If any of you ever played the original Stuntman, you may recall that it was a troubled game that frustrated nearly everyone who went near it. Its trial-and-error approach was not only excruciatingly hard, but it also made the game a little too hard. So, there's no secret that the first Stuntman was a dud, and thus the fall of its developer, Reflections, responsible for Driver, continued. Now the series has been sold to THQ, and this iteration of Stuntman was put together by Paradigm. And you could only assume that since we're in another generation, things could only get better for Stuntman, right? Not really.
You see, off the bat, Ignition already suffers from the same carnal mistake that plagued the first Stuntman game: the trial and error type gameplay has to go. I understand that there are requisites to complete per stage in order to progress, but there are other ways to go about this. For instance, instead of completing a checklist of objectives, you can be allowed to finish a stage, and be penalized or earn a much smaller reward for your work as the stuntman. Paradigm could've taken another route in setting up the game's progression, a more innovative one, particularly.
If you aren't aware of the concept behind Stuntman, it's a game where you are put into the cockpit of a vehicle for a big budget Hollywood movie, and as the stuntman, it is your responsibility to pull off all of the maneuvers that your director cues you with. An example would be you piloting a high speed vehicle for a James Bond-esque spy flick, and the director will tell you where to go, how to get there, where to turn, how to turn, where to use boost, what to do once you arrive somewhere, and so forth. Complete each cue successfully and you'll move on; if you miss five, you have to restart – and believe me, you'll be doing that often.
There's a point system which will translate to the amount of stars you'll earn when your performance is ranked. And a good way to multiply your points is by "stringing" your combos. Even if the director isn't telling you to perform a stunt, do something exciting anyway, in between. Drive close to a stack of crates, or split the space in between two cars, and you'll keep your multiplier piling up.
I do like the fact that completing a stage rewards you with bonuses and such, that's a nice touch. Also, playing each mission is definitely more exciting than the past games, largely due to the capabilities of the PlayStation 3, as opposed to the PS2. In addition to cars, Stuntman will also let you pilot motorcycles. And, of course, depending on the type of vehicle you're in, handling will vary among all of them. Speaking of which, the controls may feel a little loose, so it'll take some time getting used to them. Personally, I'd like to see them just a little tighter.
Gameplay content for Ignition includes the Career mode, which spans across a total of six movies, each with six scenes. Naturally, the further you progress, the harder each level gets. In between movie shoots will be rehearsal trials, too, to elongate the Career mode. Furthermore, fantastic efforts in Career mode will yield you with award nominations, and such. But, again, the problem lies with the trial and error nature of this game – so unless you're the obsessive compulsive type, I'd stay away from Ignition. That said, you can breeze through the Career in just a few days if you don't mind settling for something less than perfect. Otherwise, make friends with the restart button; thankfully, though, at least the restart loading times are instant.
Moving on, there's the Constructor mode, and that's exactly what you think it is: a create-a-set mode where you coordinate your own stunt sequence. And when you want to play against others, you can either invite three of your friends to play four player battles at home, or go online for games totaling eight players, across three online modes, all of which are rather enjoyable. And, lastly, there's the Quick Fix mode which lets you play a quick game, but you can only select from the movies which you've completed already.
Visually, Stuntman: Ignition is a mixed-bag. On one hand, the game features a 720p image with some really nice looking special effects, a good color palette full of bright colors, deforming environments, and a steady framerate. But on the other hand, the rest of Ignition screams rudimentary attention to detail. The cars are designed with choppy details, as rough edges aren't very uncommon, and the textures that they're composed of just aren't spectacular. Additionally, the game isn't utilizing anti-aliasing very well, as not only are the visuals rough around the edges, but those edges are also pretty jaggy. The aliasing may become more apparent when viewing Ignition on a larger display, especially if it's a plasma. And because the game doesn't allow for 1080i upscaling, overscan may be an annoying problem for those who are plagued by it when viewing a 720p image.
Stuntman Ignition isn't a bad looking game, but it misses the mark of being good. Average is probably the best word to describe it, as nothing about it really screams hi-definition, aside from the fact that it runs at a high-def resolution. Quite honestly, I kept on thinking how similar some parts of the game were to Full Auto – and that's a two year old X360 launch title. Other than that, the game is marred with subpar car models, and average textures. Thankfully, the game does have a number of important visual positives, such as the chaotic scenery and special effects, which maintains the balance of the game's aesthetics.
Being a game that revolves around you taking orders from a director while driving a car recklessly around a movie-set, you should know what Ignition's audio consists of. It's largely the director informing you of your next stunt, with tons of explosions, a cinematic score accompanying you, and various other sound effects. It's nothing fantastic, but the audio does do a good job of capturing the game's surroundings. Plus the voice acting is solid stuff. But if I could change one thing, it'd be the soundtrack that plays during the main menu – it's just not good.
What it all boils down to is that Stuntman: Ignition isn't a bad game, because I've played many of those and this just isn't one of them. But I also can't say that Stuntman: Ignition is a good game. It's an average game, and I don't recommend a $60 purchase for it. Just like a popcorn flick isn't worth more than a rental, Stuntman: Ignition is ultimately the type of game you'd want to rent. While the multiplayer is fun and the Constructor mode is cool, the Career mode can be a bit short, and the game in general doesn't offer a whole lot to keep you coming back to. Additionally, it's visually generic, although I do applaud its aural presentation. Rent this one first.