Aug 29, 2007
They say that football is a game of two halves. Well, we don't know who "they" are exactly, but somebody had better tell them to include Stuntman: Ignition in that statement next time around. If you're not prepared to replay a level time and time again until it's perfected, then Stuntman's simply not for you. If, however, you're willing to pour blood, sweat and tears into a fairly unforgiving game in order to get the most out of it then there's plenty on offer here.
To dismiss Stuntman in the first hour or three would be easy, and totally understandable - it's possible to storm through the first five films (and there are only six to choose from) in one long, swear-filled sitting and think you've seen all there is. But chances are that, unless you're a gaming God, you'll have an average rating of about three stars - in which case you really haven't "got" Stuntman: Ignition at all.
Each scene you film is strictly linear. You trundle through a level hitting the objectives that the director barks at you, usually finding that you've missed half of the spoon-fed stunts because the instructions came just too late for you to follow. So you restart, get to a point further into the scene until, surprise, surprise, another belated order appears and you can't adjust your position in time to rescue the shot. Typically the next attempt will end in failure because you've memorized the beginning. Now that you're a split second ahead of the next event, that stunt's timing is thrown out of the window. And so it continues until, success! - you hit all of the maniacal director's objectives in a seemingly perfect run and are awarded with... a feeble two-star rating.
You see, the director doesn't actually know what's best for your score. It's entirely possible to miss four crucial stunts (miss five and you have to re-shoot the whole thing) and still get a perfect award, because Stuntman: Ignition's not about hitting each objective; it's about chaining them from start to finish. When you get your head around the fact that it pays to ignore the director, the game suddenly becomes interesting. Scenes stop being about driving from stunt to stunt and instead are all about seeing where the next trick is coming from - using the debris that litters the movie set to continue your combo and pulling off cheeky drifts at every bland corner to increase the multiplier. But you only see this side of Stuntman once you've invested eons of your precious time and you're officially in the zone.
It's a massive shame, because getting there is just too infuriating, frankly. There are 36 scenes spanning six movies (with a few extras tacked on the end), but none of them really stand out as anything special. Each movie may look pretty different, but your tasks are always the same: drift right here, reverse here, go under this truck, smash through that obstacle, launch yourself into this helicopter... and then again!
Thankfully the handling of each vehicle, be it car, bike, hovercraft or truck, is nigh-on perfect, although a few too many collisions can throw you off course or stop you dead for no reason. And because everything that happens around you is scripted, the only thing that results in failure (once you've memorised the track) is your lack of composure. You can't blame the AI for messing up your run because there is no AI; the events are exactly the same every time, and as each little mistake results in drastic results the only option is to restart and curse your own lack skill. More than anything else, Stuntman is about self-deprivation; each restart is a punishment and an admittance of failure that smarts every time. It's a wonder that restart isn't mapped to a face button as it's used so frequently.
But in the end is it worth all the pain? Each high rank unlocks objects to be used in the Create a Mode section where you can make your own scenes and challenge others to play over Live. But this (rather duff) mode is the only real incentive. The movie trailers that appear after each film are all pre-rendered, making your own run worthless. The scoring system does increase the longevity, so if you're competitive by nature there's something to keep you occupied - but for most it just won't be enough.