Itís a role everyone dreams about at one time or another, but never wants anything to do with. Hereís your big chance to fill the flame-retardant underwear of a Stuntman. Buried deep beneath the glamour of Hollywood is the key component to every good action movie: action! Big name actors are heralded as explosive, partially for the work of their stunt doubles. The sort of work that said stars might admire from the comforts of their makeup chair.
Barrelling down the streets of San Francisco, a hybrid sports car knock-off cuts tight into an alley and bursts through a blockade of misplaced boxes. Evading an onslaught of cop cars with their sirens ablaze, the vehicle drifts right, lining up with a far-off ramp on a main street. Breaching the end of the 40-degree incline, the vehicle is suspended in air for seconds until awakened by a fair rooftop landing. As the driver lands upon the building, he triggers an explosion while the sports car passes on through the death hazard. Another ramp awaits him at the end of the next rooftop, which sends the vehicle riveting towards a helicopter. They meet with a fantastic explosion, sending both the car and the helicopter harrowing downwards for the ground, both the helicopter pilot and your character appear doomed as they take on fire. You just completed the four minute set of stunts leading up to the finale, and cannot be sure as to whether or not your character’s alive. Cut to actor standing at the end of the last rooftop, apparently boasting after “his brave escape”, just before the car hit its second jump. Heís blowing a cigarette butt, giving a Public Service Announcement about the dangers of drugs. The filmís Director stands awe-struck, calling for someone to come scrape the remains of his Stuntman from his beloved permanently out of comission sports car, although his Stuntman must be in a similar state.
Then thereís the less pedestrian side of Stuntman Ignition. Piloting a semi (with a SCUD missile attached) through an enemy military base. Weaving through a plateau of panicked citizens on your motorbike to rescue Grandma, as a nearby volcano erupts. Ramping through three precise holes on Armor All billboards. Armor All is a line of products intended to clean your car. Utilizing the power of Armor All, you’ll smash through and destroy a few mini-vans. A good number of the stunt runs are without sustenance or context, but are pretty fun to perform all the same. After completing each set (usually consisting of five or six runs each), you unlock a trailer for the film.
Everything is mission-based. Although the missions are never laid-out in any organized fashion, you’ll end up repeating the same stunt again and again anyway. It’s a weary formula, not only relying on the linear gameplay to entertain the player, but insisting on it. The potential for some worthwhile shortcuts are cut at the knees. Traversing anywhere outside of the set path will cause whichever director you’re working with to yell “cut, cut, cut!” or maybe “that’s all wrong, you suck” in the most disgruntled of ways. I spent up to an hour and a half on some stunts in particular, prying for whatever additional content seems to be missing. A stunt coordinator will run you through the big maneuvers, albeit never the hardest ones. This doubles as a loading screen (smart). Audible quips from each Director detail exactly what you need to do, right before you need to do it, and occasionally afterwards. Sometimes he is a little late or an objective tied with oncoming traffic wonít be possible from your position. Expect hundreds of trial-and-error runs. There are even Achievements for doing 20 over-takes (re-shoots) on a stunt and falling into environmental hazards 30 times (not my proudest Achievements to be certain).
You can score between 1 and 5 stars for each run, 5 being the best. A 5-star score is hard to come by, the criteria being that you keep a string of stunts running for the entire course. Considering that some runs last up to four and a half minutes, and there is so much else required of you, it comes off as nearly impossible at times. The 5-star string also bothers me because it takes the emphasis off of the stunts entirely, so the only way to get it most of the time is to bound from wall to wall accumulating close-hits and swerving like a drunk. If obtaining a perfect score means defying what happens to be the entire make up of the game, then what’s the point? At least Stuntman: Ignition’s a more rewarding experience than its predeccessor. Each star represents an unlockable reward. This seems like a lot, until you realize that earning two stars will only unlock a colour option for whatever vehicle is featured in that stunt (you never have a choice) and the colour-option is only available for the stunt you’ve just completed, which seems rather redundant.
Progression is tiring. At first you must at least reach 1-star in every act of every set to continuously unlock levels. Stuck on a stunt? Then the only option is to go back and perfect all of the ones already completed. This becomes a daunting task later in the game, where there isn’t a single run which can be mastered within an hour of time. Requirements for unlocking the harder sets also become so ridiculous that you’ll eventually have to have an average of 3 or 4 stars on each run. Once youíve reached a certain point, youíll have to re-play several of the levels, trying to earn enough stars to unlock the next set of films. Hours are spent trying to make runs perfect, although the most subtle of mistakes can throw an otherwise perfect scene right at the end (I.E. one of the many glitches pervading Ignition).
Stuntman Ignition looks like a middle-of-the-line original Xbox title. Sure, the 360 has provided some glistening reflections and whatnot. It’s similarly bad off in the form of audio. Permitting that whichever director you’re working with chooses to inform you of an unplanned stunt, you’ll probably want to go without the distraction of music until you know each course. Even then, the in-game music provided is on the shabby side. On the bright side, the Directors are all entertaining enough to keep you coming back for more. Self-directed pieces in which you must still complete a list of pre-requisites are available. The only difference here is that you build the stuntyard, and it’s never quite as fulfilling due to every piece needing to be unlocked seperately and the better pieces being far too hard to come by.
If you must complete every game you play, then donít bother. Still haven’t found anyone on Xbox LIVE or on public message boards who has even claimed to have completed the game 100%. The online community has already dwindled down significantly. Ranked matches are few and far between over the last week or so, which gives me an uneasy feeling about the high percentage of 360 games that will be dead entirely due to every shooter released in the last two years featuring LIVE support. The field of edgy online driving games is becoming similiarly over-saturated.
Five out of ten
- Exhilerating cinematic gameplay
- Directors' are less picky than on the PS2 game
- Capable of up to 8-players simultaneously online
- -It's already becoming hard to fill a game with players on LIVE
- Picky directors' cause too many over-takes
- Sub-par graphics in comparison to competition
- Fallout already did the "Exaggerated" update to the original Stuntman twice.
- Poor first impression: In my first five seconds of gameplay I hit a race-ending glitch (on Xbox LIVE)...