When it comes to top-down open-world action games in the vein of the original Grand Theft Auto, they are few and far between these days. Fans of that particular niche are generally starved, so when a new game fitting that description does come along, there’s a lot riding on it to be an entertaining and enjoyable experience. Thankfully if you are one of the people who enjoy that type of game, despite a few hiccups, American Fugitive comes out swinging and knocks it out of the park.
The missions themselves have a surprising and delightful amount of variation to them.
The story itself is as generic as they come. You play as Will Riley, a convicted murderer who is thrown in jail after someone has murdered your father and let you take the fall for it. So naturally, you have to escape and track down whoever did it. The breakout itself is rushed over rapidly during the opening minutes of the game to get you into the open world as quickly as possible. This is a logical choice, but it leaves you feeling like you’ve been thrown headfirst into a story that you haven’t had proper time to get to grips with. Thankfully the rest of the game isn’t as rushed through as its opening. The characters you meet along the way all have genuinely interesting personalities that are developed properly through the story.
There are a handful of different character archetypes that you would expect in there, from your blue-collar criminal brother to a mysterious woman who has her own unknown agenda, they all give you missions in a GTA-esque fashion. The missions themselves have a surprising and delightful amount of variation to them. There are a few that repeat their structure over a few times with mundane tasks like delivering goods from point A to B, but never enough that it becomes a drag.
As you would expect from an open-world crime game, most of the gameplay consists of driving and shooting, so there’s a lot riding on those mechanics in particular. Fortunately driving around the map in free roam or in one of the many time trial mini-games is one of the most enjoyable activities in the game. There is a decent variety of vehicles available, and each feels unique. Pickup trucks and vans, for instance, are quite slow and easy to control, while the faster muscle cars and off-road vehicles and quick and agile, which makes them a fair bit more difficult to control.
…you’ll get a wanted level if a police officer so much as catches you driving over your neighbour’s white picket fence
Police chases are certainly more interesting because of this but are often short-lived. That being said, it’s balanced out by the fact that you’ll get a wanted level if a police officer so much as catches you driving over your neighbour’s white picket fence, so you’ll certainly have the cops on your back a lot of the time, as you would expect, being a fugitive and all.
You’ll also gain a wanted level from one of the game’s most unique mechanics; the ability to case and burgle houses. You can use brute force and break in via a crowbar, a mallet, or some other blunt object of that variety, but that is guaranteed to set off an alarm regardless of whether the homeowner witnesses your lacking attempts at subtlety. Once the alarm has been set off you have a limited amount of time to steal as many things as you can and escape before the police arrive.
If you prefer a more inconspicuous approach, you can case the property first by looking through the windows to see if anyone is home. You can always find a key somewhere around the premises and use it to avoid setting off any alarms when you break in. There are also skills that can help make this process easier, by giving you the ability to automatically case a house upon approaching it.
Each [area of the map] feels very similar with suburban housing and farmland, and the same somewhat bland palette of greens and browns.
There are a wealth of skills available that each make your life a little bit easier in meaningful ways. Some will increase your inventory space while others will increase your chances of successfully holding up a store. You can also acquire a skill, among many others, that increases the damage you deal towards unaware enemies – useful if you want to get the jump on someone. American Fugitive has a healthy amount of weapons for you to use. You can dispatch enemies with any of the blunt objects I mentioned earlier, or cause havoc with shotguns, pistols, or rifles in twin-stick style gun combat that never ceases to be enjoyable throughout the duration of the game’s roughly 15-hour long story.
During the story, you’ll unlock three different areas of the map. You’ll have enough time with each area for it to feel familiar, though the variation between the areas is lacking. Each feels very similar with suburban housing and farmland, and the same somewhat bland palette of greens and browns. Not helping with that fact is perhaps the game’s soundtrack. While it is an excellent score and a joy to listen to, it only offers a few songs while driving through the open world, which eventually becomes rather repetitive.
American Fugitive is a game that doesn’t shy away from the heritage of its genre. It’s a pure and well-executed open-world crime game with an entertaining, though somewhat run-of-the-mill story that offers many hours of enjoyment through its mechanics and crime-ridden gameplay alone. Though it misses a beat here and there, American Fugitive reaches a high bar for its niche genre that fans of old school GTA style games are sure to appreciate.
Yes, if you:
- Enjoy causing carnage in an open world
- Are a fan of the original Grand Theft Auto
- Are looking for something a bit different and niche
No, if you:
- Need a strong story to hook you in
- Aren’t a fan of the rural America aesthetic