Have you ever wished you could kick Bo and Luke out of the General Lee and jump it off that perpetually closed bridge in Hazzard County?
The creators of the Driver series are giving you the chance to do exactly that. In Stuntman you assume the role of a fledgling daredevil attempting to make it big in the movie business. Will you be the next superstar or just another contender trapped in a pile of twisted steel?
The game takes place on the sets of 6 original movies. You start out slow working on several low budget films. Perfecting your skills will lead to the big time; the multi-million dollar Hollywood blockbuster. Each stunt begins with the Stuntman explaining, rather vaguely, what has to be done to complete it. Then it's time to jump into the vehicle and do your best to perform to the director's expectations.
A stunt in this game involves far more than simply performing one dangerous maneuver at a time. You are expected to perform entire action sequences, each involving many individual stunts, in one cut. Screw up and it's time for take 2. Or take 102. Completing a movie allows you to view its trailer with clips from your stunts spliced into the action.
During each stunt you are in constant radio communication with the director. You will also see on-screen icons indicating exactly what to do next. For instance, if the stunt requires you to overcome a car driving in front of you, you will see an arrow icon going around the car you need to pass. Everything is well marked, and the director usually gives you ample verbal warning of what's upcoming. All that's left is for you to get the job done.
In terms of gameplay, Stuntman is the "R-Type of driving games". Calm down shooter fans; let me explain that statement a bit. R-Type is essentially a memory and execution test. As you advance through each level you must learn the position of every enemy and figure out exactly how to avoid them. Once you commit a section of a level to memory precise execution will ensure your survival. That is until you get to the next uncharted area where the learning process abruptly begins again. You make a frantic attempt to memorize as much about your new surroundings as possible before your inevitable death. Wash, rinse, and repeat.
Stuntman is built upon the very same philosophy. You will be required to memorize every section of every course. Even after memorization only perfect execution will ensure your success. Once you enter a section you have not played before, lack of knowledge of what's next ensures an almost immediate failure. You store what you just witnessed in your gray matter and come back to try again. From the very beginning of the game you'll have to repeat stunts numerous times in order to complete them. Towards the end of the game this learning cycle takes hours.
Graphically the game merely gets the job done. While vehicles and environments are modeled quite nicely, the low-resolution textures applied to them are less impressive. The game also suffers from some serious anti-aliasing problems reminiscent of PS2 launch titles. While the visuals aren't stunning, it's clear that this was a conscious decision made to ensure that the game maintains a steady, and speedy, frame rate. I commend the team for placing gameplay concerns over eye-candy.
Audio is also a mixed bag. While some of the songs that accompany stunts are great, they grow old fairly quickly. Considering how many attempts each stunt requires I would have appreciated a bit more variety. The director's voice, while a necessary part of the game, is also a point of major frustration. Hearing him blurt out, "You're going the wrong way!" as you fail a stunt course for the 50th consecutive time is enough to agitate even the most peaceful soul.
The physics engine the game employs is a bit hard to measure. The behavior exhibited by vehicles is quite erratic. You simply don't know how your vehicle will react. This is especially true when landing jumps. Ending a great run with a questionable spin out or roll is not a pleasing experience.
Enjoying this game is purely a matter of taste and patience. Shooter aficionados either love or hate the memory-based gameplay of R-Type. I suspect players who try Stuntman will also have two vastly differing opinions. You must have the patience and motivation to persevere through repeated failures to get the most out of this game. That said, once you beat the game there is little reason to return. Even the fun arena mode, where you create stunt courses of your own, offers little incentive for replay
Success in this game breeds a great feeling of accomplishment. Watching a replay of a successful run is guaranteed to leave a smile on your face. For me, that was more than enough motivation to deal with the frustration it took to get there. No matter how annoyed I was at a particular stunt, the game always kept me coming back for more.
Bottom Line: If you have the patience, Stuntman has the challenge.
· · · PBMaX