STUNTMAN / Atari / PS2

Stuntman is yet another one of the many, many, many concepts in gaming that look great in the "on-paper" stage but don't quite make it through the "execution" stage. The idea is that you play as a stunt driver (which is really what the game should have been called - you're never outside of a car) who does various increasingly difficult scenes in a series of five fictional movies. These are mostly car chases where you are either pursuing or outracing someone along a short course of a minute or two, and along the way doing movie car chase cliches like intentionally plowing through trash bins, launching off of ramps and stairs, and etc.

The first problem with all this is that the game isn't big on explanations, which is a problem when Gamestop is now gutting copies of the game to sell it in those little paper sleeves for $3 and thus taking quite a few manuals out of circulation. As you drive, objectives are highlighted pretty well and there's a director in your ear yammering at you, but the difficulty is that there's a whole lot of tight turning going on and you aren't always left with enough time to respond to the prompts, meaning you re-play each scene quite a few more times than you'd like. The game also does stuff like screaming "E BRAKE TURN!!!" at you without ever bothering to give you an explanation anywhere of what an "e brake turn" is (ProTip: it's a hand brake 180 using the circle button, though with the crappity cars the game usually gives you it's more like a hand brake 120 and then 60 of awkwardly hitting the gas and manuevering in the right direction.) Driving physics are alright but not quite there, and "not quite there" isn't good enough for how repetitive these sequences are. Handling is more forgiving than, say, Gran Turismo, but less so than a GTA game, often seeming overly finicky, and grinding against walls or hitting rather small objects like a post tend to bring the car to a complete halt when it really shouldn't.

Fortunately, though the time limits are tight in each scene and you usually have to know what is coming to have a chance, the game is forgiving about little details such as whether you "e brake turned" around the stack of crates in the right direction. It'll dock you some points, but points are almost completely meaningless except for unlocking stuff for the Stunt Creator (more on that in a bit), and you can merrilly proceed on to the next stunt even after doing something rather stupid and crummy-looking.

So really, the main bulk of the game is kind of like playing the tutorial at the beginning of Driver or the auto tests in GTA: San Andreas ... just for the entirety of the game (and with a bit more ramming people into the ocean and launching over dumpsters.) If this sounds a bit tedious, it really is, especially with the punishing difficulty of just about everything beyond the first movie. I'm also left confused as to why Stuntman doesn't just quit and sue the production company, seeing as they regularly set him up for failure and injury by not warning of oncoming cars and obstacles. Compounding all this is some rather awful load times.

Stunt Creation mode is a bit more fun - you're dumped into a giant football arena and allowed to set up a myriad of ramps, obstacles and etc. to drive through to your hearts content, and also save these tracks and share them with anyone else that might have happened to fish this game out of the bin. The problem is that you're required to play deep into the main game to unlock just about everything fun.

The game has some really nice recreations of major cities that it pans and zooms through at the outset of each movie, which leaves you all the more baffled when you get into the main game engine and it looks not much better than Driver 2 on the PS1. There's also little music and what there is is pretty terrible.

Videos :

* Gameplay Video
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