Developer : Lionhead Studios
Publisher : Activision
Release Date : June 6, 2006
The Movies was a quirky blend of The Sims and a tycoon management game that put you in charge of a movie studio and some precocious movie starlets and tasked you with building up the next movie media empire. The Movies: Stunts and Effects is an expansion pack that integrates into the original game adding a whole new bag of goodies and jazzing up both the tycoon aspect and the movie-making tools. It addresses a lot of the criticisms that fans of the game have made while adding a hefty amount of creative material in the form of sets and scenes.
The Movies was really two games in one. The tycoon management part required you to build a studio lot and micromanage your stars’ moods to coax them into making the best movies while a separate movie making tool allowed you to build your very own film from the script up. The expansion pack adds to the tycoon endeavor by bringing in the men and women willing to risk life and limb for your entertainment: stunt actors. If you’re keen to experience the new material, there is the option to quick start in 1960 with a studio lot and conveniently, all the new props, sets and scenes are marked for easy recognition. You’ll still have to conduct a great deal of research to unlock all of the add-ons.
Start by building a stunt school to attract fresh, eager and unsuspecting fools. For instant stuntman, just drop one of them in your school. Next you must write a script containing at least one stunt scene. Each stunt ranges in difficulty from one to five. Level one is a harmless low-risk affair such as falling to the floor, while level five stunts tend to involve explosives, fire and all the other fun stuff. If you have your scripts generated automatically, your writers will only dream up stunts that fit the level of your currently hired stunt actor, but where’s the fun in that? Craft your own scripts using the advanced movie making facility and you can implement any stunt your James Cameron-esque heart desires, no matter what difficulty. The only problem is that your greenhorn stunt actor is unlikely to successfully pull off being propelled skyward from a burning vehicle on his first day at work. His failure not only has a detrimental impact on the final quality of the film, but could also result in grievous injury. You’ll be able to tell the injured actors by the way they hobble pathetically around your studio lot. But don’t feel guilty - they knew the risks when they signed up, right? Abuse your stunt actors too much, however, and they’ll eventually have to be hospitalized for a length of time to treat their comical maladies ranging from deflated scalp, to trauma induced clown nose syndrome. To lower the risk of failure you can train your stunt actors in between films using stunt training facilities. The most basic of these consists of some rotating padded arms for your actor to practice ducking and jumping over.
It’s also important to try to match the sex and age of the stunt double to your actor, for authenticity’s sake. There’s nothing worse in a movie than watching the character soar through a wall of flame only to realize that not only has his moustache disappeared, but he’s aged 20 years and had a sex change. Of course, your actors can also do their own stunts. Remember how impressed you were when you discovered that Keanu Reeves does most of his own stunts in The Matrix? With the expansion pack, The Movies factors that kind of kudos into your final movie rating but you have to weigh this against the risk to their health.
So much for the game’s tycoon aspect. What you’re really interested in is how much they’ve improved the movie making tools. From the looks of things, the developers really paid attention to what fans in the gaming community wanted the most and implemented a whole range of improvements that will make your movies look and feel that much more authentic.
Perhaps the most important addition of all is the free camera mode. Since day one, gamers have been wishing, praying and sacrificing small animals on the altar of Lionhead Studios in the hope that one day, you could position the camera anywhere your Spielberg-inspired vision wants it to be. With the free camera mode, you can now move up or down, in and out, change the field of view and point it any which way you like. The only limit is the size of the set – you don’t really want to zoom out so much that you end up filming the rigging. Together with the post-production editing facility, this new function means that you can get all sorts of interesting angles and shots for your final movie. And the good news doesn’t end there. You also have the ability to use two different camera vantage points and have the shot transition between them during the action allowing for some interesting pans and zoom shots.
The makeover function has been made over to include the ability to change the age and weight of your actor. With a flick of the slider you can turn your actor from Marlon Brando in The Wild One to Marlon Brando in The Island of Dr. Moreau. The weight slider works very well shifting between the svelte and the stout but the age slider is perhaps a little limited changing mainly the hair color to a shade of gray and adding some weight to the cheeks. Still, this widened range of actor appearances should add a great deal of depth to any movie making enterprise.
Weather effects have been improved with the added option of changing the intensity of certain weather effects, and adding different degrees of wind so you can recreate scenes from classic movies like, err, Twister. In general, the graphics look sharper with enhanced visual effects such as smoke, fiery infernos, steam and lightning.
Some important new sets have been incorporated with the expansion pack including a stagecoach, saloon bedroom, some new sci-fi corridors and the lurking horror of the new suburban bathroom. The green screen special effects stage allows you to film a range of otherwise impossible scenes such as spaceship and helicopter exteriors. You can specify the type of backdrop you want allowing for the comic incongruity of a space dogfight set against a Wild West saloon backdrop. The bluescreen set gives you the ability to film set pieces and change the floor tiling between sandy ground and terracotta tiles and everything in between. A new and improved props menu lets you drop all sorts of miscellany in a much more ordered fashion than before.
The miniature scrolling set allows for a range of drive-by and chase scenes. Do you want your bank robbers to be pursued by a helicopter? That’s not a problem. Then the helicopter gets shot down by a missile, right? Done. Change the helicopter to a UFO craft I hear you cry! There’s a world of possibility in this expansion pack waiting to be tapped by a creative mind.
Perhaps my favorite addition is the miniature city set which lets you indulge your Godzilla fantasies by wreaking cinematic havoc on a miniature scale model city. The options here include plenty of car chases and maneuvers, an assortment of fire scenes to recreate disasters, and yes, a giant screaming lizard beating up on a 50-foot tall female android. Or, if you prefer, a nuclear mutated fireman taking out a duck the size of a large skyscraper.
For each set, there are now a wide variety of stunt scenes to choose from including explosive blasts, car bombs, muggings, throttling, head impacts, knife fights, dog attacks, fisticuffs atop a rolling stage coach, and plenty of arson-themed action. The perfectionists out there – you know who you are – will be able to spend time tweaking this and sliding that to get just the right effect in each scene. As if that weren’t enough, a new overlay feature allows you to add effects to the lens so you can now view the action through a keyhole, or the sights of sniper rifle, or frame it inside a television set, for example. As befits a stunts and effects themed expansion pack, a lot of the scene additions are action oriented, but there are still plenty of additions for the drama kings and queens out there such as the CPR scene where the sliders allow you to choose between life and death.
In sum, this expansion pack has something for everyone. For the tycoons out there, the stunt actors are a new dimension and an added challenge for you to micro-manage the hours away with the aim of winning one of the new awards. The real treats however are reserved for the budding movie makers. Stunts and Effects gives you a whole plethora of goodies and new tricks to embellish your projects with. You’ll have a great time flexing your creative muscle putting them to good use. It would be an exaggeration to say the only limit is your imagination. Even with all the new tricks and toys, you won’t be able to do everything your directing genius blueprint demands, but you should be able to get a whole lot closer to your goals than before.
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