What's the first thing you do when you get your brand, spanking new flight simulation loaded up for the first time? Fly the training mission? Read the 300 page manual from cover to cover? Nope, you head straight for the 'quick start' option, jump into several million pounds worth of military hardware and take it for a joyride, that's what.
The nice thing about simulations is that you can go right ahead and land that F-15 in the middle of Manhattan without getting court-martialled. You want to eject while flying upside down only 200 feet above a river, just for the hell of it? Go ahead. The last thing that a lot of games players want to do with a flight simulation is recreate Operation Desert Storm. Sure, accurately dropping a bomb down a four-foot wide ventilation tunnel in Baghdad has its appeal but it's not half as much fun as playing chicken in a Cessna with jumbos taking off from Los Angeles International airport.
Finally a publisher has realised that people want to have fu with a flight simulation and pull off stupid stunts. Stunt Islunand as Infogrames is at pains to point out is not. strictly speaking a flight simulation, although flying aircraft is a fundamental part of the game. I almost hesitate to use the term game, since this product seems to fit more comfortably within that fuzzy genre which marketing people like to call software toys.
The premise behind Stunt Island is that the major Hollywood studios are finding it harder by the year to get permission to film the big. dangerous stunts that sell movies. While the general public is quite happy to watch exploding jeeps plummeting off cliffs in the latest James Bond movie, they're not so pleased when bits of rusty Landrover keep washing up on the beach and getting caught in their bikinis. The solution is to buy a large island in the Pacific, and stage all the really dangerous stunts there, out of harms way.
The island has been equipped with a selection of permanent sets which can be used for the most popular stunts. These include replicas of landmarks like the Golden Gate bridge, Alcatraz and Stonehenge, there's also a huge properties store which can supply anything from a model of Big Ben to police cars and trains. So it's technically possible to set up the stunts that even the most warped directors dream of. The emphasis on Stunt Island, however, is on stunts that involve aircraft.
The Lee Majors school of stunts
You aren't obliged to spend hours and hours preparing for a single stunt, there are many jolly japes to be had from simply hopping off to the airport, taking one of the 48 aircraft out for a spin over the island exploring its 34 fixed sets. There is also a sequence of 32 pre-set stunts which can be flown individually for practice, or in order as part of the Stunt Pilot of the Year competition. For each of these you are allowed just a few takes. Mess up too often and you'll find yourself packing up your busted Jenny stunt plane and lugging it onto the ferry home.
The stunts you are expected to complete include some well known movie highlights, like flying your Fokker Triplane through a bam while dodging the passing combine harvesters. And having finally managed to fly through the barn successfully, what sort of reward did I get? A flurry of feathers and squawking chickens? A half-naked, breathless and desperately surprised rustic couple clasping an old travelling rug for protection? Nope, nothing! Call that authentic? That's actually one of the easier stunts, others are completely suicidal. When, for example, did any intelligent stunt man get talked into deliberately crashing a light plane into the engine of a 747?
If you mange to fly stunts successfully, you not only get kudos, but the spondulicks begin rolling in too although large sums are lopped off your fee for each plane you crash and each take you use. Get everything right in the first take, however, and you'll be wining and dining the island's traumatised wildlife with a huge cash bonus.
If flying stunts was all Stunt Island was about, it would still be a superb product, although not. perhaps, meriting such a large price tag. But flying is only half the story. Stunt Island is just as much a film production sim as a flight sim. and it's this that makes it so unique.
If your one and only interest is crashing planes then you can get away with wimping out on the postproduction aspects of film making. For those who fancy themselves as the logical successor to George Lucas, however, editing is probably going to be the most enjoyable part of the whole process. Essentially it works exactly as it does in real-life, with the exception that you are working with disk space rather than celluloid, so mistakes are considerably less expensive.
Your objective is to take all the footage that you've shot during the course of the stunt, which could be as many as eight 'reels' of film from eight different cameras, and cut it all together into a single film.
From sound to vision, and we find that the Yanks have poached one of Britain's finest to do all the tricky technical stuff for them. The man in question is none other than Adria Stephens of The Assembly Line, who showed what he could do with 3D on the pc with the visibly splendid but playably challenged Cybercon 3. In Stunt Island our Ade has really done us proud. The ground detail has been left sparse over most of the island so that it can be highly detailed on the sets, which is where it really matters. But the crowning glory are the planes, which all have glorious technicolour Gouraud shading. You'll need a powerful machine to get the most out of all this visual splendour, but on slower machines the best graphical bits can be sacrificed for a bit of extra speed.
Even the fast machines that we used for the review couldn't disguise the occasional glitch in the system... laugh as your plane apparently climbs over low buildings, squeal as the mountains leap out to momentarily enfold your tiny aircraft, shriek with delight as you fly through the suspensioi wires on the Golden Gate bridge without coming out the othc side in slices.
The final reel
It's difficult to know what sort of games player to recommend Stunt Island to. It isn't going to appeal to hardened flight sim addicts; despite the wealth of planes, none of the flight mode seem to be particularly accurate. On the other hand, if you lik doing all the things that you're not supposed to do with flight sims, and think that Spielberg is overrated then there's plenty here to keep you occupied. Over to you Dennis Norden... if, lik me, you're one of those people who thinks that an aileron is a new kind of washing powder (Isn't it? Ed). but who knows the difference between a best boy and a key grip then you are going to like this a lot.
Download Stunt Island
- PC compatible
- Operating systems: Windows 10/Windows 8/Windows 7/2000/Vista/WinXP