Welcome to 1980’s Redrock County, a small (and very corrupt) southern town in the middle of nowhere. You’ll find trumped-up murder charges, corrupt politicians, dirty cops, shady women, and a whole lot of fast cars. This is American Fugitive, an open-world GTA inspired love letter to old-school action movies from Fallen Tree Games.
If you’ve played literally any of the previous Grand Theft Auto’s, then you’ll feel instantly at home here. Seemingly, every game mechanic and mission in American Fugitive has been done in some form by a previous GTA title. You play as Will Riley, a distant cousin of Bo Duke (not true). In the first scene, you get busted for the brutal murder of your dad. Make no mistake, Will is no saint, but is he a killer? Sent to prison for a crime you say you didn’t commit, you’re forced to pull your own Shawshank redemption and escape, hell-bent on finding your dad’s real killer.
Once you’re on the outside, you’ll need to ditch the orange jumpsuit and steal some new threads. Thankfully, the citizens of Redrock love to hang their clothes out to dry, making it easy to change up your appearance on the fly. With that done, you’ll need to make some contacts in the criminal underbelly of the area. We all know what that means: calling the shadiest, most down-on-his-luck friend we have. In Will’s case, that’s a guy named Dwayne. Dwayne is really sorry about your predicament, and he’d love to help you out, but first, he needs you to run a little errand for him. And so it begins.
American Fugitive takes the classic early GTA birds-eye-view but puts it at a slight angle to give you a better view of what’s coming up the road. Redrock is broken up into three sections. As is typical in these types of games, only one area is open at a time. You can go wherever you want in this section, but unless you like running, you’ll need a car. You can buy a car, or steal one. If money is short, or you suffer from sticky fingers, you’ll first need to find a pry bar, pipe, or even a brick to bust a window. It turns out the people of Redrock County aren’t very trusting.
The next five to ten hours will leave you driving around this first part of town, completing ridiculous tasks for Dwayne and a couple of other colorful characters. These run the gamut of all things silly and outrageous. From destroying a certain politicians billboards, picking up donuts for the mysterious love interest, to wrecking cars to drum up business for your friend down at the body shop.
Whether your jam is holding up the donut shop at gunpoint or casing the old lady’s house next door, searching for that big score, there is always something to do in this town. For the less violent, you’ve got randomly placed ramps just lying around town waiting for you risk fiery death, plus a slew of time trials with various objectives and difficulty. Some of these were a blast and really helped me get a feel for the cars. It was very satisfying to retry some of the harder trials from the beginning of the game after I had ten plus hours of driving around Redrock.
There is an interesting upgrade system that allows you to level up any number of “skills”. Are you tired of getting overpowered by the flower shop lady while tying her up? There is a skill upgrade for that. Have no time to physically peek into every window of that bungalow to learn which rooms are empty? Try the skill that auto cases the house as soon as you get near. Increase health, reduced vehicle damaged received, or increase vehicle damage given. These skills cost money and skill points that are given out for completed missions, successful jumps, and winning races. Who doesn’t love leveling up their guy? Nobody, that’s who.
The game has a fairly simple art style. For instance, the cutscenes feature just a picture of Will on the bottom and the person he’s talking to on top. There is no voice work, and the dialogue is printed out next to the character’s picture. Thief facial expressions change to support the tone, giving it a bit of a comic strip feel. On the other hand, the town is bustling and colorful. Traffic, pedestrians, and cops are everywhere, making the town seem almost alive. I didn’t grow up in the deep south in the eighties, but I did grow up in the midwest in the eighties, and the world of Redrock Country brought a smile to my face. I especially liked the shady parts of town with the dirt roads. Hammering on the handbrake while taking a corner on a dirt road and leaning into it with a classic muscle car with the cops in hot pursuit is as fun as it sounds. Speaking of the cars, they are wonderfully varied and all handle differently. Plus they look and sound the part. The music sounds good too, and really sells the southern feel. There may not be any spoken dialogue in the story sections, but when the cops are chasing you, they’ll yell at you to pull over. They’ll scream “officer down”, or “suspect is on foot” and other such cop jargon. It helped ratchet up the chaos of those intense moments.
It’s not all roses, I’m afraid. First of all, the missions grow redundant fast, and most of them I completed on the first try. The whole game was on the easy side, to be honest. It’s difficult to drive well in the game, but when you get it down, you can almost do what you want. I was interested in figuring out the central mystery, but 75 percent of the missions had nothing to do your dad’s murder. Especially at the beginning.
But the biggest detractor may be the obvious fact that everything American Fugitive is doing here has been done by a bigger studio with unlimited funds and resources. There is no ground broken here and you’ll find no innovations. But it is familiar, well done, and most importantly, it’s fun.
Despite how tired I got, I kept wanting to finish just one more mission. Plus whether you’re racing a train, running from a million cops, or just cruising around town, the game is just fun to play.
American Fugitive PS4 Review
American Fugitive isn’t here to innovate or reinvent the wheel. As far as I can tell, its only reason to exist is to be cool. Despite the repetitive nature of most of the missions, the characters, the town, and the cars are what save the day. If you aren’t a fan of GTA, American Fugitive probably won’t start your engine. But if you love stealing cars and causing mayhem, but hate being in prison, then do I have a game suggestion for you!
The art style may be simple, but it’s cool and full of style
Driving like a bat out of hell will always be fun
The 80’s small-town southern setting is perfect
The story meanders
We’ve all played this game before
Gameplay gets repetitive
Reviewed using base PS4.
When Jeremy isn’t writing books or playing video games, he’s living his life one random movie references at a time.