12 January 2010

Stuntman: Ignition - Xbox 360, PS3

There was a game for the Atari 2600 called Human Cannonball. In it, you tried to launch a dude into a safety net. Of course, the "dude" was a blocky stick figure and the "safety net" looked like a highway traffic sign. This game was joined by other titles of the era that tried to put the player into a scenario that was plausible if not probable. Playing "Human Cannonball" as a kid was probably as close as I was going to get to being in the circus.
Stuntman: Ignition is a great game because it captures that childhood fascination of growing up and having a cool job. What kid wouldn't want to be a stuntman? And now my thoughts turn to the late, great Evel Knievel. He was like a super hero when I was a kid. As I grew older, I viewed him more as a punk rock redneck. He did whatever the hell he wanted and didn’t care what people thought.
Even though he sounded like a barroom blowhard in most interviews, the man got up on that Harley Davidson dressed like a Las Vegas Captain America and he really jumped. No computers. No “trick photography” as they used to say. He really did it. No one can take that away from him.
If you asked him, he was a daredevil. That’s fine. Stuntman is another word for it. Playing this game I thought of him often. Also, I thought about some of my favorite movies from that era in the late 1970s and early 1980s that relied heavily on stunts instead of special effects. Just about any movie with Burt Reynolds, every episode of “The Dukes of Hazzard,” and many more. I won’t argue their merits as classic cinema, but they were fun.
So is this game. If you’re patient and persistent, you’ll like this game. And if you’re paying attention, you’ll understand two things: Being a stuntman takes precision, and stuntmen/stuntwomen are cool.
In Stuntman: Ignition you are the stuntman. You will perform six stunt sequences in six films along with a host of other side missions and game modes. You will drive a variety of vehicles that all handle well and are fun to drive. As you drive each vehicle through a series of progressively complicated sequences, a director will call out stunts for you to perform on the fly. Some are easy (jumps) some are hard (two-wheeling).
And sometimes it just doesn’t feel fair.
The icons that show you where to perform your next stunt often pop up too late or are hard to spot. The director’s timing is also questionable. There will be a lot of trial and error before you nail most of the sequences. If you like the game — and I loved it — you won’t mind. If you don’t have a lot of patience for getting things just right, this is not your game.
One thing I didn’t expect: The game is funny. Each movie in the game is a spoof of a Hollywood blockbuster genre. The solid voice acting is as good as any other game I’ve played and the extra features — a level editor and fun (if a bit vacant) online component round it out.
Stuntman: Ignition is a real treat that didn't get the attention it deserved. If you like movies, cool stunts and a challenge, this is the game for you.
By Victor Paul Alvarez