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THQ Stuntman: Ignition
- Huge stunts and explosions, frenzied multiplayer, stunt track construction set, more forgiving than the original.
- Trial and error track memorization, underwhelming graphics, somewhat irritating soundtrack selection, occasional frame rate sputter.
Stuntman: Ignition isn't without it's flaws, but there are just enough thrills and spills -- especially in multiplayer -- to make it worthy of purchase.
Price$ 99.95 (AUD)
What red-blooded bloke hasn't fantasized about pulling off some insane vehicular stunt for the viewing pleasure of millions?
It might not be high art, but all those collisions and explosions sure get the testosterone flowing.
The Fall Guy
Career mode consists of over forty chaotic scenes spread between odd-job side projects --like commercials and stunt shows--and six feature films that riff on everything from James Bond to the Dukes of Hazard. Every scene is filled with yellow icons that demand specific maneuvers: jump this truck, land on this roof-top, power-slide this turn, and roll between moving cars without a scratch. You'll even occasionally get the chance to launch missiles or fire a machine gun by hitting the action button in specific spots.
Between these rigidly choreographed moments, it's up to you to throw in whatever power-slides and near-misses you can manage. A running ticker keeps track of your score multiplier, and the whole thing resets if you go too long without turning crates into confetti or otherwise driving like a maniac, so the highest scores go to those who "string" together the whole course from start to finish.
Practice Makes Perfect
Like anything worth doing, nailing reverse-180s and mid-air barrel rolls is a lot harder than it looks. Unlike the first Stuntman game, however, you get five strikes before the director throw's a fit and calls a reshoot. Easy mode brings that total to seven strikes at the expense of half your points, but Stuntman: Ignition is still painfully unforgiving in its quest for cinematic perfection.
Vehicles handle convincingly whether you're riding a motorcycle or piloting a hovercraft, the reasonably pretty environments vary from the streets of San Francisco to treacherous sheets of ice. There's no shortage of spectacular stunts, but the troublesome emphasis on rote memorization and endless retries knocks a good deal of fun right out of it.
Still, finally getting all the way through each brutal obstacle course with five stars is deeply rewarding in ways that running a perfect racing line isn't, and new modes crank up the value. "Quick Fix" events let you grab a few stunts when you only have a few minutes, and the excellent new Constructor mode lets you build and save your own dream arena of unlockable ramps, obstacles, and "smashables" to link together pre-placed director stunts, or just for freestyle cruising.
Hell on Wheels
What truly saves the inspired but flawed concept from its own inherent limitations, though, is the crazed selection of multiplayer modes. Tear through forking courses with infinite nitrous in a straight-up race to the finish, steal stunt strings from opponents by ramming into them in frantic backlit battles, or join seven other ghost-car hooligans in a crazed dash through career mode's white-knuckle scenes. All that's missing is a full-on destruction derby.
Stuntman: Ignition isn't for everyone, and even enthusiastic wannabe performers will occasionally cry out in frustration if they play for too long at a stretch, but it's still as good an execution of this offbeat concept as you're ever likely to see, and a welcome online departure from straight-laced racing purism.
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