It was literally just this past Monday when I had a sudden hankering to play one of the old top-down GTA games. And then on Tuesday American Fugitive (opens in new tab) arrived on Steam to give me just what I wanted: a top-down open world running-shooting-driving crime sandbox. I've been playing it quite a bit and it's scratching that top-down GTA itch pretty nicely.
After being framed for your father's murder, you bust out of prison and set out to prove your innocence by, uh, driving like a lunatic, having shootouts with cops, robbing houses and stores, and blowing stuff up. For instance, above I steal an entire ATM by ripping it off the side of a bank with a tow truck, then lead the cops on a merry chase which ends with everything exploding.
So, I'm not exactly Richard Kimble, I guess. But I'm still innocent! Of killing my father, not of getting a bunch of cops killed. That was definitely on me.
It's not all free-form mayhem. After escaping the slammer, you fall in with an old friend who sends you on missions that put you up against dirty cops and other thugs, which earns you cash along the way. Thanks to your newfangled cellular telephone you can buy cars and weapons with a phone call and have them delivered whenever you need them.
Your plight also draws the interest of other quest-givers, including a mysterious thief who may be able to help you find your dad's real killer, in exchange for doing a whole lot of stealing for her.
Speaking of stealing, you can rob houses and stores, which is honestly kinda the best part of the game. When you walk up to a building you can peek in the windows to see if the building is occupied, you can smash the windows open or pry open the door with a crowbar, or do what I do: Try to locate the owner of the house, beat them up, and take their keys.
Once inside the house it's like a little minigame, where you search each room for loot. If you've made a quiet entry to the house, you'll be able to take your time and thoroughly search the place, but if you've made noise by smashing a window, there will be a timer counting down until the cops arrive. If the timer expires, you'll leave the house and find yourself surrounded by the fuzz and have to fight your way out, or you can flee before they get there—though that may leave some rooms unsearched.
Since there's a lot of loot you can pawn for cash, and sometimes even safes to open if you've found a note with the combination somewhere else in the house, it's always best to take a quiet approach and scour the entire building.
Sometimes you'll break in and find the house occupied, which means you have a choice of fleeing or trying to scare and subdue the owner. The same goes with robbing a store: pick a weapon to try to threaten them with it (you can use anything from a toilet brush to a shovel to a shotgun), but beware! Sometimes they'll overpower you, take your weapon, and kick you to the curb, as happened when I tried to rob this grocery store geek with my uzi, even though I had a 95% chance to successfully scare him.
He was a tough geek. Then the cops showed up and I had to murder them, just like any man trying to prove he's not a killer would do in that situation.
The cops of American Fugitive are extremely alert, and citizens witnessing your crimes—even something as routine as a fender-bender or a little property damage—will call them in a heartbeat (and sometimes even try to foil your crime themselves). But you've got a few tools of evasion. If you've been spotted you can change clothes, either by finding a clothesline or taking the clothes off someone you've knocked out or killed. Swapping cars after a crime can throw the cops off your scent, too, and there are spray shops just like in GTA.
Sometimes the best move is just hiding for a while until you lose your wanted level. Cops will pursue you fervently but if you manage to lose them for a few seconds, just crouching in some bushes for a bit works pretty well to throw them off.
If you do get caught or killed by the cops, you're sent back to prison and the game picks up with you having just escaped (again). Your cash and progress is intact, but you lose everything in your inventory, so make sure you pawn any stolen goods quickly and keep some cash earmarked for purchasing guns.
As you complete missions you'll also earn skill points which can be applied to upgrading your health, increase your inventory size, sprint duration, chances of intimation (someday I will defeat you, grocery store geek!), and even air drops that arrive when you've been caught and are fresh on the lam again, so you can start with a fresh change of clothes and a few helpful items.
I'm not really in love with the keyboard and mouse controls in American Fugitive, and I suspect it might be better using a controller. The overhead camera isn't always great, especially during high-speed car chases when it doesn't zoom out quite enough, and I've experienced some buggy AI at times. But otherwise it's a fun crime sandbox full of police chases, shootouts, and the coldblooded killing of bystanders, just like any innocent man would undertake while he's trying to prove he's not a coldblooded killer. You'll find American Fugitive here on Steam (opens in new tab), where it's 20 percent off through May 28.