If the name Stuntman sounds familiar then you probably are one of the few gamers who played Reflections first iteration of the franchise back in 2002. You will also likely recall just how frustratingly difficult this title was, which ironically was the main reason most gamers passed on it so many years ago. With Ignition we have a new developer and publisher at the wheel for what could easily be the best resurrection of a franchise since Tomb Raider Anniversary.
Stuntman Ignition for all intents and purposes follows the same standard set by Reflections’ original offering. You assume the role of an up and coming stuntman as you work your way through six different movies making a name for yourself along the way. Each movie consists of six separate scenes that will also utilize several different vehicles ranging from your typical hot rod to some two-wheel action of motorbikes. The core game mechanic focuses on short, scripted events that will require several attempts to master. This can work both for and against the game as the tedium will likely drive some gamers crazy.
The main difference between this title and its predecessor is certainly difficulty. In the original game one mistake meant an entire reshoot, which resulted in a trial-and-error package that was simply not fun to play. With this follow-up developer Paradigm has remedied this by giving players a larger margin of error thus creating a challenging experience without the frustrations of the original. While passing a scene is certainly obtainable by just about any player of any skill, the real challenge comes from being able to five-star each one.
In order to obtain this highly sought after ranking (not to mention some extra Achievements in the Xbox 360 version) we refer to the age-old phrase; practice makes perfect. Obtaining a five-star ranking is not based on points, but instead is based on your ability to string an entire scene. Think of it in terms of Tony Hawk where stringing one combo into another adds a multiplier that increases the longer you hold the string. With Stuntman stringing these together can be an immense challenge, especially in the later levels when scenes become longer and there are fewer chances to string stunts. Stringing is as easy as passing close to an object or performing power slides and jumps. The bikes have a sort of freebie string as holding a wheelie also counts, but of course your steering will be impaired.
Achieving these five-star ratings will require a serious amount of dedication and they do give the game a boost of replay value, especially to those of us addicted to Achievement points. However this is also where the game stumbles a bit due mostly to the repetitive nature of doing the same two-minute scene over and over again trying to find the perfect lines to string the entire scene.
Outside of the career mode you also have a nice selection of diversions to make the overall package a bit more appealing. First is a construction mode where you can create your own stunt course and even upload it online, but only if you rank in the top ten. You can unlock new venues and pieces by earning stars in the career mode, so there is some incentive to achieving higher ranks outside of Achievements. There is also a nice selection of smaller modes such as the odd-jobs which range from filming TV commercials to arena style shows jam-packed with spectators. These diversions are sometimes better than the main game as they allow you to attempt smaller stunts without fear of failing right at the end and having to reshoot an entire three-minute scene over and over.
The online portion of the game is a welcome addition albeit a bit on the shallow side. Two of the three modes available online take place in the backlot of each movie set and are pretty uninspiring. Here you can either race or battle and for the most part these modes feel tacked on and flat. The third mode though is where the fun can be found. These movie challenges pit you against other drivers in a race to reach each stunt marker first. If you fall behind the stunt will have already been triggered and you will have to dodge the debris and try to catch up. It really pushes you to learn each scene not to mention being quite a bit of fun in the process.
The driving mechanics are pretty solid with just a few gripes. Each car handles completely different and sometimes you will find yourself sliding too far around corners or spinning your car in the wrong direction. Performing most of the stunts is simple enough, but mastering some such as the two-wheel riding and reverse 180 will certainly test your virtual driving skills.
On the visual side of things Stuntman simply delivers average. While the cars look nice and the damage modeling is actually pretty well done, the overall look of the game isn’t going to blow you away. The sets are nicely detailed and explosions are nicely done, they aren’t the next-generation of visuals you would come to expect from either the PS3 or 360. It is no surprise that this game is also available on PS2.
What makes Stuntman great is the sum of all of its parts. While the career mode would have been great for a cheaper title all of the additional stuff such as odd-jobs, construction mode, and of course online play make this package worth checking out for fans of driving games looking for something unique in the genre. If you are still gun-shy because of the name on the box don’t be. Developer Paradigm has delivered a game that fixes everything that was wrong with the original and expands upon what made it great. While it won’t set the world on fire Stuntman Ignition is a solid addition to any game enthusiasts library.