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December 6, 2003
The Italian Job - Review
Release Date Distributor Developer Players Rating Difficulty
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Is this an advertisment.
Just as the sun comes up in the morning and sets in the evening, youíre pretty much guaranteed that for each big action flick released on the big screen, thereís going to be a corresponding cash-in videogame of the same title. While most of the time they arenít quite up to scratch and end up being quite average games, there are always the rare gems that turn out to be great games in their own right. The movie The Italian Job was released to the game of the same name, which centers itís gameplay around the Mini Cooper S tearing around the streets of LA. So does The Italian Job the game fall into the common and unfortunate movie-game mould? Letís just say while it isnít quite bargain bin material, it isnít the most stunning game either.

The Italian Job follows the storyline of the movie; youíre involved in a gold robbery in Venice, when one of your team turns on the rest of the gang (including you) and leaves you all for dead. To cut a long story short, the course of the game is played out with you hatching a plan to retrieve the stolen gold that was stolen from you back in Venice (now who said that two wrongs donít make a right?!). Now being a game heavily based on a movie, there isnít as much splicing of the movie footage in the game as you would expect. Aside from the introduction movie, throughout the game you primarily see movie stills as loading screens only. Itís a bit poor, especially seeing that the in-game cutscenes are drab and boring in comparison (using the in-game engine with a grainy effect filter).

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Collision time.
The game plays in a very similar vein to the Driver series. The majority of the Ďmissionsí within the game involve driving like a maniac from A to B in LA before the timer runs out. Thereís a splash of variety with some Ďtail the carí and Ďevade the copí style missions, but given the time limits for the majority of them 99% of the time youíll be racing the clock rather than anything else. Between missions there are narrated in-game cutscenes, though in an interesting twist they donít have any people in them! Instead you get to see cinematic camera views of the street/car/location, which makes one ask why scenes from the movie werenít edited to fit in-between missions instead. A major hindrance to the gameplay itself is the lack of a map, be it one on the pause menu, or on-screen during the game. While you do become familiar with the LA streets over time, thereís always some uncertainty about locations due to the lack of variety of buildings and landmarks in the game.

Aside from the story mode, there are also circuit racing, time trial, free roam and stunt driving modes. The first three are self-explanatory, and donít add that much extra life to the game. The stunt driving mode is a fun little extra that puts you behind the wheel of the Minis on set obstacle courses which require precision driving over ramps and other barriers. This mode isnít only fun, but also acts like a pseudo-training mode to help you get the feel of the cars and how to handle them in tight and precise scenarios.

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Nice ride...
The game engine behind The Italian Job is simple and effective, and results in a smooth, fast game experience, running at a steady 50fps. Regrettably, the engine is most definitely too simple for its own good. Visually, the game is quite blocky and simplistic; this is accentuated by the lack of people seen anywhere in the game (Iím afraid if any people were in the game theyíd end up looking like the blockheads from GumbyÖ). There is also no car damage at all, and the car reflections are similar to those seen in the original Gran Turismo. If the frame rate was dropped to 30fps, and the draw-in distance was reduced slightly, chances are you could almost mistake this game for one of the Driver games on the PSOne.

The Italian Job also has an interesting graphical peculiarity where the screen leans to whichever side you steer to (the higher your speed, the greater the lean). At first I could tell that something seemed Ďdifferentí about the visuals and it took a little while for me to put my finger on this. It gives the game a slight Motor Toon Grand Prix (the classic PSOne game) arcade-style feel, although it may be an issue for those who suffer from motion sickness...

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Getting some major air.
Like the graphics, the audio in the game is quite sparse, with little more than the whiney engine sounds of the Mini and the other cars in the game. With regard to music, there are some simple chilled beats in the background, but they are far too soft to listen to (even with the music volume turned all the way up). A bit more gusto on the music volume knob and some variety to the ambient sound effects would help build the atmosphere in The Italian Job quite considerably.

Itís a shame that The Italian Job is the average game it is. It really doesnít look or feel very special at all, and in split screen mode the visuals are so embarrassing youíll be lunging for the reset button. Most of the game content has been done before, and done better on the PSOne with the Driver series. If you really canít wait for the next Driver title to be released, then you might want to give this one a look. However, if checkpoint and street racing through living, breathing cities is more your style, try looking at Need For Speed: Underground or Midnight Club II for something far more enjoyable.

Review By: Chris Gobbett

GRAPHICSA fast 50fps is let down by simple models and textures.
SOUNDItís like riding a lawnmower while listening to a quiet radio.
GAMEPLAYItís your car vs the clock for most of the story, and itís fun.
VALUESeveral game modes, and some repetitive unlocking involved.
OVERALLThe Italian Job is yet another game to fall into the movie-to-game trap, resulting in a rather average game. If you thoroughly enjoyed the movie, the game should be fun the first time through but there isnít much urge to play it again.

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