"Tearing up the streets in Mini Coopers"
Climax have been busy lately, releasing many titles to the market including the critically acclaimed Moto GP 2 on Xbox. The Italian Job: LA Heist is their next game and is based on the brand new movie from Paramount. Numerous mission based driving games such as Crazy Taxi and Midtown Madness 3 already exist on the market so can this title hold its own?
The Italian Job has a fairly cliche storyline. Twelve months ago you and your crew pulled off one of the greatest heists in history, it was supposed to set you up for life. That was until one of the team decided he wanted it all and left you fending for yourself. In the process one of your team members was shot dead, and now you're out for revenge. You want the gold back and you want to teach this traitor a lesson.
The Italian Job revolves around three main characters; yourself, Stella and Handsome Rob. Stella is the daughter of the man killed so she really wants revenge and Handsome Rob (as the name implies) does some dodgy deals such as producing fake id's and stealing cars with you. Over the course of the game, more and more details are revealed about the heist.
The game is primarily an objective based racer. You start off gathering your crew and information and then proceed to plan the heist. Missions include picking up fake id's, stealing cars, evading police, surveillance operations and others. The main problem I have with the mission section of the game is the lack of variety. Whilst most of the missions are unique, at times some repeat themselves. For instance in one mission you have to steal two of the new Mini Coopers and get them back to the hide out. Two missions later your doing the exact same thing from a different location.
The other problem I have with the story mode is the way objectives are handled. Each mission has about two or three objectives and they are completed in succession. However if you have finished two objectives, and then fail the third, you have to complete the other two objectives again. Other then being frustrating it can make the game very repetitive, especially if you get stuck in one area for a period of time. Also it is highly unlikely that you will finish missions straight off the bat. For the first one or two tries, you will primarily be scoping out the layout of the city and the best way to get to your target. This wouldn't be so bad if you didn't have to scope it out for each of the two or three objectives meaning that you could potentially play the same mission over five times before completion.
The mission based driving isn't the only game mode featured. Circuit racing sets up various checkpoints around the cities and challenges you to race AI cars to the finish. Only two races are available at first but as you continue to win, more are unlocked. This is a nice diversion, especially if you're stuck on a particular mission in the story mode. Another interesting mode is the stunt mode. You're tasked to complete a stunt course in a set time. Jumping over ramps, driving over pipes and generally trying to keep the cars balance in tact is the name of the game here.
The other two modes; free roam and time trial and fairly self explanatory. The Italian Job features a wide variety of cars including the old Mini Cooper, the new Mini Cooper, rental car and surveillance van just to name a few. As you progress through the missions these will be unlocked to use in the other modes but they are also used in the mission based section. For instance in one mission you are asked to tail a car with a surveillance van, once complete the van is unlocked for use. The cars in the story mode do not feature a damage model, but in circuit mode they do sustain a small amount damage which can affect the power of the car and handling.
Whilst the game features both Hollywood and L.A., they aren't exact replications of the real life cities. However they do feature some prominent landmarks. The Hollywood environment has the Walk of the Stars but other then that not much stood out. The buildings are fairly stock standard, and there is some interesting advertising (including some N-Gage billboards) around the place. The cities do lend themselves to some stunt driving however, with some conveniently placed ramps and shortcuts. You gain points for style, airtime and lack of damage which determines your final grade. Higher grades can unlock other content in the game.
On the visual side of things the graphics engine gets the job done. That means you can't expect fantastic graphics but they can be impressive at times. The car models (especially the coopers) are heavily detailed and look just like the real life cars. The environments as mentioned before can be impressive at times, and the layout of the city really lends itself to high speed driving. Cut scenes are presented in-engine with a voice over explaining what's going on. Simple, but it works well. The Italian Job runs at a constant sixty frames per second with no slowdown and for those with the equipment, also supports wide screen.
Sound wise the game is fairly stock standard with some decent sound effects for the cars and a suitable rock-like soundtrack. Multiplayer is limited to circuit based driving which could get tedious after a while but all the same it is great Climax have included it. As with most movie licensed games, bonus content from the film is unlocked once the main story mode is completed. Content includes stills, videos and other material from the movie.
There is nothing overly wrong with The Italian Job other then its a bit of a case of been there and done that with other games such as Crazy Taxi and Midtown Madness 3. If you enjoy the aforementioned games or liked the films story line then The Italian Job just might be up your alley. For others, it contains a solid game which could be enjoyed by anyone but your best idea is to rent it first before slapping down the cold hard cash.