Stuntman Ignition might only be a couple of months away from store shelves, but until this week, THQ and Paradigm have been pretty secretive about the game's multiplayer content. Earlier this week, we had an opportunity to go up against a group of THQ testers in all three of the online modes that will be included, and in doing so, we were also afforded a sneak peek at some of the vehicles (including a very futuristic-looking one) that haven't been shown in any of our single-player demos previously.
All three of Stuntman Ignition's online modes support up to eight players, and all of them let you choose the color of your vehicle from anywhere in the spectrum. Movie challenge, which is the first mode we're going to talk about, is the only mode that doesn't also give you the freedom to choose which vehicle to drive because it tasks you with completing the same movie sequences as the single-player game. The only difference in multiplayer is that you're able to see translucent "ghost" versions of your rivals' vehicles alongside you as you all attempt to outdo each other. Presumably, the thinking here is that if you fall behind better players, you'll have an opportunity to see what line they take through the level and how they maximize the scores for their stunts. In practice, at least in a full field of eight players, we found that the gang of ghosted vehicles in front of us--each in a different color--just made things more confusing, and because we weren't familiar with the levels being played, we couldn't easily make out upcoming objectives.
The other two online modes in Stuntman Ignition are titled back lot battle and back lot race. These modes are contested on tracks that span both the movie sets from the single-player game and the studio lots behind the scenes. The race mode, as you might expect, is simply a race to the finish line, and the mode's only noteworthy feature is that new shortcuts become available (and new hazards appear) each lap. For example, during one of our races, there was a large semitruck going about its business on the lot, and on each of the three laps, we had to get under, over, or around it in a different way.
While the back lot races were fun, the back lot battles were certainly the high points of the multiplayer session. The battle mode is all about scoring points, and to score points, you have to string together combinations of stunts. Some of those are mandatory, like those in the single-player game, while others are improvised using whatever objects happen to be scattered around the lot. You won't actually add any of the points that you're racking up during a combo string until it comes to the end, so for reasons that will become clear a couple of sentences from now, it's occasionally a good idea to finish them prematurely. Why? Because when you're midcombo, any player who crashes into you will instantly steal your points before you've even had a chance to add them to your total. This feature has the potential to level the playing field considerably because while the more skilled players among you might be determined to perform lengthy stunt strings, your opponents might choose to do only the mandatory stunts and concentrate their efforts on stealing the fruits of your labor at every opportunity. Of course, they'll have to catch you first, but if you're skidding around corners and using ramps to get your car up on to two wheels, that might not prove too difficult. There are bonus points available at the end of each back lot battle for the order in which you cross the finish line, but based on our time with the mode thus far, the bonuses weren't significant enough to have a major impact on the final standings.
In addition to the online play that we've already talked about, both the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 versions of Stuntman: Ignition will have split-screen support for up to four players. Incidentally, the PlayStation 2 game will not include online play of any kind, but it will also support split-screen multiplayer. We look forward to bringing you more information on all three versions of the game as soon as it becomes available.