Developer: Paradigm Entertainment
Release Date: August 28, 2007
The theory behind the Stuntman franchise is pretty simple. Back before the days when computer-generated stunts ruled the day, people had to do things in a more old-fashioned way. When you wanted to do a long, drawn-out car chase, you had to figure out a way to cleverly design it so that the audience didn't realize it was all faked. Stuntman, however, takes this idea one step further. What if, instead of clever camera trickery, the stuntmen involved in these movies had to do everything that you see onscreen during a car chase ... and do it perfectly?
The sequel to the rather obscure game Stuntman, Stuntman: Ignition places you back in the role of a Hollywood stuntman. Rather than using CGI, the directors in the Stuntman universe have decided that hiring insane drivers to pull off mind-blowing stunts in crazy environments is the way to go. It may be crazy, but things are a lot more fun that way. To make matters more interesting, the directors don't hold back on stunts. Everything from speeding semi trucks to volcanoes will be recreated in very realistic ways, so the already-dangerous jobs that a stuntman must take suddenly take on new and more deadly risks. The movies you're hired for in Stuntman: Ignition are all parodies of classic action film archetypes. You have a disaster movie, a '70s-style cop movie and even a film set in a post-apocalyptic America. While not directly parodying any movie, each of the films is filled with clear references to a number of famous films from the past few decades.
For example, in Whoopin' N' Hollerin' 2, a parody of the Dukes of Hazard, your goal is to help recreate some of the crazy tricks for which the Duke Boys were so well known. One of the first tasks you'll take is a bizarre car chase in a giant unwieldy truck. You have to escape from a bank you've just robbed, dodge police cars and finally skirt between two oncoming semi trucks. It sounds simple enough, but the actual execution is far more challenging. You have to time your movements perfectly; go too far out of your way to crash through a police car, and you might not be able to make the next pinpoint turn. In one of the other segments, you control one of the faux Duke Boy's rivals, and so not only do you have to complete a series of insane stunts, but you also have to keep up with the Faux General Lee as well. And since they are the star of the movie, not you, you also have to be extra careful not to knock them off the road or pass them! Challenges like this are what make up the bulk of the Stuntman: Ignition gameplay.
One element of the original Stuntman that caused a lot of frustration for gamers was the unforgiving difficulty level. The directors you work with expected perfection, and you would end up repeating stunts over and over and over just to get what they wanted. It's realistic, perhaps, but more than just a touch frustrating. To make matters worse, Stuntman was plagued with loading times that often outlasted the actual stunt you were going to perform. Repeating that loading over and over in your frustrated attempt to get perfection was enough to drive even the most patient of gamers to controller-breaking fury. Stuntman: Ignition does a lot to fix this up. First and foremost is that Stuntman: Ignition loads like a dream. You have to load a stage only a single time, and all repeated attempts at a stage will load instantly. This is a good thing, as Stuntman's extreme difficulty has only been toned down a few notches. Rather than having to complete a percentage of the stunts, as in Stuntman, you instead have five "misses" to go through. Miss a stunt and you lose one, and lose them all and you've got to reshoot the scene. This doesn't give you much leeway; in fact, be prepared to reshoot scenes over and over until you've mastered every inch of the stunt track. However, this new "health bar" is sure to make some of the more frustrating scenes just a bit less annoying.
That isn't to say that Stuntman: Ignition is a much easier game than its predecessor. Despite the improvements made to the mistake system, the title still expects perfection. Even the most hardcore of drivers will have a difficult time completing any of the stages on their first, second ... or 20th try.
Stuntman: Ignition is built around "chains" rather than just performing the stunts. Each scene has a number of pre-designed stunts that must be completed in order to finish the scene. However, the directors of the movie encourage you to throw in your own personal spice in order to make these scenes truly shine. For example: You have to dodge between two police cars and then use your vehicle to smash through a police blockade in order to complete the scene. However, skillful players can take advantage of a ramp in the environment to perform a leap over an oncoming semi truck first.
Mixing a number of stunts rapidly improves the overall quality of the scenes and adds to your stuntman's chain. The higher you can chain your moves together, the better your will score at the end of the stage. In order to the get the game's coveted five-star ranking, however, you'll need to perform endless chains from the beginning to the end of each scene — a challenge sure to have gamers restarting stages over and over in an attempt to find the perfect set of stunts.
While the first Stuntman game fell into obscurity relatively quickly, Stuntman: Ignition appears to be set to give the franchise a second shot at the limelight. With improved graphics, rebalanced gameplay and the inclusion of various online modes, Stuntman: Ignition looks to have everything that it needs to pump life into the franchise. The only thing gamers should be cautious about is the difficulty level. Unless it changes between now and the August release date, Stuntman: Ignition is going to be one of those rare breeds of games that can make you break your controller. However, when you do actually manage to pull off that perfect stunt and watch the slow-motion replay, few games can match the feeling of satisfaction you get from seeing your flawless aerobatics.
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