Grizzly Gaming

Friday, August 3, 2012

Whatever Happened To - Stuntman

 I’m not a huge fan of driving games. Actually, scratch that – I’m not a huge fan of racing games. For instance, I absolutely love the driving mechanics in “Grand Theft Auto 4” and I’ve yet to meet anyone (myself included) who doesn’t appreciate a few (dozen) rounds of “Mario Kart.” But for some reason, I just cannot get into a game where the main gameplay mechanic is racing. I’ve felt this way about racing games even going back to my younger days. For example, games like “Gran Turismo” or “Forza” just could not bore me more.

Now, if there’s some sort of hook to a racing game, well that changes things. “Mario Kart” is a good example of a racing game with a hook. Along with racing around a track, you could also collect power-ups to enhance your performance or mess up someone else. The old series “Road Rash” is another example of a racing game with a great hook. In “Road Rash” you would race motorcycles on real roadways (as in, not around tracks) but you could also have weapons like chains and billy clubs to beat on anyone who tried to pass you.

Later on, I was even a big fan of the original “Driver,” a game where you took on the role of a getaway driver working for various criminal organizations. Each “race” took the form of some sort of criminal act, (getting someone to a location, racing away from the scene of a crime) but it was much more interesting to me for the game to be set in the context of a “getaway driver” than just a “race car driver.”

But perhaps my favorite driving game of all time was the “Stuntman” series. The first title was a PS2/Xbox game while the second in the series, “Stuntman: Ignition” (the title I’m most familiar with) was for the Xbox 360/PS3. In these games, you took on the role of a stunt driver performing driving sequences and stunts for various fake versions of well known movies/genres. Stunts would range from high speed chase sequences, jumps and hitting specific marks to trigger elements like explosions or gunfire. Often you were tasked with driving a unique vehicle which would make performing even simple stunts more difficult. 

"Strike Force Omega" let you drive some really huge vehicles

“Stuntman: Ignition” featured six different movies to work on with each movie presenting six different scenes to film. At the beginning of a scene, the director gives you a set of objectives to complete during the course of filming which you earn points for completing. Successfully completing objectives also increases a point multiplier that can be extended by also driving in a more exciting manner (by driving closely to walls/other vehicles or drifting, for example). At the end of a scene, your performance was given a star rating and you could choose to retry the scene to get a higher score. The only thing was, to obtain the highest star rating, you’d have to hit every element in the scene while successfully maintaining your multiplier (“stringing” a scene, as in, stringing together each objective). To string a scene took not only an incredible amount of skill and tenacity but also a great deal of patience and strategy as completing scenes was usually a game of trial and error and hitting every element in a scene required nothing short of complete memorization.

“Ignition” was more accessible than the first game with the addition of a “strike” system, which let you miss a few objectives before the director called for a scene to be restarted. Though, you would probably want to restart a scene on your own if you missed more than a few elements as your score would suffer severely if you weren’t paying close attention to the course and the stunts laid out.

I was a big fan of “Stuntman: Ignition” because it took the racing genre and put a unique twist on it, delivering an experience unlike any other driving title. While the movies themselves were just thinly-veiled parodies of major motion pictures, like “Never Kill Me Again,” a nod to the James Bond films, and “Night Avenger,” an obvious take on the new Batman series, that didn’t take anything away from the incredibly fun concept of being a movie stunt driver. My favorite movie to work on in the game was probably “Strike Force Omega,” an action movie about a mercenary group blowing stuff up in the desert. In this movie, you got to drive a few different, huge, vehicles through all manner of explosions and gunfire in a desert setting.

 This scene from "Overdrive" ends with you crashing that yellow super car into that helicopter

When I first started playing the game, the fun initially came from seeing what kind of off-the-wall movie could be next and what new, outlandish stunts they would have lined up. After completing each scene, I had a blast going back through each film, trying to earn the most stars that I could. As the sequences became longer and more complex, memorization was essential to scoring big, hitting elements at the right spot and knowing when and where to try and extend your multiplier with a drift or a close call. I’ll be honest, it was a bit frustrating at times when trying to string scenes because one little mistake could ruin your multiplier forcing you to start over or accept that this run will only net you four stars.

“Stuntman: Ignition” was released in 2007 and the first game, “Stuntman” was released way back in 2002. (So by that release schedule, we should be seeing another this year, right? Right?) Though “Ignition” was rated fairly well and was one of THQ’s highest selling titles the quarter it was released, apparently it wasn’t good enough as nothing was ever heard about the series again. The designer of “Ignition,” Paradigm Entertainment, was bought by THQ in 2006 and subsequently closed in 2008, which would, I assume, leave the “Stuntman” series in the hands of THQ. But seeing as how THQ is experiencing its fair share of problems these days, resurrecting a series that only sold marginally well is probably not at the top of their to-do list. And that’s really a shame because it takes a special kind of racing game to capture my attention the way “Ignition” did and its innovative take on what a racing game could be somehow yet to be replicated.


Blogger takeshi007 said...

For sure this was also cool game and I also a fan of racing game but I think it is not totally a race it also similar with the game play of twisted metal.

Zombie games shooting

December 1, 2012 at 6:07 AM  

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An avid gamer and long-time pro wrestling fan, stay tuned to Grizzly Gaming and the Delco Elbow Drop for game reviews and pro wrestling news.

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