Developer: Paradigm Entertainment
Release Date: August 28, 2007
The life of a stuntman is tough. You take all of the bumps and bruises and shoot the most difficult scenes and then some other guy wins the Academy Award. In 2002, these unsung heroes finally got their day in the spotlight with the release of Stuntman for the PS2. Now, five years later and from a different developer, Stuntman: Ignition puts you back in the driver's seat for more crazy stunts and Hollywood parodies.
In Stuntman: Ignition, you take on the role of a nameless amateur stuntman trying to make his way up the ladder in Hollywood. You begin with a simple disaster movie, "Aftershock," and work your way through five other movies, finally arriving at the big time with a comic book-themed superhero flick, "Night Avenger." You perform six scenes in each movie, gaining a star rating for each scene. The more points you score, the better your rating. Along the way, you're also offered small jobs, such as commercials and stunt shows, all to raise your star ranking, which represents how much respect you get in the business.
Paradigm Entertainment certainly had its fair share of work to do with this follow-up title. While the original Stuntman garnered mostly positive reviews, it still received its fair share of criticism, primarily for a high level of trial-and-error and lack of accessibility. Fortunately, Paradigm opted to keep the positive elements and improved the negative ones, and the result is a title that's easier to pick up and play.
One of the best parts of the original game that made its way to the sequel is the frantic and crazy scenes through which you're required to plow. Since the six films you're required to shoot are all heavy action movies, you can rest assured that there is plenty of onscreen action to keep your eyes busy. An explosion here and some gunfire there certainly do their part to really draw you into the scene and make you feel like you're driving through a movie.
The scenes are also well suited to the type of film you're making. Your first movie is about a volcano erupting near a small town. What this means for you is plenty of flowing lava, big explosions and crazed citizens who are trying to evacuate but end up running into your vehicle. This creates an absolutely insane environment for you to try to drive through and attempt to nail a ton of stunts in the process. It only gets crazier as you progress.
Stuntman had a knack for parodying all elements of the film industry, including types of movies and the people who work on them, and Ignition proudly carries on this tradition. You'll get involved with all sorts of parodies, such as Whoopin' and Hollerin' 2, a take on the "Dukes of Hazzard," and Overdrive, a James Bond-esque thriller. You're guided through these movies by a colorful cast of directors, including an uptight British perfectionist and a few 20-somethings breaking into the entertainment business with their first movie. It's comedy like this that keeps Stuntman: Ignition fresh and fun, with each movie you complete.
Of course, comedy on its own isn't enough to sell a game, so you have to offer stellar gameplay in order to knock one out of the park. Fortunately, Stuntman: Ignition does a pretty good job of creating a solid gameplay experience, with some minor moments of frustration.
Many stunt elements from the original Stuntman make a return in Ignition, from drifts and ramps to 180s. Like the first game, the stunts that you must perform are represented by icons on the screen. Most of the time, this works really well, and you pull off the stunt without a hitch. However, during some of the scenes, you'll find the icons tend to pop out at you before you can react.
Another point of frustration is some slippery controls. You drive a variety of vehicles throughout the game, and each one controls differently. While this is a nice touch of realism, it can also be really maddening, especially since you don't use any vehicle for more than two scenes. This means that you'll sometimes spend an hour learning to drive a vehicle that you'll only use for a two-minute level.
What these points of frustration mean is that you'll spend a lot of time restarting levels and trying again. Expect to play through the scenes a lot in order to learn where the stunts are and the order in which you have to do them. With as much action on the screen as there is, you won't be able to anticipate everything, which means you'll have to rely on memorization and repetition.
While it certainly keeps the core game, Ignition departs from the original title in a number of ways, primarily with the strike system. One of the primary criticisms about the first Stuntman was the difficulty and perfection requirement. If you didn't do all of the stunts in a particular scene perfectly, your rating on the scene would plummet. Ignition changes this by allowing five strikes per scene and focusing more on score than perfection. You can miss one or two stunts, but if your score is high enough, you'll gain enough stars to progress. Of course, if you want the maximum of five stars, be prepared to work for it, because it will take perfection.
Part of the fun with the point system is a new concept called "stringing." After completing a stunt, you have two seconds to perform another stunt; successfully string together a few stunts in succession, and you'll start to gain score multipliers. If you're really good, you can string through the entire level, which will earn you that five-star rating.
The graphics are great in Stuntman: Ignition. There are plenty of eye-popping scenes and action that really goes well with the Hollywood setup. The sound, however, is kind of hit and miss. There are certainly some great, crisp sound effects, and the voice acting is spot on. Unfortunately, you have a "stunt coordinator" who spends the whole game shouting stunts at you as you drive through the scene. The first few times aren't so bad, but since you have to go through so much trial and error, the voice starts to grate after a while, and you'll start looking through the options menu to see if you can turn off this feature.
While the single-player career mode will only take you about five or six hours to complete, there is quite a bit of replay value to be had. In addition to the star rating system, which constantly requires you to better yourself, there's a decent construction system, which lets you build your own arenas. The system gets even better as your rankings go up and you unlock new ramps, obstacles and vehicles to use.
There's also a pretty frantic multiplayer mode that is great if you have someone with whom to play it. It has the standard race mode, which pits you against the other player as you zoom around the back of a movie lot. The real treat in multiplayer, however, is a new mode called Backlot Battle, which has all of the players racing around the back of the movie lot, trying to achieve the highest score by stunting off everything in their path. The fun of this mode is the ability to steal strings from the other players by ramming into them, which creates some absolutely crazy, cutthroat games that are just a blast to play. Unfortunately, the only time you'll get to experience it is with split-screen. While there is Xbox Live support, you'll be lucky to find anyone to play with, which is unfortunate, because if you do actually get into a game, it is definitely fun.
Overall, Stuntman: Ignition is a great follow-up to the fun, albeit challenging, game. You'll have to deal with some pretty frustrating moments and some spotty control, but if you bear with it, you'll find a truly enjoyable experience.
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