reviews\ Sep 8, 2002 at 8:00 pm

The Italian Job - PC - Review

Anyone who has seen the 1969 Michael Caine crime caper “The Italian Job” can tell you that the life of a wheelman is not easy.  If it’s not delivering portly women to Benny Hill its causing a mile-long pileup in order to steal $4,000,000 in gold bullion from the mafia.  No, it’s not an easy life . . . but it doesn’t mean it’s not fun either.


In the game’s story mode, you play Charlie Croker, a wheelman who is released from prison and quickly goes back to a life of crime to go for that famed last heist.  Destructor mode has you knocking down a series of orange cones within the time limit (a feat that becomes harder and harder the further you advance).  Free ride mode allows you to choose a car and a location to basically drive around without any objectives. There’s also Check Point mode where you move through traffic attempting to make each checkpoint to win the race.


And finally there’s Party Play, the game’s multiplayer mode and, unfortunately, the game’s biggest letdown. Eight players can play this mode--which is really just Check Point mode where other players can see who can win the most points.  It’s not very inspiring and hardly as enjoyable as having a multiplayer destruction derby.


The missions in the game’s main story mode ranges from breaking a friend out of jail to proving your skill behind the wheel by smashing up your rival’s car.  There are sixteen missions in total that take you from the streets of London to the lush green countryside of the Alps.  You are given a specific time frame to complete each mission objective but luckily there’s a driving guide arrow to tell you where to go.  With the clock ticking, however, you must hurry through the streets if you want to beat the timer.


Sounds easy, right?  But with the thick London traffic and even the Turin police who are on the look out, it’s not going to be a simple joy ride.  When the police are on your tail, your only choice is to try to shake them off (most missions can’t be completed with the police swarming around you).  If they stay on you long enough, they will write down your license plate number and the game ends. The game also ends if you total your car due to too many crashes (the damage meter in the upper left hand corner of the screen fills up . . . and that’s not a good thing).


The game’s graphics are a lot smoother than the PSOne version too . . . but not by much.  The vehicles, for instance, look much more redefined in terms of shading and shape and there are no jaggies.  There are also a number of other details that were lacking on the console version such as the sun glinting off the windshield or a flock of birds taking off.  Then again, the textures on the various buildings make things such as windowsills look painted on and things such as tulips in a garden square look like flat cardboard cutouts.


There’s a lively little tune that plays throughout each mission or mini-game--this is the game’s only soundtrack.  As funny as this may seem, the simplistic score actually works and hardly ever grows old.  Also worth noting is the voice acting in this game that is as comical as the dialogue between the characters and Charlie.  The Michael Caine impersonation is quite possibly one of the best I’ve ever heard and it sounds good during the game and especially in the in-between mission narratives. 


While missing a few elements that would have made this an all-time favorite, The Italian Job is still an enjoyable little romp.  The improved graphics, intense action and the Guy Richie-style crime story is what makes this game worth getting your hands behind its wheels.


#Reviewer's Scoring Details


 Gameplay: 7.5
The game’s controls are simple enough that any gamer can simply sit down at a keyboard and quickly jump into the game with no trouble at all since all there is to the controls is accelerate, turn left, turn right and break.


Each car brings something different to each mission.  The sportier cars, for example, can easily maneuver through the narrowest streets and heavy traffic--but as far as resisting damage, sports cars wreck more easily.  The much bulkier car lacks speed but it does take more damage, especially when the situation calls for you to ram another car or through the gates of a prison.


Graphics: 7.0
Naturally, the PC version is much better on the eyes than the PSOne version . . . however, the difference isn’t a big one.  The vehicles, especially the sports cars, do look good out there and they look even better as they’re jumping off ramps.  The graphics are just a lot sharper when it comes to other moving vehicles and even pedestrians.


The problem is that the backgrounds tend to have a cardboard cutout feel to it and you’ll notice this in things such as shops or apartment buildings.  There aren’t many things you can interact with either.  You can slam into other cars, patio furniture and a few back alley garbage cans.


Sound: 7.8
The game’s running soundtrack never changes, in fact, it runs through the entire game in a non-stop cycle.  Yet somehow the soundtrack doesn’t get on your nerves the way you’d expect it to be when a somewhat comically lively score plays on and on.


What wins points, however, is the voice acting in the game’s story mode.  The actor that voices Charlie Croker does such a spot-on impression of Michael Caine that gamers won’t help but grin every time the character speaks. It certainly is much better to hear than the sound effects that are mainly awful car crash noises and pedestrians repeatedly yell out phrases like “Hey! Watch it!”


Difficulty: Medium
The game’s story mode offers sixteen missions that start off easy at first and then build up to complex jobs that will have you going through them again and again.  Case in point, the mission where you have to steal a four-by-four from a train that is across town. The timer gives you a set amount of time to find it and so you better race to the location before it runs out. 


The problem is that in finding a certain location, you have to deal not only with a low timer count but also with thick traffic, police cars and vehicle damage.  There will be several times when you get lost and lose time trying to locate your destination.  Or perhaps you crashed too many times that your vehicle can no longer be controlled.  Either way, be prepared to try the same scenarios more than twice.


Concept: 7.5
It’s not an easy job being a wheelman, but it sure is a fun job . . . especially if you’re rushing through London traffic desperately attempting to beat the clock and successfully carry out your objectives before the police are on to you.  This concept has been seen before in games such as the PSOne’s Driver, but at least The Italian Job has a sense of humor and is based on a really good movie.


The game also allows you to drive plenty of interesting cars such as three different Austin Mini Cooper S cars and even a coach. There are also a small number of game modes that offer various types of action such as Party Play, Check Point, Free ride and Destructor mode. 


Multiplayer: 6.0
Quite possibly the most disappointing aspect of the game.  The multiplayer mode is basically comprised of the same run-through-the-checkpoints deal you get with Checkpoint mode only here up to eight players (in wait-your-turn style) can play.  With so many vehicles and locales, it’s a shame that the makers didn’t offer different mini-games or even an online multiplayer destruction match.


Overall: 7.4
The Italian Job is like eating half a great meal: it satisfies enough to keep you content but you still feel that there was something more that could have been added.  For the bargain price, though, you can’t go wrong with this lively game.


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