Review: The Italian Job
Posted 09 Oct 2003 at 01:34 by Andy
As with most things Hollywood now The Italian Job is a remake of an aging classic. After viewing the movie you'll quickly reach the conclusion that aging classics should be left well alone and Mark Wahlberg is no Michael Caine. This new version has the majority of the action relocated from Italy to LA with newly styled minis sitting in for the original mini coopers. This gives the whole thing a modern theme although unlike the recent Oceans Eleven the whole event is instantly forgettable. Strangely enough a game based on the original movie was released to critical acclaim some years ago although SCI declined the option on the remake which was picked up by EIDOS. Bad movies do sometimes produce good games though and, as that's what we're here to decipher, let's move on.
Visually the game looks wonderful and it's worth playing the whole thing right to its conclusion to unlock the conceptual artwork. The cityscapes are well designed and rendered and fly along at an impressive frame rate. More importantly are the vehicles and the mini (your main mode of transport) is nicely modeled and regardless of how much you rough them up they tend to remain that way. Yes, the damage is definitely arcade style so even driving your chosen mode of transport into a concrete wall at 100 mph will entail little more that smoke emitting from your bonnet (or hood as it's referred to in the US). This is obviously a little disappointing but imagine just how much money you'd save if real cars were like this.
The big mystery here is the lack of any actual film footage. It's an original licensed product and even the box boasts that it's 'based on the 2003 blockbuster' but the most you get is a collection of stills. This renders the cut screens a simple handful of city flyovers detailing different areas where the next level will take place. I can't express what a huge missed opportunity this is and it gives the whole product a very rushed feeling and even five minutes of cleverly edited footage would have been a welcome addition.
Let me start off by saying that not only is this one of the poorest voice artists I've heard for some time but the editing is also decidedly dodgy. The first few levels feature clicks and general sound distortion whenever Charlie narrates the action, which really should have been ironed out at the test stages. This can be skipped though with a simple press of a button and really doesn't harm the gameplay at all. More important are the car sounds, which are all present and correct and do a good job of recreating the speed and excitement of the chases. Disappointingly the soundtrack features no tunes from the movie and the whole game is played out to some rather dull generic music more suited to a Sunday drive than a high-speed heist. Very strange.
Without divulging the plot too much LA Heist is all about stealing back a sizeable amount of gold from a former gang member who's double-crossed you. This takes place over 15 levels which follow the movie's plot very closely which is exactly what you'd expect really. Every level is objective based and always set against a timer and whilst there's nothing original here it does cover most styles of mission based driving. This includes beating an opponent to a destination, outrunning the police and transporting explosives while avoiding traffic at all costs. The tasks range from incredibly simple to mind numbingly difficult and whilst you'll breeze through some challenges on the first attempt, other sections where you're being pursued by henchmen can take considerable time.
When you've finished the Story Mode there are a few other sections you may wish to sample. The incredibly difficult Stunt Driving for example challanges you to complete five various courses before the clock reaches zero. This is very unforgiving and one mistake or deviation from the track means restarting. Free Roam, on the other hand, allows you to leisurely drive around two sections of LA: Downtown and Hollywood. It's probably a good idea to sample this area first as it's a good way to learn the short cuts and road layout, essential when the cops are chasing you. On the more competitive side you may want to try the self-explanatory Time Trial or Circuit Racing. This can also be enjoyed as a multiplayer option and really is great fun as you hurtle around the packed streets to win the race.
Because of the arcade nature of the whole game it's very easy to pick up and get to grips with. There's also a fair amount of variety and even if you tire of the story mode there's still the Circuit Racing or impossible Stunt Course to attack. You'll also find the whole thing very forgiving and you'll have to be involved in several head on collisions before your health bar starts to even move.
X: Hand Break.
Y: Change Camera.
L: Look Behind.
R: Two Wheels.
D-Pad: Menu Control.
Control Stick: Steering.
CLIMAX has managed to produce a title that's fun while it lasts but unfortunately it's all over far too soon. In fact we managed to finish the main Story Mode in only two evenings or around seven hours for all you time freaks out there. It's up to you how you view this but we have to say that were not the best drivers in the world.
The biggest problem with LA Heist is that although it's on the so called 'next gem' consoles it's not as enjoyable or immersive as SCI's stab to the genre some years ago. This is even more remarkable when you consider that it was released on the original Playstation although thanks to the release of this new movie the game is currently riding high in the PS1 Charts. This latest version is enjoyable but you can't help feeling that the whole thing was a little rushed and the addition of an extra mission such as the Italian heist at the beginning of the movie would have greatly improved matters. The lack of film footage, on the other hand, is unforgivable especially as the main reason why people will be drawn to this product is on the back of the movie. Recommended if you absolutely must have every mission based driving title released for the platform but everyone else will probably complete the game in a rental period.
N-Europe Final Verdict
Fun while it lasts but like the movie it's nothing compared to the original PS1 version.
Excellent Frame Rate
Far Too Short
Impossible Stunt Mode