reviews\ Jun 30, 2002 at 8:00 pm

Stuntman - PS2 - Review

I'm exhausted.  My eyes feel like they could snap shut at any moment and never open again.  I've shot scene after scene, wrecked 40 cars and damaged a thousand props.  But I can't go home, not yet.  The director is content with my inability to jump off a hill, knock over a chimney, fly between two trains and crash into a burning building all in one take, but I am not.  I want the scene to be perfect.  And I want to finish the scene right now, even if it kills me.

In reality, it would have.

But in Stuntman, Reflection's new stunt/driving game, the only health risk you'll encounter is lack of sleep.

The gameplay is very, very unique.  The controls are slightly reminiscent of Driver (Reflection's previous game), but other than that, Stuntman is unlike any other game out there.  The emphasis of the game is on performing stunts, but the goal is to do exactly what the director tells you.  Not much information is given to you before the director says "Action!", so you'll have to rely on his stunt-by-stunt directions while the camera is rolling.  Luckily, his directions are usually really good, but they aren't always given to you fast enough.  However, it is not that hard to get lost in some of the larger areas.  Arrows are used as an indication of where to turn, but there is not always a sure way of knowing where to go.  This is not a major problem, but it is somewhat annoying at times.

Stuntman's controls are almost too realistic.  Remember, you're making an action movie, so the game requires you to do things that only a professional stuntman could do.  But even real stuntmen have trouble performing every scene in one take, which is why they sometimes break the scenes up into smaller segments.  Stuntman doesn't do that.  To keep the challenge, action and intensity high at all times, the game crams a ton of different sequences into one long scene.  99% of the major stunts must be performed at just the right moment.  If you're a second too soon, or a second too late, you're finished.  This isn't just a game about making a movie, it's a game about living it.  In a way, you play both roles -- you're the guy in the movie who's trying to escape, and you're the stuntman who wants to do everything perfectly.

Once you've completed (or failed) a level, Stuntman gives you the option to watch what you've accomplished in the awesome replay mode.  All of the views are pre-determined, which helps to make each stunt more exciting.  For example, one of the levels in A Whoopin and a Hollerin (the second movie) requires you to jump over a house, hit the chimney and then jump between two moving trains!  You actually have two chances to jump between the trains because the cars are different shapes and sizes, or you can wait until they pass and royally screw up the shot.  The trains are going in opposite directions, so you must drive up the ramp just as the two open cars are parallel with each other.

During the replay, the camera will periodically switch between your car and the back of the house.  Just before the car drives up the hill, the camera will switch back to the house, showing you an excellent view of the car flying over the building.  The camera performs equally well during the train sequence.

When the movie is finally complete, the game creates a trailer using computer-generated images and the real-time stunts you performed (which have been slightly enhanced to make them blend together even better).  Like all movie trailers, only the most exciting portions of the stunts are used -- the rest is cut out.  The voice-overs are somewhat cheesy, but I think they did that on purpose.  The movies are supposed to be comical, so it works pretty well.

Graphically, Stuntman is close to some of the best-looking games on Xbox!  The real-time shadow animation is nearly perfect.  Your vehicle's shadow mimics every move you make, and every object (except trees) streaks an incredibly realistic shadow on your vehicle.  The shadow hugs your vehicle as you drive under the object, wrapping around it as you move out of the area.  The detail and the depth of the trees is also amazing.  Each one is 3D model comprised of polygons, not sprites (as seen in other next-gen games).  They're the best-looking trees I've seen since Dead or Alive 3 came out.

But that's only half the beauty of this game.  Burnout still holds the crown for most-realistic crashes, but Stuntman is the new champ of realistic body damage.  Think you've seen a car get beat up before?  Think again.  None of the vehicles can be completely totaled (since the director yells "Cut!" if you lose the front end), but a lot of pieces can be torn off.  Non-moving vehicles (such as a parked cop car) are just as sensitive as the vehicle you're trying.  There are tons of movie props to destroy, but that doesn't mean you can't obliterate other perishable objects.  To top it all off, each car model is wrapped in beautiful textures and polygons, creating a realistic coat of paint that surpasses almost every other game released on the PlayStation 2 this year.

Reflections has once again developed a unique and innovative game that tests my patience.  If you don't have any patience, get some!  If you can't, then this game probably isn't for you.  But if you’re truly interested in being a stuntman in real life or just in a virtual world, this game will consume you for the rest of the month.  After that, you'll be consumed by its challenge.  Perfectionists will want to perform every stunt again and again until they get them exactly right.

Reviewer's Scoring Details

Gameplay: 8
Stuntman's gameplay is great.  Performing stunts can be a difficult task, but it's worth the time and effort.

Graphics: 8.9 
Stuntman is gorgeous.  Reflections has even squeezed more power out of Sony's leading console.  I never doubted its abilities, but I am still amazed by these graphics.

Sound: 7
The stunt-by-stunt commentary is good, and the sound effects are nice, but the music leaves a lot to be desired.

Difficulty: Hard
Did I say hard?  I meant extremely hard!  Stuntman makes other driving games seem like a piece of cake.

Concept: 9 
Stuntman is one of the most unique games that I have ever played.  Reflections has never been a developer that creates familiar gameplay experiences, which is one of the reasons why I like them so much.

Multiplayer: N/A

Overall: 8.3
Never in a million years would I have envisioned a game like this.  I'm really glad that someone did though, because I would have never known what it was like to be a stuntman without this game.  If you have the will and the patience to be a good stuntman, or if you're just looking for something different, Stuntman will satisfy your gaming needs.


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