Stuntman Review (PS2)
Release Date: 6/24/2002
Stuntman for the PS2 has been in the works for quite some time, developer Reflections had the liberty of crafting this game and, boy oh boy, did they do a great job! You’ll play the part of a professional stuntman and work your way up from low-budget B-movies to James Bond-caliber films by successfully pulling off death-defying stunts. Doing this is, perhaps, easier said than done however. This game plays like a true-to-life stuntman simulator, they really did their homework to make sure every aspect of the experience was precise and realistic. Atari contracted two real-life stuntmen in order to get everything just right, and these stuntmen aren’t just your run-of-the-mill stuntmen either. For example, Vic Armstrong, arguably the most talented stuntman in the world, brought his experience to the Stuntman development team. You may recognize his work from such well-known motion pictures as Blade Runner, Terminator 2, and Return of the Jedi. All this means nothing though if the game isn’t fun, but let me assure you the convergence of great gameplay, gorgeous visuals, and adrenaline-inducing sequences make Stuntman an incredibly entertaining and satisfying experience.
The physics engine Reflections utilized is astonishing, there are so many things that need to be taken into consideration during a course and they are all perfectly coordinated. The in-between-stunt cut-scenes are excellent, voice acting is incredibly believable and the fictitious character that plays the part of stuntman should get an Oscar for his acting performance. He'll fill you in on the intricacies of each stunt before you attempt them in a plain, easy-to-understand way, and sometimes you'll even get to see the technology that goes into the stunts. Visually Stuntman is stunning; vehicle models are superbly rendered and react super-realistically. The atmospheres are equally impressive and frame-rate remains smooth even during incredibly hectic instances. Smashing through objects like roadblocks, tables, and sides of buildings is particularly cool looking. The soundtrack is fitting but not overly impressive, each movie you take part in will have its own uniquely themed music.
Stuntman offers three distinct play-modes; Career, Training, and Stunt Constructor. Career mode allows you to attempt pre-coordinated stunts for use in motion pictures. After you finish a handful of sequences, you’ll be treated to a trailer of the film, done in typical Hollywood-fashion, replete with special effects and actors. During these movie-trailers the various stunts you performed will be flawlessly spliced into the action. Training mode is a set of different trials based around speed and accuracy. Stunt Constructor mode is perhaps the most enjoyable aspect of the entire game, you’ll be able to set up your own stunts using toys that are split up into three different categories; Ramps, Smashables, and Special. You’ll have to progress through career mode to unlock the various toys but it is well worth it, the method for placing, rotating, and otherwise modifying objects is very intuitive and easy to do. It’s possible to set up some truly memorable stunts in this mode. There is also a wealth of DVD-extras included on the disk, like interviews with the contracted stuntmen and a making-of featurette, not to mention a preview of the upcoming Driver 3 PS2 game.
Real-world locations were used in Stuntman, like London, Switzerland, Monaco, Louisiana, and Bangkok. The movies you’ll help out on include a Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels-esque crime/comedy called Toothless in Wapping. A Dukes of Hazard rip-off called A Whoopin’ and a Hollerin’. Blood Oath is like a fast-paced John Woo flick. In Conspiracy you’ll pilot a snowmobile in an action-packed Tom Clancy-ish movie. You’ll control a jeep in the Indiana Jones knockoff called The Scarab of Lost Souls. And the last stage, the mother of all Stuntman movies, Live Twice for Tomorrow, which is quite obviously a James Bond recreation. Between each film you’ll perform increasingly more dangerous stunts in front of a live-audience, like long-jumps, jumping through rings of fire and monster truck smash-fests.
Every course is orchestrated so that there is very little room for error, either you run a course that looks awesome or you don't run it at all, I respect that ‘all-or-nothing’ facet of the game. It’s like the game is so exquisitely crafted that it demands nothing less from the person playing it, you know, like the Soup-Nazi. "No soup for you!", you know who I'm talking about, "come back, one year!" .. ahh forget it, anyway. As you begin a stunt the director will constantly bark out orders describing what your supposed to be doing, he gives you enough time to negotiate turns and prepare for most circumstances but you'll inevitably replay the same stunt multiple times to get it right. At one point, it took me no less than three hours to pass one course! But you know what? It was entertaining the whole time! The reason; Stuntman doesn’t pull any punches, it gave me a course, told me what to do, and the rest was up to me. The only thing that was stopping me from progressing was my inability to do what I was supposed to do. At least that’s what I kept telling myself as I repeatedly totaled my car in the speeding-train sequence.
Throughout the game you’ll be behind the wheel of a wide assortment of vehicles, each with their own unique handling. The cars you’ll drive will get progressively more high-class, starting out with a beat-up throw-away car and working your way up to high-tech and expensive automobiles, you’ll even get the chance to play around with a snowmobile mid-way through the game. Controlling them is simple; left-analog steers, right-analog increases and decreases speed. X can also be used for acceleration. The square button is for controlling brakes and reversing, and hand-break is mapped to the circle or triangle buttons. Shoulder buttons control camera perspective and occasionally activate special moves like nitro and roll-cannon. Steering either with the D-pad or with left-analog is 100% pressure sensitive and results in a very versatile and precise control-method.
Great concept + excellent execution = wicked-fun game. Why hasn’t anybody thought of this premise before? Here’s hoping that this is but the beginning of a long-running series. It should be noted, however, that Stuntman might not be for everybody. The trial-and-error nature of the game may be a bit much for some, but those that stick with it will be handsomely rewarded with new Stunt Constructor toys, vehicles, and cool looking CG sequences. Loading times can also be a little annoying but they’re not nearly as bad as some other publications make them out to be, in actuality the load times average around 7 seconds. The lifespan of the game is somewhat lacking with only a handful of levels but the Stunt Constructor mode can potentially prolong the lasting appeal of the game considerably. The good far outweighs the bad in this game though, and I whole-heartedly recommend this game to any PS2 owner.