others require a bit of platforming to reach. The most recent comparison would be the Prince of Persia games, but these sections are nowhere near as acrobatic or as fluid as those found in Ubisoft's games; think Tomb Raider - the general stop, start, nature of the adventure sections - and you'll be on the right track.
Contents Under Pressure features a pretty competent fighting system, on paper at least. You can lock onto enemies, throw kicks and punches, start grapples, pick up weapons and evade attacks. Various advanced moves can also be performed to break through the defence of an enemy or to cause more damage. The problem is that it feels rather sluggish, and even though the game is about graffiti, you have to fight numerous times in each new area. It all starts to wear a little thin a few hours into the game after you've entered another new area only to be greeted with a few foul-mouthed goons that need dispatching before you can paint.
You'll often have a few enemies on you at once, but they'll show the normal unwillingness to help out their mates; if you get one of them into a hold the others will stand back as you repeatedly smack the guy round the head. The game ends up getting stuck in a routine where you'll enter an area, kill some enemies, paint some walls, and then move on, before doing the same again. Despite the illusion of a big city to explore, each section is set within its own closed-off area, with invisible walls blocking your path should you try to explore.
How you feel about the game's presentation will almost certainly depend on the appeal of the subject matter. The environments are large, but incredibly dark and run-down. This fits well with the supposed oppressive government that's in power, but makes for a rather drab experience. Characters aren't particularly well modelled and animations are stiff, or not there at all (some characters simply slide across the ground in certain cutscenes). The graffiti itself all looks good - not that I'm any kind of authority in that area - and there's literally a ton of it to see throughout the game, with almost every surface being plastered with a design of some kind.
The soundtrack fits well with the atmosphere of the game, and if you're into the likes of Mobb Deep and Talib Kweli you'll probably love it, but I can't say it's all that appealing. The voice acting varies from good to poor, with the famous graf artists that make an appearance sounding so wooden they might as well have a script in front of them. The amount of swearing and general foul language won't be for everyone either, and while this may well be in keeping with street culture, it often sounds forced, almost becoming laughable.
If you can tolerate the loose controls then you'll find that Contents Under Pressure isn't an awful game, but it just feels sloppy. Trane often gets stuck on walls, enemies frequently appear to be inside concrete floors, graf can be painted off the edge of a wall and onto thin air, and various other graphical glitches crop up pretty frequently. There simply isn't a single area of the game that stands out as anything other than average, and that just isn't good enough.
My main problem with Contents Under Pressure isn't the sluggish combat, or the slow rather clumsy platforming (both of which are big problems); it's the attitudes of the characters in the game. In real life do graffiti artists really go around beating each other up, going as far as killing rivals? For a hobby that's already looked down on by the majority of the population, is it such a wise move to depict them as thugs too? Sure, the game is set in a fictional city, but wouldn't a game that was all about exploration and art have been a better reflection on the culture and a better game as a whole?