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Stuntman: Ignition (Xbox 360)

Rated: 12

Story: You're an up-and-coming stuntman. Drive like a madman round various film sets to increase your reputation and unlock new jobs. Stunt your way through thinly-disguised imitations of James Bond, Batman and The Dukes of Hazzard (amongst others) and then watch the film trailer.

Gameplay: You get to drive all kinds of wheeled vehicles, from bikes to an articulated lorry. You have to follow a preset course round the sets, pulling off stunts, like jumps and handbrake turns, in the correct locations. Wander too far or miss too many key stunts and it's back to the start of the level. A high score requires stringing an exciting sequence together by adding extra stunts of your own.

Save System: Auto-save after every successful run. Since levels are typically only a minute and a half long, this is a game that can be played in quick bursts.

Comments: Videogames everywhere!

We've had Halo 3, Stranglehold, The Darkness, The Orange Box, PGR 4, Metroid Prime 3, Phantom Hourglass and BioShock already. Mario Galaxy, Kane & Lynch, Assassin's Creed, Mass Effect, Ratchet & Clank: Future, Uncharted, Umbrella Chronicles and goodness knows what else are all turning up soon.

And that's before taking into account various revamped sports games, unknowns like Blacksite and decent also-rans like Jericho, Overlord and Eternal Sonata.

This is just crazy. Between the beginning of 2006 and the end of this summer, most of the seven current console formats (PS2, PS3, Xbox 360, GBA, DS, Wii & PSP) barely had a handful of games of real note each. If it weren't for the launch of the Wii, last Christmas might just as well have been cancelled as far as videogames publishers are concerned.

Not this year, though.

Suddenly, shop shelves are crammed with triple-A new releases at forty quid a time (fifty for the collector's edition). The result? Games like Stuntman: Ignition are in the bargain bin after only a few weeks. Six months ago, it would have had no competition whatsoever. Madness.

Stuntman isn't helped by the fact that any attempt to describe it makes it sound infuriating. It's a driving game but you don't race - you're told where to go and what to do and if you get it wrong you get shouted at. Great. What this description fails to cover, however, is the huge adrenaline rush of dodging through traffic, leaping a ravine, pulling a sharp turn and hammering through the ruins of a building that is floating past on a river of lava.

The levels are inventive and most are very short, so it's not a chore to repeat them over and over, learning where the key stunts are and working out the best ways to string them together. A small drift here or there is enough to alter your line and make each run different from the last. Unlike some games, it seldom feels like you're constantly having to re-do trivial challenges in order to practice the tricky bits. There's always room for improvement in every part of a level and only a couple throw in a gnarly, show-stopping situation right at the end.

Stuntman: Ignition is a fun, action-packed, grin-inducing game... most of the time. Unfortunately, the scoring system is broken. A spectacular drive with a couple of seconds where nothing happens in the middle will score less than a sloppy drive that misses key stunts but keeps up a constant stream of near misses and swerves. Although finishing all the levels doesn't involve too much frustration, getting the full five-star rating most certainly does. Even then, however, there's still always the feeling that 'just one more go' will do it and, importantly, restarting a level doesn't involve any loading - mess up and you're back in the action in a few moments.

I'm not a great fan of driving games and I normally hate having to replay sections more than twice. Nonetheless, I found Stuntman addictive and entertaining. It's definitely worth a quick rummage in the bargain bin. Then again, you may be too busy working out when to find time to play a dozen other games.


Conclusion: Old-school gaming, involving quick reflexes and memorisation, brought up-to-date for those of us with short attention spans, aging reactions and a desire to go barrel-rolling over ridiculous explosions while on fire.

Graphics: Competent. Looks great when moving at speed (i.e. most of the time) but can lack texture when examined closely.

Length: Short if you just want to get through all the levels. Much longer if you want to collect all the five-star ratings.

Rating: 4/5.

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