Who doesn’t dream of the possibility to drive incredibly powerful cars while pulling off some crazy stuff and getting paid for it? For those of you who never got the opportunity here’s the next best thing: the Stuntman-series. It all began with a magnificent action/race game on PlayStation 2 and now, a couple of years later, the people from THQ and Havoc come to us with a sequel. However, will this successor be able to reach the same level as its older brother or will the new kid on the block miss all the good things the previous game had?
A brief look at the past: what made the first Stuntman the success it is today? According to me, it was the semi-realistic (don’t take this realism seriously), action packed gameplay with great graphics and a very movie-like atmosphere. At first it even gave me the impression of being a faster version of the very first Driver, at least when we’re talking about the driving. All this goodness has once again been combined into Stuntman: Ignition, but we can multiply it by three. This new game offers sufficient gaming-possibilities starting with a career and ‘constructor’ mode up to a real multiplayer.
The most important mode is the career. Here you’ll take on the roll of a stunt actor who has specialized himself in the steering of many types of vehicles and who now wants to have a shot at Hollywood. The idea is to shoot six films, each existing of six separate scenes. Every scene contains several stunts which are predefined by the director and of course he insists you certainly make them. These ‘Director Stunts’ are marked on the road by yellow boxes, but you’ll find them hidden behind exploding vehicles and flying debris quite often. When you finally manage to please the boss, you’ll surely gain enough points to score the minimum amount which will award you with one star on that scene. However, if you intend to grab all five stars on one track, you better get ready to do some ‘trial & error gameplay’ because you’ll have to stunt all the way to the end of the course, ‘stringing’ your moves together into one big combo.
The first movie where you’ll be able to show what you’ve got is some cliché natural disaster film. Some volcano threatens to erupt and you’re doubling for some scientist trying to save a nearby village, a kid trying to find his grandmother and the town loony. The next movie where you can put your skills to the test is some sort of hyper Dukes of Hazard. There’s even an over-the-top James Bond-clone waiting for you to complete. When you manage to finish every scene in one film, you’ll be rewarded with a trailer where you can see your very own stuntwork. Apart from movies, there are also some commercials and stunt shows to complete which require less stunts to complete in one run, but are much more difficult to complete.
Another single player mode is the Constructor. Feel like creating your personalized stunt-track? You can do this here, using the objects you’ve earned by completing the career missions. After the building comes the racing which can be done with the car or bike you prefer most. Nice, but there’s more to this mode! The developers have included a ‘puzzle mode’ called Director’s Challenge. You’ll get an empty arena at your disposal with a starting point and some predefined stunts in it. Odd, since you’ll find a ‘jump’ icon floating somewhere in mid air with no ramp near it, so you won’t be able to reach it, UNLESS… You also get a set amount of objects which you can use to complete the course. Choose the position of these materials wisely since this is vital scoring the five stars and completing the track within a certain time limit. Believe me when I say it takes some time to find the ultimate setup for one challenge. Expect some massive retrying in this mode!
Earlier I also mentioned you now have the ability to work with bikes in Stuntman. Although these aren’t very easy to drive, they do form the ultimate stunting machines thank to the infinite possibilities to pull wheelies and stopies to string your tricks together and score enough to grab that five star reward. Do pay attention, while pulling such neck breaking moves on one wheel, the vehicle becomes virtually un-steerable rendering you most vulnerable to oncoming traffic and other things blocking your path.
Last but not least, there’s the multiplayer. Sadly only one of three multiplayer modes is really worth playing. The ‘bad’ possibilities are the Backlot Battle and – Race. You’ll be taking on other players within a closed course. During the race the objective is simply to set the fastest time and finish first to win while in Battle you’ll have to complete the Director Stunts and have the most points at the end of the game to take the cup home. Now, what will be worth your time is the Movie Challenge. Here you’ll be putting your skills and knowledge to the test on the career tracks. Do mind that when you drive too slow, you’ll probably find some trees or buildings falling on your head or blocking your path because a player who passed there before you has already triggered the falling mechanisms. However, this does prove to be the ideal manner of comparing your stunts and skills on the career-tracks to those of other players.
Graphically, Stuntman: Ignition can be called a beauty. The biggest advantage of this game’s engine are the special effects which are magically put on your screen. Explosions left and right while pieces of scrap metal are flying closely past you. Add some AI vehicles to that which are driving along with you and you have the chaotic atmosphere this game creates using purely visuals. And, all this can be done without one single frame drop. A true pleasure to play.
Stuntman: Ignition hasn’t made enormous progress compared to its predecessor (especially when we’re talking about the trial & error gameplay), but it does manage to separate itself. There’s a lot more action and nicer graphics, something we could have expected since there’s been a massive technology change compared to the PS2. Sadly the devs haven’t learned from the mistakes found in the first part. To get that perfect score you’ll have to redo scenes over and over again. So, if you’re having problems with TV stations showing every season of “Friends” five times a year, this isn’t your particular brand of cognac. On the other hand, if you don’t have any problems seeing Chandler making the same jokes over and over again you can be quite pleased by this game. Also, do note that his isn’t the type of game you’ll finish quickly, it’ll take a fair amount of time to play this to the end and you’ll have to learn from your mistakes! If you don’t learn, I guess you won’t be able to finish every scene with a 5 star total.