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PS2 Staff Review by Ryan McCarthy

Reflections Studios made quite a name for themselves when they released the fantastic Driver on the PSone. Featuring an extremely unique premise and a very mature storyline, it became one of the most popular games on the system. They followed that up with the sequel, Driver 2, in 2000. While highly ambition, the game failed terribly in execution and didnt quite live up to its predecessor. Since then, Reflections has been working on Stuntman, one of the most highly anticipated games of the summer. Now released though Stuntman, despite its brilliant premise, fails miserably in its execution, proving only to further tarnish the reputation of its developers.

Since its first preview builds, Stuntman has always looked really impressive in terms of visuals. The finished product is no different and in turn looks great, with the car models very well detailed and textured. They also deform really well, and the crashes (especially in the Stunt Arena) look great. The environments you race in arent as impressive, but theyre still filled with a good amount of detail and look far from ugly. Theyre slightly jaggy, yet not so much as to be a hindrance to the driving. The character models in the game are disgraceful though; no better detailed than those in the PSone Driver games. However, there arent that many models during play anyhow, so its a just a minor point. Most important, for a driving game, is a steady framerate, and in this Stuntman delivers. The action stays solid and crisp regardless of the amount of onscreen mayhem, with any slowdown rarely noticeable. The game is actually quite good graphically, making its terrible gameplay even more heartbreaking.

Stuntman is all about precision driving, making each turn and jump perfectly, which is fine by me, but the problem is Stuntmans execution. There are so many little flaws that combine to make for a very, very frustrating experience. First and foremost is the lack of any pre-stunt objectives for the player to see. Instead, the director barks out the details WHILE YOURE DOING THE STUNTS!! This essentially makes the first five attempts of each stunt purely trial-and-error, just so you can see what needs to be done. To make matter worse, half the time the guy directs way too late, resulting in unpreventable failures. Each stunt consists of around 15-20 minor things to do (break through boxes, jump a fence, etc.), so the need to memorize each equals the skill required to drive. Also with no mid-stunt checkpoints, failing means the entire level has to be redone, regardless of where you failed. Adding insult to injury is the over 10 second loading times you have to wait through to retry each stunt. Considering each one usually takes around 10 tries, you spend a lot of your time staring at the friggin loading screens. All this crap hurts even more when you see the stuff thats great about Stuntman. The six movies you work on provide great variety and the stunts you perform (when actually performed) are really exhilarating. When each movie is completed, some of your actual stunt-driving footage is spliced with CG, and youre privy to some cool-ass trailers for each. The added driving games (Precision, Speed and Stunt) are well done and are a good diversion from the normal (read: crappy) Career mode. Yet the hidden gem has to be the Stunt Arena, where you use items (unlocked from Career mode) to create whatever brand of crazy insaneness involving car stunts you can dream up. With a boatload of cool cars and items, the Arena will last you quite a while. Its just a shame that the garbage execution overshadows all these interesting aspects.

Stuntmans sound is pretty much run-of-the-mill. Theres nothing really great, but theres also nothing really bad either. The sound effects are basic, but get the job done. All the voice acting is good, but its funny to note that there are two different voice actors for the stuntman, one for the CG and one for the in-game bits. In terms of music, there is good variety (totally different tunes for each flick) but with the amount of times you need to retry stunts, the repeating tracks will soon get on your nerves.

The amount of value in Stuntman is hard for me to judge. If you include how much youll be playing it all told, then it should get a 10. A good chunk of that though is the repetition of stunts, which I dont think should count. The six movies are varied and will last you awhile, but youll need the patience to keep up. What you actually will enjoy playing a lot of are the two mini-games, Stunt Arena and Driving Games. The amount of toys to use in the Arena is plentiful and the driving games are challenging yet doable.

To think how good Stuntman might have been, had Reflections not totally blown its execution, saddens me. With such an original idea and occasional (rare) moments of pure fun, with better gameplay this could have been one of the best of the year. But in actuality, Reflections did blow the execution, and because of this Stuntman really isnt that good. The only gamers who I can see really enjoying the game are those who love precision driving (me), and those who have very high patience (not me). Otherwise, the game becomes too daunting and frustrating for the average folk. I say rent it only if you like racing games (and have extra controllers handy). Oooh, it could have been sooo good

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