Hollywood's problem is that as movies become more complex, the expectations of the audience keep getting higher. (The same could be said of games, as well.) This means that more effort must be put into creating larger spectacles. To capture this sense of escalation, we have The Movies: Stunts & Effects, an expansion to last year's combination Hollywood Tycoon game and virtual moviemaking studio, The Movies. Stunts & Effects lets you create bigger and more spectacular movies with the addition of death-defying stunts, as well as the ability to create summer-blockbuster-style movies.
By integrating seamlessly with the existing core game, the Stunts & Effects expansion adds a slew of new facilities and sets that are geared toward action and special effects. For instance, the new stunt school lets you hire stuntmen (and women) so that you can create more intense action scenes, while the new green screen and blue screen sets are where effects-laden movies are mostly shot, since these make it easier to digitally insert the actors into any type of scene. Other new additions include a miniature-city set that will let you create scenic flyby shots of the skyline or let you indulge your love of monster movies by creating Godzilla-like epics, as well as new scenes, costumes, and more.
Even with the expansion, The Movies retains its dual nature of both a Sims-like management game and a virtual studio. As the head of a Hollywood studio, you oversee everything on your studio lot, from the placement of buildings, plants, paths, and walkways to what your various employees are doing, including the stars, extras, janitors, and more. The goal remains to make as much money as possible while churning out the highest quality movies to gain more fame and prestige, particularly during awards ceremonies. The addition of stunts escalates the challenge, as you have to create better stunts than your competitors. As such, you'll see lots of new things in the expansion, such as leaps off of buildings, smoky escapes from burning buildings, and more. Or you can film exciting new scenes featuring a variety of new vehicles, including models on a miniatures lot, which you can use to really capture an epic sense of scale.
All these new stunts and effects come at a slight expense when it comes to the overall complexity of the gameplay. Stuntmen (and women) are treated sort of like actors, in that they must be selected from a pool of applicants. You then train your stuntmen by constructing special training facilities to increase their stunt skill. The higher a stuntman's stunt skill, the more daring that stunt can be. Every now and then, you'll need to toss your stuntmen into the hospital (another new building in the expansion) to let them heal up from all the abuse that they take. Since you're also mothering over everyone else on the studio lot, especially your ever-fussy stars, all this micromanagement can be a handful, though it doesn't become overly burdensome. The expansion also suffers from the same staffing problems found in The Movies, in that you can never find enough workers to staff your studio. You'll constantly have to shuffle workers from one department to another to keep the place up and running at times, which sounds a bit odd since everyone in Hollywood wants to be a part of the movie business.
The addition of stunts does add a bit more depth to the overall game. An effects-laden blockbuster might take a year or more to shoot, which means that you may have to get a second crew to shoot smaller, simpler movies to ensure that you have a steady stream of releases while your massive blockbuster is in production. You only have a small pool of stuntmen, as well, and filming a stunt-heavy movie may mean that none are available for use on another movie, which means that you'll have to carefully oversee the types of scripts that your writers churn out. To create a stunt movie, just pick up and drag a writer over the special stunt icon in the writer's building, and they'll get to work creating a movie that takes advantage of your sets and your stuntmen's abilities.
Of course, you can also custom create your own scripts. However, as with the original game, this feature seems disconnected from the studio-management portion of the game. You can spend all the time you want writing and directing your own blockbuster, but in the end, it has little effect as to the performance of the movie in the marketplace, and it also brings the pace of the game to a screeching halt. Still, this ability seems more geared toward players who want to simply create their own virtual masterpieces to share online, and as such, the variety is certainly welcome, as it allows a lot more flexibility and creativity. The new free camera mode lets you shift the camera around on the set, which should also please would-be moviemakers.
In the end, the Stunts & Effects expansion is a must for moviemaker fans, since they're the ones who can take the most advantage of all these new sets and scenes to create even more imaginative movies. If you're a more casual fan of The Movies who prefers the studio-management game, you'll find that the production values and overall gameplay haven't change that much, as you'll still find yourself guiding a movie studio through the decades, from the black-and-white era to today's modern blockbusters. Only now, you can do so with a bit more flair and a few more broken bones when a stunt goes awry.