Programmed by Mark Reid, Getaway! is in many ways reminiscent of later car-bound crime games like Grand Theft Auto. The game was also developed soon before the release of E.T. for the 2600, which would signal one of the death knells for the home video game industry at that time, dashing any hopes for Mark Reid's game, which was touted by some as the next big game for Atari.
During development, Mark Reid had neglected to remove the licensed music he used in the game, was was forced to create a song from scratch before shipping.
The object for players is to race throughout the city, avoiding police capture, while gathering as much loot as possible and stashing it in their hideout. Police activity increases when players take down bigger targets, including the armored van, which has one of the greater cash rewards. The police siren also gets louder as the police draw nearer, allowing you to estimate where they are. The city the game takes place in is spread out over several maps, 36 screens in all, connected by a series of roads. There are various non-interactive landmarks in the town, but the gas stations actually serve the purpose of keeping your vehicle operational.
Players begin with no money, with the goal being to track down special objects to steal, followed by hitting the armored van to end the level. In the first level one need only track down the armored van and hit it, but after this, the driver must find objects hidden throughout the level. If the van is hit before the objects are found this is fine, but the player needs to find the objects first in order to get to the next level.
As the difficulty increases, more stop signs will crop up (you lose your cash if you run these signs, but as the instructions say, it's better to run a stop sign than get caught), and the police will begin throwing up barriers to impede player progress, making the game more maze-like, while the aggression and AI of the cops is also increased, reducing player abilities to evade them.