The Movies: Stunts & Effects Exclusive Hands-On - New Sets, New Scenes, and Stuntmen at Your Disposal

Activision and Lionhead prepare to bulk up their moviemaking strategy game with an expansion that should appeal to the inner stuntman/woman in you.


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If Hollywood makes a hit movie, you can expect a sequel, and if a publisher releases a hit PC game, you can expect an expansion pack. So it's not too surprising that Activision and developer Lionhead are prepping The Movies: Stunts & Effects, the first expansion to last year's strategy game that's a blend of The Sims with a virtual moviemaking studio. In The Movies, you could build and manage a Hollywood studio through history, commission scripts, hiring directors and actors, building studio lots and sets, and releasing a steady stream of movies. Or, you could also go into the elaborate moviemaking tools and create your own cinematic wonder that you could upload to the Internet and share with everyone. Stunts & Effects looks to satisfy both kinds of fans of The Movies, and as its name suggests, you'll be able to create more-intense kinds of movies.

Stunts & Effects will be the kind of expansion that integrates itself seamlessly into the original game, which means that you won't have to launch Stunts & Effects separately from The Movies. Once you install the expansion, all the new content will automatically appear in the regular game. And in terms of content, you'll have plenty of new sets, props, and costumes at your disposal, which should allow for greater creativity and flexibility in your scripts.

Stunts & Effects will let you make some intense action scenes, like Santa diving off a building.
Stunts & Effects will let you make some intense action scenes, like Santa diving off a building.

The "effects" in Screens & Effects are due to some special new sets based on the same type used by Hollywood studios in effects-laden movies. The new blue-screen set will let you place props on the set how you'd like and play out any scene on it. Then there's the new green-screen set for aerial shots using full-size and miniature vehicles, such as space shuttles. A miniature city set will let you create cityscape flybys, and you'll also be able to use miniaturized versions of all the full-sized vehicles in the game to create epic scenes, such as Godzilla-style monster battles. In all, there are approximately 15 new sets in the expansion, though the versatility of the blue- and green-screen sets shouldn't be underestimated.

The other big new feature in the expansion is the focus on stunts and stuntmen (and stuntwomen). Stuntmen are a new class of character in the game, and you can hire and train stuntmen to carry out more-intense physical scenes. In the original game, your main actors had to do their own stunts, but now you can hire stuntmen using the new stuntman building that you can construct on the studio lot. As with actors and crew members, potential stuntmen will line up outside the building, and you can pick who you want to hire as a stuntman. You can then build training facilities that will improve the stuntman's abilities, as well as a hospital where stuntmen can get patched up if things go wrong. Stunts can range from slapstick gags (such as getting hit in the head by a wooden plank) to more death defying acts, such as leaping off of buildings. It all depends on the skill level of your stuntmen.

The new blue-screen set will let you create all sorts of interesting new scenes, such as cowboys in space.
The new blue-screen set will let you create all sorts of interesting new scenes, such as cowboys in space.

Using stuntmen in your movies is easy, as the simple and elegant user interface from The Movies has only had a few modifications to accommodate the new features. For instance, when you pick up a screenwriter, a new icon appears in the script office that will let you order that screenwriter to write a script tailored to your stuntmen. You can create a regular action movie, or a "stunt-heavy" action movie depending on where you drop the screenwriter. The writers will then take into account the abilities of your stuntmen and write scenes that are within their range. You can also go into the custom script room and create scenes that are beyond your stuntmen's abilities, though the danger is that the finished film will feature all stunts regardless of whether they succeeded or failed, and that, in turn, will have an effect on the movie's performance with the critics and the box office.

When the script is finished, simply drop it off in the casting office, assign stunt doubles to the appropriate roles, and then start filming. Once the movie is done, you can watch the results as well as see the critical reaction. And there's also a new award category to reward the best stunts of the year, and these rewards will give you new bonuses and achievement goals. Put it all together, and Stunts & Effects looks to be a must-have addition to fans of The Movies everywhere. We played around with a near-final version of the expansion, and it looks like it will be good to go for its release early next month.

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