Players: 1 to 2 Player Game | Release Date: 06/23/03 | Genre: Driving
It's almost hard to believe that this game only costs ten dollars. Back in 1999, brand-new racing/driving games retailed for as much as $50 (at best, you could buy a new racer for $40). Now you can buy a really, really good one for only ten bucks. Most decent music CDs cost more than that. Magazine subscriptions cost more than that. Heck, I paid more than that for a Star Wars baseball cap!
But enough about the prices. What matters most is that game is fun to play. In that aspect, The Italian Job really delivers. The whole game is one big car chase, broken down into several timed missions. Either you're chasing them, or they're chasing you. You must reach your destination within the time limit to complete your mission. (There is also one Wreckless-style mission that is not timed. Your goal is to destroy another vehicle by ramming into it.) Cops, pedestrians and oncoming traffic will stand in your way to victory, so you'd better be a really good driver (they drive on the OTHER side of the road in England, remember?) or else you're going to crash and burn. When the damage meter is full, it's game over for you.
Speaking of traffic, there are a lot more cars on the road than I expected. Most PSone games have empty roads that provide very little action or excitement. The Italian Job is filled with action though, creating an exciting experience for everyone. I didn't count the number of cars that appeared on the screen at once, but I did find myself swerving to a lot (to avoid a collision). Oncoming traffic makes a great defense against the police, too. Tailgating coppers can be removed by driving on the wrong side of the road. Just before you hit a car, swerve! If done properly, you'll evade the vehicle--but the cop won't.
Not surprisingly, The Italian Job is one of the most visually impressive games ever released on the PSone. The backgrounds are as detailed as a game can get (on this console), and as I said before, there are more cars on the screen than ever before. All of the cars look great. One of the levels requires you to safely drive a bomb-toting bus from one location to another. This is not an easy task. In fact, I died about three or four times before actually succeeding. If you hit a car, a building or any other object too harshly, the bus will explode. The damage meter no longer matters, because the bomb meter is much, much more sensitive. While the explosion effect isn't comparable to anything seen on the next-generation consoles, it is pretty good, and should definitely catch your eye. Those of you using a portable LCD screen should be pleased by exciting, three-dimensional action that this game provides. There is no other racing or driving game that I would want to play on a car trip more than The Italian Job.
The Italian Job pushes the PSone beyond its limits, creating a next-gen experience on a last-gen console. This is both good and bad. On one hand you've got a game that plays better than any other driving game on the PSone. On the other hand, you have a game that plays quite a bit slower than the games you are probably used to (Grand Theft Auto 3, Smuggler's Run, etc.). But this is a PSone game, not a PS2 game, and it's dirt-cheap. So I'll gladly take the good with the bad, and encourage the developers to make a sequel for the PlayStation 2. Until then, I'll kick back and enjoy the game that I have, and I suggest that you do the same.