Stuntman (PS2) – Review Repost

Stuntman - CoverStuntman is one of those few games that really should be able to sell themselves from the concept alone, however, the game fails rather spectacularly due to a number of gameplay and performance features that seem to be easily corrected.

Gameplay: D
Concept: B+
Course Design: C-

In Stuntman, you play as a stunt driver assisting in about 6-7 movies, each with 3-5 stunt sequences. Each sequence is made up of about 10 to 20 specific moves that you make on the set layout, including moves such as jumps, close calls and overtakes with traffic, 180 degree turns, smashing through boxes or other obstacles, or in some cases using a special trigger to rig an explosion or other event. The stunt course is always the same, with specific points that you need to cross within a given amount of time, or the stunt will fail. You don’t need to make all the stunt pieces work perfectly, as you have a small buffer for missed parts of the stunt, but this buffer decreases on the later movies. Also, sometimes failing to make a specific part of the stunt will automatically fail (such as not making a jump over a ravine and crashing the car). You need to successfully complete each stunt course before you can move on to the next. Between movie sets, you also participate in a stunt driving exhibition in a county fair arena, doing tricks such as truck jumps over other cars or through a burning hoop.

Stuntman - ScreenshotWhen you are driving the stunt course, green icons appear over the key stunt parts and the director will shout out what you need to do. The arrows also indicate which turns you need to make and how long you have to complete that stunt before you miss it; this timer is also audible so you know when you need to hurry up to make it to the next stunt point. A bar at the bottom of the screen shows you at a glance how far you are into the stunt, what parts you have missed, and approximately what is left to do before you complete the course.

Controls are pretty much straightforward for a driving game and are simple to learn.

The various movies all use some type of drivable vehicle and range in environments from country roads, city traffic, snowy drifts, and the dry desert. Most of the time you are in a car (with several different types in use throughout the game), but there’s also smaller vehicles like tuk-tuks and snowmobiles on the appropriate movies and drive just a bit differently than the cars. The environment is also realistically modeled to make snow-covered roads slippery and sandy areas a lack of good traction.

Overall, the idea of the game is good, but it fails in a major way due to the presentation of the game and some of the mechanics. Specifically, there are 3 parts that their combined influence on the game drastically harms the playability of this title.

First, you have no way at the start of each course to know what the layout of the stunt is. There’s no sandbox mode, and the only way to know the entire course is to be able to play it all the way to the end of the stunt course. The director’s voice commands are not great (they’re timed with how you are driving and not with what the timing of the stunt script is), and actually can be drowned out by the music and sound effects, and thus they are very ineffective. Add to this that sometimes it can be hard to locate the next stunt indicator or know exactly what you need to do to complete that stunt if you’ve missed a lot on the early part of the course, and you easily could be repeating a given stunt course numerous times until you figure out the right way to do it.

Second, the margin of error for completing some of the qualitative stunts, such as passing or overtaking a car, making a 180 turn, or the like, is extremely small and at times nearly impossible to satisfy. It’s understandable that in a real stunt, these will be tight margins, but for a video game, the margin should be a bit more favorable on the player’s side to make the game fun and not a chore. There were a lot of courses that I had to redo several times until I got a rough idea of what was acceptable and what wasn’t so that I could complete it.

Finally, the game features the absolute worst in loading times from the PS2 drive, nearly taking 20-30 seconds to load a stunt. This may not seem like a lot, but a huge problem is that if you fail a stunt course, you have to let the game completely reload the course from disk. And given both points above will require you to replay stunt courses over and over until you get near perfection on all points, you spend a lot of time staring at the wait screen. This is probably the biggest blunder with this game, as I cannot believe that this wasn’t caught turning playtesting. Understandably, this load time issue may have arisen from the cross-platform nature of the game, but still, I would think that once this was observed on the PS2, the developers would have fixed it.

Stuntman - ScreenshotI managed to get all the way to the last stunt, but with several frustrating moments ready to throw the controller at the screen. I never did complete the last stunt (requiring you to launch your car off a pier into a fleeing seaplane) because I could never get past the extremely tight timing of the rest of the leading to this final sequence in order to make it. Getting to that point in the game felt like a chore more than enjoyment. Even the midlevel closed-course stunt challenges were difficult to complete, and as you couldn’t skip these, made the overall experience highly disappointing.

Graphics: B
Sound: C

Other technical aspects of the game are ok. Graphics are decently but nothing outstanding from a PS2; some slowdown occurs when there’s a lot of action on the screen, but doesn’t detract from the game itself. The sound is not really that inspired, and as mentioned above, has some volume problems with the ‘ear candy’ overwhelming the actual sound elements that are needed to play the game.

Overall: D+

While, at the time of writing, the Stuntman game has come and gone, it’s still easy to find used copies at trade-in stores. However, those curious about this game are strongly recommended to either rent or get it on the cheap, only because it is very likely that the aforementioned problems with repeating courses and load times will quickly drive you away from this game. Stuntman had a lot of promise, but just ends up being a very lackluster game that could have easily been better with what seems to be simply playtesting fixes.

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