Developer: Paradigm Studios
Release Date: Summer 2007
Stuntman was a sleeper hit on the PS2 a few years ago, but it never quite got the fanbase it arguably deserved, perhaps owing to its arriving in the middle of a bizarre and short-lived trend towards similar games (i.e. Chase: Hollywood Stunt Driver). Stuntman: Ignition is an attempt to both remedy that problem and bring the game into the next generation.
Stuntman is a driving game, but it’s more oriented towards pure action than anything else. Its control scheme isn’t a million miles away from some of the more arcade-styled racing games out there, but its aim is different. With most racing games, the high-speed clenches and crashes are incidental to the process; in Stuntman, they are the process.
As the title signifies, you’re a Hollywood stunt driver working on a wide variety of films, from 1970s cop dramas to modern thrillers, producing highly cinematic car chases and fight scenes. With the director barking orders in your ear, you must carry out a variety of tasks along your route through a given level. One stage, for example, has you pursuing another car through the streets of San Francisco. Along the way, you need to ramp over a flatbed truck while smashing its cargo, powerslide around a corner, nearly hit a streetcar, crash through a stack of crates, and use an open cargo container to ramp up and jump from a pier to the deck of a freight ship.
In each stage, you score points constantly for nearly hitting objects, pulling off drift combos, smashing obstacles, perfectly executing your director’s requests, and more. Each bonus isn’t much, but they add up quickly, until you’re scoring a few thousand points every time you think to check.
Along the way, you have a set budget for the number of massive mistakes the director will tolerate. Hitting other cars, running over pedestrians, or going the wrong way will all count against that total, and if you go over the limit, he’ll demand a retake. Thus, Stuntman requires you to be both fast and precise; a sloppy job will not be rewarded. In the levels I played, the director was actually really demanding, to the point where it was laughably easy to hit the point where I had to do another take. (Of course, for full disclosure’s sake: I suck at this game. Now you know.)
As you progress through each movie, you’ll gradually unlock more and bigger-budget movies, for a total of six in all. Each movie you work on has different themes and thus different stunts for you to perform, and you’ll get to drive different cars each time. In all, there are thirty-six stunts, six films, and more than twenty-five vehicles (including motorcycles and hovercraft) in Stuntman: Ignition, with an arcade-style scoring system in each level to encourage you to replay them. The singleplayer mode also reportedly includes commercials and tournaments, just to change things up a bit.
Ignition is on the PS3, 360, and PS2. The next-gen versions are crisp and clear, as you’d expect a new racing game to look, with a high framerate and highly detailed car models. The real visual appeal, though, comes into play when you successfully pull off a stunt, such as a big jump or a bizarre turn, and the game shifts into dramatic slow motion.
Stuntman: Ignition, when it hits shelves, will also feature an online game for up to eight players. This has yet to be shown in playable form, but THQ promises it’ll be a mode concerned with challenging rival stuntmen to prove their skills, by stealing points away from them as you race along the various routes. You’ll also be able to use a stunt constructor to build your own film sets, allowing you to set up elaborate challenges for yourself and others.
If you’re like me (and I know I am), one of your problems with racing games is the essential repetition; that is, you simply drive in circles a lot, with little deviation between laps on the same course. Stuntman: Ignition is the kind of “racing” game I like, because it gives you other things to do and other goals to shoot for. It’s coming out this summer.
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