"I drove a monster truck off a ramp and crashed into a water tower. I hit the nitro and plowed my James Bond-like vehicle through a collapsing cavern of ice. I nailed a cork-screw jump and spun my Night Avenger car *cough* Batmobile *cough* through a rocket that was taking off, gunned a motorcycle through the open hatch of a hovering helicopter. I drove over barricades, under exploding semis and straight through billboards. "
Every racing fan knows that feeling. The rush of hitting a ramp at 70 mph and launching your car over a river, over a house or even oncoming traffic. The excitement that swells when you squeak through a gap in traffic on two wheels or jump off the highway into an office building plow through desks and employees, smash through the window and then back onto the highway. Moments like these are mind blowing in any kind of racing game--from Grand Theft Auto to Need For Speed--and yet all too often are few and far between. If you donít make it a habit to memorize where they are (and who really does?) then youíll probably spend most of your gaming time hunting down these wonderful little rushes.
Stuntman spoon feeds them to you.
When the first one came out so many years ago, I was on top of it. What a great idea. Put all those wonderful things--drifting, jumping, blowing things up, smashing through cars and plowing through buildings--into one game and a make them easy to find. And while it had so many of those magical moments, it was tainted. It was too complex to be enjoyable; too strict to be fun. So when Ignition surfaced, I gambled. I took a chance that this wasnít a horrid rehashing of a good idea gone wrong. I hoped that the time spent between the first and second part was long enough to fix at least some of those issues. I prayed that this would be a good game, because itís such a grand idea.
I love it when Iím right.
The original was too overbearing, having you complete tiny tasks such as overtaking other vehicles and driving close to explosions and objects--all of which added to your points system, miss too many of those things and it would still allow you to make it to the end of the level, only not complete it. You were stuck doing the same, long redundant tasks until you got it right.
Ignition succeeds where the original failed in that itís far more lenient than itís predecessor. Completing a level in Ignition is based upon strikes. Get too many by missing stunts and you start over--right then, right there. I thought, at first that it would be more difficult that way, as I remember the mass of those little things the original Stuntman had me do.
I still recall the director yelling commands in my ear over and overÖ and over. I worried I would be in for Round Two.
My worries lasted all of about five seconds.
Ignition goes on the formula that ďbigger is betterĒ. Yes, it still has you overtake vehicles, drift and get close to explosions, but they are not nearly as important this time around. In fact, the only purpose most of them serve is for the games point system. Pull off one stunt and you get a certain amount of points and a counter pops up in the corner. If you get another stunt before that timer disappears, it adds to a multiplier. Drifting, getting airborne, driving on two wheels, all allow you to link your stunts from big trick to big trick. If you can manage to make it all the way through the level without ever losing that multiplier, you earn a ďString ItĒ bonus, garnering the most unlocked content.
Thatís what made Ignition challenging, without being irritating. Some levels are nearly impossible to string, but itís not dire that you string them. Itís only for the ego driven people like me that have to unlock every single thing in a game. The great thing, though is that itís not necessary. Ignition is still a blast even if you donít care about unlocking anything.
Ignitionís stunts are big. Iím not talking just big Ö. but, likeÖ. BIG BABY! I drove a monster truck off a ramp and crashed into a water tower. I hit the nitro and plowed my James Bond-like vehicle through a collapsing cavern of ice. I nailed a cork-screw jump and spun my Night Avenger car *cough* Batmobile *cough* through a rocket that was taking off, gunned a motorcycle through the open hatch of a hovering helicopter. I drove over barricades, under exploding semis and straight through billboards.
Levels are short, fast and in your face, and every single one has at least one massive, kick-ass stunt that you can pull off. Eventually, I didnít care if I strung every level, caught every drift or hit every explosion. I just started racing towards those moments where the camera slowed down and I watched whatever vehicle I was driving fly through the air, slide under a trailer or crash through objects.
And it doesnít hurt that this is one of the most visually stunning titles ever on the PS2. The camera angles are wonderful, making every one of those scenes enjoyable even if youíre only watching them. The cars are distinct, the environments are all incredibly designed, the explosions, the gunfire, the animations all come together, making both the game and the replays one hell of mind-blowing experience. Even the teaser trailers at the end of each section for the ďmovieĒ youíve been working on are worth mentioning. A mix between the stunts youíve pulled off and some very polished cut-scenes is a nice little break from the constant driving.
My one complaint is that Ignition may still be a bit too short. It has a lot of variety and a lot of different movies for you to play in, but it just seemed to end too quickly. I admit I played the hell out of it, and maybe I was having too much fun to see how much time actually passed, but a few more movies or a few more odd jobs in-between them is the one thing this game could use.
Save it for the sequel, I guess. And this time, Iím actually anticipating one.
IgnitionÖis madness. Itís a controlled, entertaining insanity. A visually stunning, incredibly unique take on typical racing games that actually got it right this time. I thought to end on a high note, calling Stuntman Ignition one hell of a ride. Other games are a ride. A Merry-go-round is a ďride". Ignition is a nitro burning merry-go-round with 300 horsepower engine attached to it with the horses spitting bullets out their mouths and BOMBS blowing up in the background spinning crooked on its axis and the whole thing set on fireÖ
Staff review by Greg Knoll (September 18, 2007)
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