Note for North America Gamer's Hellers: recently Global Star Software published the game for N.A. market and a lot of bugs mentioned in original review were eliminated.
Before I played this title, I was surprised at what I heard about it. I heard people compare it to Crazy Taxi and to a small extent GTA 3. So I was impressed before I even began to play this budget title. I am not a fan of NASCAR style racing games but I've always found checkpoint-to-checkpoint street racing games kind of fun. So I installed this game with great optimism that maybe a lesser-known title would finally impress me.
The Graphics are ok. They aren't going to blow anyone away, but they don't make the game unplayable either. The cars are rather square for the most part and so is everything else (buildings, people, etc). And the cars move in a rather unrealistic fashion. They appear to swivel around corners instead of turning like a real car. And when larger vehicles like buses go up steep inclines, the front two wheels lift of the ground at the top of the hill. Cars don't really get smashed up when you hit them either, you just push them around. If you hit one hard enough it will pop up in the air, but it seems to hang there forever as if gravity doesn't exist in The Italian Job. Like I said, the graphic quality doesn't make the game unplayable, but if we live in a Quake III world, then The Italian Job is very Quake II (without all the pretty colored lighting).
I found the sound to be sub par, but again, not to the point that it (by itself) wrecked the game. The voiceovers are decent and the music is passable, but the sound effects are rather poor. The cars engines, crashing, the screeching of tires, all sounded very synthetic. I know sound effects for games are all man-made, but they should sound as if they were totally natural. I also had the problem of sounds effects not always being present. I would hit one car and hear a crash and hit another and hear nothing. It might just have been a problem I experienced so I won't hold it against them in their score.
At first glance there seems to be an endless amount of things to do in this game. But looks can be, and very often are, deceiving. There are five modes of play: Italian Job, Destructor, Checkpoint, Freeride, and Party Play. As you may have guessed the Italian Job mode is the main "story" mode of the game. Each mission is somewhat different and you have a set amount of time to meat each objective. The objectives include; getting a stolen car to a garage, bringing hookers to a desperate man, trying not to blow up a bus laced with explosives, breaking buddies out of jail, and so on. In most of these missions you have the extra challenge of avoiding the police. The longer they follow you closely; you'll begin to see the letters of your license plate pop up on the screen. When all the letters pop up you are busted, so you’re forced to make a quick getaway. Admittedly all this was fun at first, but it got a little old after a while. And there were only about 20 total levels.
But I was sure that with all the other modes of play that I would still be able to stay entertained. But that's when I realized that this game that appears to have a lot of depth, is actually pretty sparse on options. The Destructor mode has you riding around hitting orange cones that each add a few seconds needed to reach the finish line. As you get to tougher levels the cones are more spaced apart or scattered across the road to make you steer back and forth to get them. The checkpoint mode is very similar. Instead of cones it uses checkpoints to add to your time as you strive to reach the finish line before it runs out. Although these two modes sound different, after a little while they feel very similar. I found the free ride mode to be a total waste of time. You simply ride around a city with no finish or objectives. Even smashing stuff up gets boring real quick in the Freeride mode. The most disappointing mode is the Party Play. I must have misunderstood what it was, because I thought it was a two player simultaneous race of some sort. I was dead wrong. You play the EXACT same levels that are in the Checkpoint mode, only you take turns doing it. Whoever finishes fastest or gets through the most checkpoints wins. Wee. You could just as easily play this mode using a piece of paper and pen, recording everyone's times manually.
Like I said the only thing even remotely multiplayer is the Party Play. But to think of a score to give it for multiplayer would be like trying to give Super Mario Bros. a multiplayer score. So I won't, because it would drag the games overall score down immensely.
This game isn't bad for a bargain title. But no matter how little a game costs, a sub par game is still a sub par game. If you absolutely love Crazy Taxi or racing games with "missions," and aren't looking for something revolutionary, this game should entertain you, if only for a little while.