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Stuntman

Matthew Bacon considers a career change

 

Behind the wheel of a car, I consider myself to be both a safe and considerate driver. However, behind the joystick of a driving game, I admit that I'm a complete and utter lunatic!

Last autumn I purchased Stuntman, a new game by Atari for the PlayStation 2 console. Stuntman is the latest addition to the highly respected Driver series by Reflections, a subsidiary of Infogrames (the new owner of Atari). With such an established heritage and reputation, I understandably had high expectations.

The concept is simple (and remarkably original)... you are a young and gifted rookie driver trying to make a name for yourself. As your talent and experience grow, so your career blossoms. Easy eh?

The astute among you may have noticed that in the previous paragraph I wrote "rookie driver", not "rookie stuntman", as the developers sadly decided not to encompass the numerous other types of stunts performed by today's stuntman. Stuntman is a driving game, pure and simple. Now, upon reflection (get it?!), Stuntman would have been more appropriately titled Stunt Driver - but I digress...

The game opens with a rather nice cinematic trailer (screen-shots below) showing the progression of the stuntman from the early days of cinematography to the big budget Hollywood blockbuster. After which a stomping techo tune kicks in while you select your language and wait for the main menu to appear.

[Screen-shot: A stunt performed in early cinematography]

[Screen-shot: A stunt performed before the days of colour ;-)]

[Screen-shot: A stunt performed in a recent Hollywood blockbuster]

From Stuntman's main menu, you can select from six options; Stuntman Career, Stunt Constructor, Driving Games, Load Game, Set Up and DVD Extras.

Stuntman Career
This is the main game mode of Stuntman. It is from here that you begin your stuntman career by working on a low budget film called Toothless in Wapping. If you manage to prove your worth as a stunt driver, you will progress on to other films with bigger budgets where you will be asked to perform even more dangerous stunts.

Each of the film titles used in Stuntman appear to be parodies of popular films we all know and love. For example, Toothless in Wapping is easily a parody of Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, while Live Twice For Tomorrow is obviously a parody of Tomorrow Never Dies (007). The other cleverly named film titles in Stuntman include; A Whoopin' And A Hollerin', Blood Oath, Conspiracy and Scarab of Lost Souls.

Before starting each film, a 3D animation of the film is accompanied by a voice over from the director describing what the film is about. This is then followed by a walk-through of the stunts you will be required to perform within the scene of the film. At this point I suggest you stop whatever you're doing and listen very carefully as you'll need all the help you can get.

Why? you ask... because Stuntman is hard. Totally and utterly, stupidly, unbelievable, insanely difficult! Anyone who tells you otherwise is lying!

Fortunately you are not required to remember when and where you must perform the stunt as video and audio (courtesy of the director) are provided while you drive.

[Screen-shot: 3D animation example]

One of the 3D animations shown while the director talks about the stunts you are to perform.
 

[Screen-shot: An interview before your big drive]

You fit in a quick interview before filming starts. 

The stunts that you are asked to perform vary from scene to scene and film to film. They can be anything from overtaking a car to exploding some pyrotechnics under your car at the right moment and barrel rolling your car across a river! To complicate matters, not only do you have to perform these stunts correctly and within the scoring zone (from which you are awarded accuracy points), you also have to perform them against the clock.

So, think you're ready?

Think again! I guarantee that during your first dozen or so attempts of playing the game, you will last no longer than 10-15 seconds before the director shouts CUT and accuses you of going too slow. This is extremely frustrating, however if you persevere, you'll eventually master those 180 degree handbrake turns. It just takes time.

Consequently, each scene takes numerous attempts to master and complete. This is where Stuntman ultimately fails... Each time you fail (and you will - lots of times) you have to wait for the entire level to load again - which takes ages! I kid you not. To make matter worse, even if you manage to reach the end of the scene having completed each stunt within the time limit, you might ultimately fail if your accuracy score is too low.

If this starts to happen, my recommendation is to simply walk away and come back to it later. Take a few minutes breather, make yourself a hot drink or make a phone call... try anything otherwise you'll go mad.

Of course, the flip side to this is that once you do manage to achieve a high enough accuracy level and pass the scene, boy will you feel happy with yourself ;-) At this point, although you won't want to, I recommend that rather than moving on to the next scene or film, that you redo the one you have just mastered. This has two benefits; the first is that it gives you the opportunity to improve your skills (as you are not having to worry about what is coming next and you can concentrate firmly on your driving skills), and secondly, you might even manage to improve your statistics for that scene.

Trust me, you'll thank me in the long run!

