Chase: Hollywood Stunt Driver Review

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Publisher: BAM! Entertainment
Developer: I-Imagine Interactive

Platform: Xbox
Reviewed on Xbox

Chase Corrada, a skilled and stunning stunt driver is at the beginning of her career. Chase is the daughter of the famous stunt driver Griffin Corrada, who had a career-ending accident involving Rick Baen, the man who would become Chase's chief competitor. Chase's dad not only put her through four years of rigorous stunt training, but also helped her get her first gig with Mr. Chin, a Hong Kong director who reinvented the Hollywood car chase.

Kyle Ackerman

Stunt driving is an interesting premise for a game. Instead of just cruising through a conventional race as quickly as possible, you smash through scenery, leap obstacles and trigger fiery explosions in a race against the clock. All this you do to help create the next blockbuster hit for the big screen. In guiding Chase's career, you take her through four of Mr. Chin's films – The Unchasables (a gangster movie with antique cars), Chase of the Triad IV (a Hong Kong action film), Chasing Survival (a post-apocalyptic movie set in the desert) and The Spy Who Chased Me (an international espionage/thriller set in the jungle with a high-tech military base thrown in for good measure). Each of these films has multiple scenes that call for Chase's skills as an expert behind the wheel.

The interface is cleverly simple, and will have even the poorest drivers quickly doing wildly improbable stunts. There are the usual acceleration, nitro, brake and emergency brake controls, but only one button is needed for all stunt moves. Hitting the X button causes the car do flips, barrel rolls, or position for a good landing, all depending on how you move the joystick. This mechanic makes stunts easy to perform, but can also shave critical seconds off your time when used to improve landings from jumps. A tutorial section helps you learn basic driving skills and stunts, before you start your career in the real films.

Chase does a great job of moving the player along from scene to scene, without allowing any one task to become overly frustrating or preventing progress. Each scene has a number of objectives that must be completed, but they need not be completed in a single take. As long as you finish the scene before running out of film, any objectives that you complete are saved, allowing you to pick off difficult moments one by one, rather than insisting on perfection in one take. The director can splice your best moments together later. Objectives vary from hitting markers (which trigger pyrotechnics or other events on the set) to smashing cars and making spectacular jumps. Once you've learned the layout of the set, it's usually possible to finish at least one objective on each attempt, so that a few tries will complete a film scene. Some goals were difficult, even attempted alone, but not many. A race against a competing spy in the Dueling Spies scene was hard, and the Valley of Death scene in the final film contained the only stunt I couldn't complete (powersliding a motorcycle for 25 meters).

Moving on to a new scene or film requires a certain number of reputation points, gained by completing objectives in movie scenes. Typically, one can leave an objective or two unfinished in a given scene, and still be able to unlock other challenges. As a result, players can nearly always progress, and try other challenges if they become too frustrated with the current effort.

Unfortunately, the game is just very short. It's pretty easy to rack up enough of a reputation to get access to all the scenes, so one could (without much difficulty) see and drive every scene in every movie in just an afternoon. Completing every objective would take a little longer, but not a lot. Chase could use a few more films for her career. The films and scenes that do exist each capture the genre well, and are filled with enough action and special effects that it's worth watching the replays of your work to get a feel for the intended films. Some of the effects are explosions that detonate just as you pass, so only by watching the replay do you see the jets of flame and falling objects that you just avoided during the successful cut.

Cars fit the films' styles, and handle differently, so the gangster cars can't quite hit the speeds of the high performance cars in the spy flick, and the dune buggy for the post-apocalyptic film skids all over the desert landscape. The vehicles have individual characters such as the Ramen truck in Chase of the Triad IV. The truck has a large bowl of ramen mounted in the rear, with an umbrella planted in the center. The umbrella wobbles back and forth as you swerve, and damage (from crashes or stray rockets) will ultimately knock the bowl entirely off the truck.

One jarring issue in Chase is that it's not clear which objects are solid, and which are not. Trees in the middle of the set can often be driven through like ghosts, but shrubs set at the edge of a road can stop Chase's care as solidly as a rock wall. You can often choose to use a ramp to jump a fallen tree, or just drive through the insubstantial tree. Even so, performing stunts is at the heart of the game, so it's hard to give any ramp a miss.

Reputation points unlock scenes, but finding hidden BAM! trophies scattered around the sets unlocks other game modes. These include a race, stunt jumping and a freeform arena stunt mode. These modes aren't much to speak of. Once you've learned to jump a bus, you can keep jumping until the cows come home, and the pure stunt arena is somewhat dull without glass windows to crash through. The race mode is particularly odd, since it is essentially the same as the final cut-scene, which is unlocked once you've successfully completed all the scenes in the game. As a cut-scene, it's good for one view, but as a race it is devilishly difficult against a computer opponent until you've memorized the path.

The graphics are very shiny, and are more than sufficient to distract one from the lack of plot. Frankly, this game doesn't need a plot. Sure, there's a mentor and a competitor, but the plot seems intrusive when it does emerge, usually in the form of taunts from your stunt nemesis Baen who is your competition in every chase. All the game needs is big explosions, fancy cars, and lots of jumps. These it delivers aplenty. The opening animation is more than enough plot for Chase. Chase: Hollywood Stunt Driver may be a short trip, but it's a good ride. It's certainly worth renting for an afternoon or evening, shooting a few films in your spare moments.

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This page contains a single entry by Editor published on December 3, 2002 1:27 PM.

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