American Fugitive for PC review: A criminally underdeveloped homage to old school GTA

Many adult gamers will have fond memories of the first two Grand Theft Auto (GTA) games' fast-paced action and criminal underground-centered story, and the developers of the new title American Fugitive set out to deliver an experience that would remind players of those games in all of the right ways, while also incorporating elements of modern games and including some unique ideas, too. Unfortunately, American Fugitive fails to do this consistently, and the result is a game that, while decent, ultimately left me wanting more.

What you'll love about American Fugitive

The game's setting, Redrock County, is a beauty.

The game's setting, Redrock County, is a beauty.

In American Fugitive, you fill the shoes of Will Riley, an escaped convict who was found guilty of murdering his father — a crime that he didn't commit. Fueled by a burning desire to hunt down the real killer, but cautious of being caught by law enforcement, American Fugitive is ultimately a tale about operating within the criminal underground behind closed doors while blending into the public seamlessly when the sun shines. It's a really cool narrative premise, and Redrock County, the suburban fictional town that serves as the game's setting, is the perfect backdrop for it.

Speaking of Redrock County, the town is absolutely beautiful. The autumn-colored trees, lush bushes and grass, dark-red brick houses, and concrete convenience stores really sell the idea that above all of the criminal activity in the game, there really is a quiet community living here. In addition to this, the musical score for American Fugitive is fantastic too, featuring a varied mix of rock, country, and bluegrass tracks that perfectly nail the classic feel of Americana.

Performance wise, American Fugitive runs near-perfectly. Upon entering areas with lots of environmental details or plenty of NPCs walking about, the frame rate can drop slightly and the screen might hitch, but aside from that, it runs fantastic. I reviewed the game on PC, so I can't speak to how it will perform on a console, although I imagine that the stylized visuals wouldn't tax the system. My PC is high-end, so the minor issues that are present are optimization-related and not hardware.

What you'll love less about American Fugitive

The dialogue feels underwhelming and lifeless.

The dialogue feels underwhelming and lifeless.

Unfortunately, while American Fugitive has a fantastic concept and superb presentation, its gameplay has several issues. Overall, it's not a bad experience, but it's not above-average in any notable respects. The guns in the game feel good to shoot, but the police are laughably dumb and don't use strategy, ultimately making fighting them easy as well as a bit boring. The police in general are also extremely inconsistent; you can run someone over with a car going 60 miles-per-hour and nobody seems to care, but if you so much as bump another car with your own, squad cars materialize out of thin-air and the police will draw their firearms on you.

It really doesn't make any sense, and it makes learning what you can and can't get away with a nightmare. Thankfully, you can clear your wanted level in some cool ways, such as swapping cars or stealing new clothes. There's a thievery mini-game where you can enter a home and search rooms for items, but it's not really that fun, and I wish that the insides of homes would have been a part of the world itself instead of something that we experience from a two-dimensional user interface perspective.

Despite the excellent story premise, I feel that American Fugitive misses the mark on the actual narrative itself as well. There are definitely plenty of great moments scattered throughout the 8-12 hour story, but it's hard to really connect with most of the characters due to how flat they all are. The protagonist Will Riley is a real let-down for me in particular, mostly due to the fact that you don't really get to know him on any meaningful level. In most GTA-style games, there are side missions that help flesh out the playable character, but those aren't present here; this is another area where American Fugitive disappoints.

The side content mostly consists of trying to do car tricks, time challenges, and getting achievements, and while these are enjoyable for a time, I got bored of it fairly quickly.

Should you buy American Fugitive?

Honestly, American Fugitive isn't great, but that doesn't mean that you won't have fun with it. Despite all of its issues, it can be a fun way to kill some time, and there's a lot to love about the presentation and atmosphere of the game. The gameplay and story, while certainly problematic, also have their own merits, and for the price that the game sells for, it provides a good amount of content overall. The developer has also made it pretty clear that they're going to work with the community to see how the game can be improved, so some of the issues I mentioned in this review may get improved in the future.

Ultimately, I would say that American Fugitive is worth a buy if you're willing to look past its issues and just enjoy the ride. If you're looking for a title that will knock your socks off, though, this isn't the game for you.

American Fugitive is out now on Xbox One and PC.

Brendan Lowry

Brendan Lowry is a Windows Central writer and Oakland University graduate with a burning passion for video games, of which he's been an avid fan since childhood. You'll find him doing reviews, editorials, and general coverage on everything Xbox and PC. Follow him on Twitter.