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Stuntman
Review By:  Christopher Coey
Developer:  Reflections
Publisher:  Atari/Infogrames
# of Players:  1
Genre:  Action
ESRB:  Teen
Online:  No
Accessories:  Memory Card
Date Posted:  8-29-02

Iím a very patient gamer. I kinda pride myself on that fact. I believe that almost any game has redeeming qualities, you just have to look past some of the flaws, or stick out the rough parts, until the end. Often friends of mine will marvel as I continued to play a game long after theyíve given up on it and moved on to something new. Iíd say that one of my happiest gaming moments was when I finally cleared Ninja Gaiden way back in the days of the NES. In those days, you were lucky if a game took three or four hours to clear. It took me almost that long just to clear the last level of that game. These days, we gripe if a game is shorter than around 15 hours. Initially I worried about Stuntman, thinking it was going to be too short. I was sort of thinking it might have the "State of Emergency" thing: over-hyped and lacking of solid gameplay. Well, I didnít actually count the total number of hours I spent on this game, but it seems like it was going on forever. Now, before I go into my rant, Iíll say that this IS a solid game. The gameplay is awesome, the crashes, and physics are the best Iíve ever seen. And, I donít discount the fact that maybe I just sucked at this game. I know I play a lot of games, but maybe, for whatever reason I just couldnít grasp this game; but I doubt it. This game is hard. Seriously, ridiculously difficult. The problem is that you donít have any freedom. There are a set of queues, and stunts that you need to perform, in order, within a set time for every level. If you miss one, you loose a certain percentage of completion (based on the difficulty of the stunt), and you have to reach a set percentage in order to finish the scene, consequently moving onto the next level. However, most of the times you miss a queue, you donít just miss it, you end up crashing, or upside down. Not to mention (especially in the later levels) that the time constraints are so tight, that if you are for whatever reason not hitting your queues, youíre more than likely going to end up behind a second or two and not make the next checkpoint.

With 24 levels in six different movies, plus an additional 5 arena stunts; During the course of completing any given stunt scene, anything and everything that could possibly go wrong, will. But the biggest Ďangerí factor in the game is that on top of all the things Iíve already discussed which make levels difficult, the designers went an extra step and put a whole bunch of things in JUST to screw you up. As if certain levels are not hard enough already; right after an almost impossible stunt, when you are trying to regain control of the car (either because youíve landed a jump, or are skidding for instance), another car will pass right by your path and knock you just enough to send you out of control. Or you may scrap along a wall after a hard corner, only to find a three inch raised brick outcropping that will stop you dead in your tracks.

Letís discuss the load times. They are by no means excessive. But they are one of the first things youíll notice when you start the game. The menu system isnít very well designed, so that whenever you need to get back to the main-menu, you have to wait for it to reload. This is especially noticeable when you are going through the Ďdriving gamesí, since in order to go to the next game (even after youíve completed the previous game) you have to exit out, back to the main menu, then select Ďdriving gamesí, then select the game, and wait for that to load up as well. When working through the main game (Ďcareer modeí), you wait for a cut-scene to load, then watch it, then another load, then watch the level overview, another load, then play the mission.

As I mentioned before, the "scenes" can be difficult. When you first start a new level, there is little info as to what you need to do. Essentially, you head for the first queue or checkpoint, and hope for the best. Usually youíll end up crashing, but hopefully you got a look at what the NEXT stunt is. After the mission reloads, you begin again, and hopefully make it to the second stunt before crashing. Repeat, repeat, repeat, until you figure out all the stunts you need to perform in order to complete the scene. Now the only problem is to actually pull them all of back-to-back. Again Iíll mention, some of the later levels are really hard. I wonít mention which level in particular (because Iím sure a lot of you out there will breeze through the same level with no trouble, and Iíll look like an idiot), and it might have been the fact that I was playing all night on very little sleep, but one level took me over 3 hours to complete. Normally, if someone told me that they were playing a game that had over 24 levels, and some of the levels took more than 3 hours to play, Iíd say that was a great thing. BUT, if those levels from start to finish, really only take about two and a half minutes to complete, thatís a problem.

Once again, I need to bring up the point about the load times. Each time you load a mission, it takes about 10 -15 seconds to load. No problem right? Well, in a difficult mission, you may start, and crash within the first ten seconds of play if one of the first few stunts is particularly difficult. So, do the math; ten seconds load time, for ten seconds of play, then you need to restart/reload. Of course, hopefully, most of the time youíll last more than ten seconds. BUT, keep in mind that the whole level is only around 150 seconds long. Therefore, if I think about playing that level for 3 hours, in which I estimated that I restarted around 400 times, that means: 400 x10 seconds=4000 seconds, or over 1 hour in load time. Be prepared to stare at that load screen for a while.

One thing that I think ALL quality games should have these days is a bunch of sweet DVD extras. Unfortunately developers just donít seem to want to bother, which seems unusual considering how well special edition DVDs are selling recently. SpyHunter had some great disk additions, as did SSX Tricky. Thankfully, so does Stuntman. As a matter of fact, the additions that this disk has makes it seem a lot like it IS a type of "special edition." Thereís a "Making of Stuntman" video/documentary. As well as an interview with famous daredevil Tommy Trubble, and another with the game's consultant, award winning stuntman Vic Armstrong.

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