Friday, July 05, 2002

Open the Blast Door! No, Wait, Close the Blast Door!


The game that loves to frustrate. I'm talking about the damn PS2 title where you drive around in a car or a motorcycle or a monster truck or a tuk-tuk and do stunts whenever the film's Director tells you to do them.

Sometimes this means having him tell you to turn left when you've already decided that the safest/coolest direction is right. Or my personal favorite: "Use the ramp to get to the roof!" Where's the fucking ramp, you might ask yourself? Why, it's behind you. Have fun finding it in ten seconds or less before the timer at the top of the ramp runs out.

In fact, for a game that prides itself on being as true to life as a movie stunt-driving game can be, it sure as fuck isn't. Stuntdrivers typically walk the route they're going to drive first. Maybe they even have it mapped out, so they can study the intricacies of the course. Maybe they'll mathematically figure out what the best possible speed they should hit the launch ramp at, so that they can get it right in one take. You'll find none of these preparations in this game.

So when the director is getting pissed that you haven't miraculously driven the course perfectly by the fourth take and starts saying "Rolling!" with a tone of voice that succinctly conveys "Why the fuck did I hire you? My grandmother could have done this better by take two!" try and take that with a grain of salt and not run him over like he deserves.

While this game is fun about 10% of the time (the times that you've successfully guessed what it is your Director is going to say), I can't say enough things about what's wrong with it. And I don't know where to start. There's certain things that should be done right in a driving similator. Like cars that drive the way they're supposed to. Monster Trucks, for instance, are all wheel drive, and they're all wheel turn. This means that when you turn the wheel, all four wheels turn. When you step on the gas, all four wheels are supplied power. You won't get that in Stuntman. The Monster Truck in this game looks like it's a Monster Truck, but in fact behaves like a pickup truck with giant wheels stuck on it. Why is this a big deal, you say? Because when a Monster Truck is doing a nose-wheelie on its two front tires, you can hit the gas to bring it back down on all fours. You can't do that in this game, and trust me when I say that you'll be doing a few nose-wheelies in the Monster Truck.

Do you like repetition? Do you like repetition? Do you like repetition? Well do you? Me neither. In an effort to make this game seem like it contains more replay value than it really does, they put in a wee too bit much difficulty to force you to replay the levels over and over and over untill you get it right. I played some stunt levels literally one hundred times before I got the stunt right. Is that really necessary? Why is it that the English love to frustrate the living hell out of me? Besides the fact that you have to replay the level eighty thousand times just to finish it, that might not be good enough for the Director. You crossed the finish line? Big deal. You only finished 82 percent of the stunts, so try harder next take. You fail. Since when was 82% an "F"?!? Last I checked that was a "B" or even a "C" on some screwed up private school curves. As it turns out, some of the stunts are worth twenty percent of your score. So if you miss just that one stunt, you fail the entire run. In which case, you might be asking yourself why the effing hell didn't they just tell you that in the first place?!? "Hit the ultralite with your snowmobile on this run or don't bother finishing." What's the point of offering a % complete if it doesn't really matter?

Here's some other things wrong with the game, in no particular order:

1). Contrary to popular game-designing belief, there are more than just three positions that a front tire can angle out to when the steering wheel is turned.
2). Other vehicles' tires tend to role when the vehicle is moving. They just don't slide along on the ground like Stuntman displays them.
3). Motorcycles do not have a reverse gear. Especially ones with sidecars. From the 1940's.
4). Using the analog buttons on the PS2 is an enormous mistake when one needs to apply constant thumb-numbing pressure to ensure that the vehicle is moving at top speed. My rule of "sore-thumb" is: the sorer my thumb is when playing your game, the worse your game design is. Good games don't make my thumb hurt.
5). When driving into oncoming traffic in real life, oncoming car drivers tend to get out of the fucking way. Only in your sad game do they continue to drive on a rail like brainless robot automatons. Ever seen Ronin? Maybe even the more recent Bourne Identity? Oncoming cars swerve out of the way, because they're human beings who don't want to die when I hit them because they won't move an inch.

The funny thing is, this game could have been sooooo much better if they'd just given you an "easy" setting that painted a line for you to drive on so that you could follow the proper path, and maybe a speed indicator (besides the speedometer that doesn't work) that tells you when you're at the proper speed for the stunt. And a map of the level before you drove it. And maybe a fly-by of the level.

And maybe if they'd given me back my money, too.

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