Title  : Stuntman
Platforms  : Sony PlayStation 2
Publisher  : Infogrames
ESRB Rating  : Teen
Game Rating  : 7.8
Review by  : Ken Gagne

One of my favorite movies is Terminator 2, with a favorite scene being when the T-1000 hijacks a big rig to chase young John Connor. The truck's former occupant is carelessly flung from the vehicle, tumbling onto the speeding pavement below. 

That's no easy stunt! I wanted to be that unfortunate trucker. And, in a sense, Infogrames' new PlayStation 2 game lets gamers take on the oft-overlooked movie role of the Stuntman. 

From the makers of Driver, Stuntman challenges players to drive vehicles through a variety of movie sets, being filmed for scenes in such fictional films as "Toothless in Wapping" and "A Whoopin' and A Hollerin'". These scenes range from London police chases to more rural, "Dukes of Hazzard"-style shenanigans. 

The movie director offers constant vocal direction throughout the level, indicating which turns to make, barrels to overturn, and jumps to take. Failing a minor stunt will reduce your score for the level, but most failures aren't minor, and will require the entire level to be restarted. Players cannot simply race through the entire level, practicing its entirety with each trial; they must perfect each individual stunt before gaining the mastery to proceed further in the stage. In other words: drive, crash, repeat. 

This repetition would be more bearable if Stuntman weren't so nostalgic about loading times, harkening back to the early days of PlayStation games. For every retry, gamers will wait ten seconds for the level to reset. The demanding stunts and lack of constant progression is a bad combination, frustrating gamers looking to engage in more regular activity. 

The controls are simple, but occasionally a bit squirrelly, dependent on the vehicle and terrain. Stunts that require precise driving, such as driving onto a train or between two trees, will require multiple attempts. 

The music is surprisingly appropriate not only for a video game, but for the genre of movie being filmed in each level. The director's commentary helpfully accompanies the on-screen icons that indicate each stunt. Each level's introductory cinematics, though, feature interviews with a virtual stuntman who lifelessly speaks, stutters, and stammers. Realistic, perhaps — he's a stuntman, not an actor — but thoroughly uninteresting. 

The other gameplay modes are equally lackluster. A series of arena games allows the opportunity to hone driving and precision skills, but with little direction in how to do so. A stunt construction mode lets players decorate the arena with their own machinations, with success in the movie filming mode providing access to a wider variety of toys and props. Anyone frustrated by the constant refilming of scenes in the game's prebuilt levels is unlikely to have the patience to design their own, however. 

Stuntman is an innovative take on the hackneyed driving genre. The stunts players can pull off and the practice necessary to achieve them are both insane, with various niceties making gamers feel that they really are shooting a movie. Sadly, the realism extends to the truth that being a stuntman is often all work and no play.


This article is copyright (c) 2002, 2007 by Ken Gagne. All rights reserved. Not to be distributed without permission.

Original publication: Sentinel & Enterprise, 08-Jul-02