[Screen-shot: Driving statistics]

End of scene driving statistics screen. This is where you hope and pray you have achieved a high enough accuracy score.
 

[Screen-shot: The dreaded loading screen!]

The infamous loading data screen. Do not remove the memory card, reset or switch off the console... or fall asleep!
 

[Screen-shot: Failed again?]

Failed again?
 

[Screen-shot: Failed yet again? Get used to seeing this screen]

Failed yet again?! Do you have a driving licence?

As you can see from the screen-shots below, the graphics are of a good quality and the visual prompts for the stunts are obvious enough, if only they were easy to perform...

[Screen-shot: Perform those stunts!]

[Screen-shot: Are you lost yet?]

[Screen-shot: Where are you going? Mind those boxes!]

[Screen-shot: What goes up must come down]

[Screen-shot: Alternate view]

[Screen-shot: 'Toothless in Whapping' title screen]

Toothless in Wapping... more like Frustrated in Clapham!
 

[Screen-shot: 'A Whoopin' and a Hollerin' title screen]

A Whoopin' And A Hollerin'... more like A Shouting And A Swearing!

As a reward for completing each film, you are presented with a car and items to use in the game's Stunt Constructor.

Stunt Constructor
The Stunt Constructor is rather a novel idea and arguably the best - as well as being the most fun - feature of Stuntman. Based in the Stunt Arena (see screen-shots below) you can design and practice the most wild and wacky stunts imaginable. Seriously, don't try these at home kids!

[Screen-shot: Stunt constructor]

After entering the empty Stunt Arena, you can browse the available toys (term used in Stuntman to refer to the various ramps, obstacles and smashable objects at your disposal) and add or move them within the arena. As you progress in the Career Mode, more toys are unlocked (including cars and pyrotechnics!).

The really cool feature of the Stunt Constructor is that you can reload and edit previously saved arenas (assuming you have enough memory on your PS2 card) which helps add a long-term attraction to the game.

[Screen-shot: End of a stunt in the arena]

End of a stunt in the arena.
 

[Screen-shot: Start of a stunt in the arena]

Start of a stunt in the arena.

Driving Games
This feature of Stuntman allows to test your skills and practice the various diving modes (Precision, Speed and Stunt) found in the main game. Sadly these are just as infuriating as the main game :-(

In the Precision Tests you need to drive as quickly and accurately as you can around a test course within a fixed time limit. This will test your driving skills to the limit and beyond. In a sick way, I found this rather fun!

The Speed Tests are unlocked after each successful film that you complete. This is perhaps the most fun of the three driving modes as you only need to drive as fast as you can through a series of cones. Again this test is against the clock. Sadly, the Stunt Tests are only available once you have completed the Career Mode and earned the (impossible) "Lead Stuntman Ranking". As I have not yet reached this point, I cannot comment. I like a challenge though.

Set Up
This option allows you to fiddle with the various features of the game such as adjust the music, speech and SFX levels as well as turn the subtitles, vibration, auto reverse camera on and off.

DVD Extras
Unlike most DVD Extras found on most games, Stuntman's is probably the first that does not appear to have been an afterthought and included just for the hell of it. However, saying that, you are unlikely to watch them more than once.

They include a behind-the-scenes peek at the making of Stuntman, interviews with Vic Armstrong and Tommy McTague, two real-life stuntmen (both highly respected stuntmen who have been involved in numerous blockbusters), as well as trailers for the Driver 3 and V-Rally 3.

A nice addition to the DVD Extras section is the inclusion of the music videos for the games in-game music by the artist Yvonne.

Conclusion
After what appeared to be a promising game, with an original twist to the often bland driving game genre, Stuntman did nothing but frustrate me! As a result I cannot recommend this game to anyone and given the option to buy this game again, I'd without hesitation spend my money on something else.

[Screen-shot: UK cover]

[Screen-shot: Canadian cover]

[Screen-shot: French cover]

[Screen-shot: US cover]

[Screen-shot: German cover]

[Screen-shot: Australian cover]

The global covers of Stuntman.
 

Verdict

Name:

Stuntman

Platform:

PS2

Developer:

Reflections

Publisher:

Infogrames / Atari Interactive

Price:

39.99 / $49.99 / 59.95

Pros:

  • A refreshing approach to the genre
  • Authentic car dynamics
  • Create your own stunts in the Stunt Arena
  • Impressive 3D animated cut scenes

Cons:

  • The all too frequent Loading... screen!
  • Insanely difficult
  • Annoying running commentary in the form of the director
  • Did I mention the Loading... screen?

Rating:

2/5


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MyAtari magazine - Review #2, February 2003

 
Copyright 2003 MyAtari magazine