September 11, 2002
Stuntman - Review
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Collisions are spectacular.
With a history including games such as Destruction Derby and Driver (and the sequels) on PSOne there was little doubt the Reflections first game on Playstation 2 was bound to generate a lot of interest. While many were expecting Driver 3 to be that game Reflections surprised everyone by announcing Stuntman. They have strayed too far away from their roots however as the game places you in the seat of a number of cars which must complete a series of stunts on six different movies. It's an interesting concept that, at the very least, promises some unique gameplay.

In Atari Stuntman you play the role of a Hollywood Stuntman who has to perform all of the stunts in big-budget movies. You're taken through each of the stunts in a step-by-step process with guidance from the director of the movie (where to turn, what to jump, what to drive through etc), but actually performing all of the stunts takes quite a bit of skill and talent. While you start off in a movie based on typical English gangster movies in the vein of Lock, Stock and Snatch, which has some pretty easy stunts, but by the third movie things start to heat up, and the stunts start to get quite a bit tougher.

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Replays are a game highlight.
Stuntman contains two main game modes. For the majority of the game you will play the career mode that allows you to work on 6 different movies. When you are at a location you will have to drive through different stages performing a variety of stunts such as scraping along other cars, jumping over bridges, handbrake turns, passing close to oncoming traffic or getting close to explosions. Of course, you also have a pretty strict time limits, and failure to complete the majority of the tasks (of which there are usually around 20 per stage) will result in failure and a need to restart the level. Each movie shoot has around four different stages to complete. Perhaps the most exciting aspect of this game is that after completing all the stunts on a movie shoot you get to see a trailer of the movie incorporating footage of the stunts which you performed. These aren't pre-renders but more like your game generated stunts (and mistake) spliced into the trailer with some pre-rendered footage to flesh out the story.

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The Indy Jones inspired level.
The other main game mode is the Stunt arena. During the career mode you are given items such as jumps, fire rings, and ramps which can be placed in and arena to show off your skills in front of a large crowd. Another game mode on the disc contains a series of time trial type tests to complete as well as some DVD Extras about the development of the game, which while not overly detailed, are a welcome inclusion - and include a teaser trailer for an upcoming Reflections game, Driver 3.

Unfortunately this game, while addictive, is madly frustrating. It's not uncommon to have to restart the levels dozens of times before completion. This wouldn't be so bad if there weren't any load times, but there are, and they happen every time you restart a stage. Also frustrating is the accuracy at which you must drive. Sometimes the game wants to drive the car through is only as wide as the car and by even scraping the sides you will loose a second putting you outside the time limit. This is made even more difficult by medium frame rate and occasional slowdown.

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Just making it in front of the train.
Graphically Atari Stuntmen is solid, if not outstanding. Once again Reflections have shown their ability to squeeze a tremendous amount out of a console, especially as this is their first Playstation 2 title. However, it's not perfect and there are some areas of noticeable slowdown which, while rare, occurs during some of tight turns or awkward manoeuvres often resulting in a collision and being sent back to the beginning. The cut-scenes are quite impressive with some great pre-rendered sections and the inclusion of your own stunts, while using the game-engine, works quite well. Perhaps the highlight of this game is the damage and destruction caused to the cars. From bumpers to doors the game destroys the car as you collide with any objects in the game world.

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Check out the damage to the car.
Sound is one area where this game excels. The music is tailored to each level so that in the Dukes of Hazard type level you have country styled music while in the James Bond inspired level you have action type music. The sound effects are just as impressive as the car screeches around the levels, crashes into objects or comes crunching back to earth after a jump. When it comes to the voices the Director soon becomes very tiresome after numerous "Cut" or "What are you thinking" type comments. Strangely the director has exactly the same accent on all the movie sets. It would have been nice to have different directors on each movie with different phrases. On a brighter note the voices in the movie trailers are top notch and quite entertaining.

Were it not for the lengthy load times between restarting levels, which happens often, and the frame rate problems which creates problems when trying to squeeze the car in narrow gaps, or getting close to cars, this game would rate a lot higher, possibly in the 90's. Unfortunately these problems are annoying enough to reduce the overall enjoyment of the title. But don't get me wrong, Atari Stuntman is an original idea, is very addictive, and is quite a cool game to show your mates. It's worth a rental at the very least, but given the difficulty and time required to complete the game it wouldn't be a bad idea for racing and car game fans to add to your collection.

GRAPHICSFrame rate is a little low, but the game looks realistic enough.
SOUNDDirector is the same in all levels; voices, music and effects are good.
GAMEPLAYThe load times are annoying and precision annoying but it's addictive.
VALUEIt's pretty tough and repetitive, but will have you back until completed.
OVERALLAtari Stuntman is a great original title. Were it not for the extreme difficulty and load times, which some people won't be able to tolerate, then this game would have scored quite a bit higher. For those with a little patience then this game is well worth a look and bodes very well for Reflections future Playstation 2 titles, including Driver 3.

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