Looking Back on… Chase: Hollywood Stunt Driver (Microsoft Xbox)

Chase: Hollywood Stunt Driver
System: X-Box
Genre: Driving/Action
Publisher: Bam! Entertainment
Release Date: 9/24/02 (OH MY GOD this fucking game. I rented this as a joke at one point and figured, since it was fairly recent at the time, I should review it, since LORD KNOWS no one else was going to. This is one of those gleefully bad games you’ll almost certainly never see again unless it’s in the bargain bin, full of all kinds of terrible… everything that makes bad gaming such an incredible joy. I bet I overscored it.)

I have a theory that I think would probably make all of our lives a great deal easier. (It is “don’t start sentences with ‘I have a theory’ because it makes you look like a boring asshole.”) I believe that when you become involved in the video game production industry, be it in marketing, production, whatever, that you should have to live by the words “It has to be fun” or something to that effect. My theory is, that whenever someone that has a hand in the creation of a game sits down, totally at a loss as to what to do to increase the length or challenge of a game, and says “Hey, I know, let’s put in something guaranteed to frustrate the player”, they’d hear those words echo in their head, like some sort of ominous death knell, and force themselves to come up with something better. (Someone actually wrote that, I think before I wrote this but I honestly don’t remember, except that in their example it’d be tattooed to your forehead. I like my example better because someone like EA sending their employees to a weird reeducation camp or something is at least within the boundaries of reality, but that writer’s example at least didn’t sound boring as shit when written out.)

I mention this now because, honestly, this game seriously represents why I feel this way. A lot of times I sit down with a game, and find that the game is a masterpiece in all but one or two details. This makes my decision difficult: praise the game, even with those technical faults, or be unkind to the game, even though I liked it? (You do both because that’s your job as a game reviewer, asshole.) It’s times like these that I’m glad for games like this, by which I mean games that are simply bad.

Short sum up: You are Chase, (YOU DON’T SAY.) the title character of this game, (YOU DON’T SAY.) a female stunt driver with nerves of steel and a taste for leather. (YOU DO-wait what?) Your father, who also happens to be a stunt driver, albeit a retired one, trained you how to be a stunt driver, and you now make your fortune performing stunts in various types of movies. Your in-game rival is a man named Bain, (har, har) (Yeah can we NOT name video game villains obvious double meaning names? At least make it something in a different language or some shit.) who also happens to be the man that put your father out of the business. It’s actually a pretty bland story, but then, this is actually a pretty bland game. (Which is fitting because this is actually a pretty bland review.)

Right from the get-go, the game offers you three basic options: story mode, where you play the game; a single player “training” sort of mode that offers you the option of doing massive jumps while dodging swinging wrecking balls and race missions, among others; and a two player mode that offers races and “tag” games. (No I didn’t know how semicolons worked for like a decade, why do you ask?) The only real benefit of the single player fun modes is that they let you play with any car you’ve unlocked in-game, but they’re rather bland and one dimensional, which renders them less than fun. The multi-player modes are much the same, in that they allow you to take on your friends in some mini-games, but they’re very one-dimensional, and thus not too fun. (No I didn’t own a thesaurus when I first started writing about video games, why do you ask?)

The actual game sees you taking on numerous stunt missions built within numerous movies. (I’d like a glass of ice water with ice.) There are three basic types of missions that are thrown at you: get your character to the goal as fast as possible missions, in which, obviously, you need to get to the goal at the other end of the level; the chase missions, where you’re following someone (usually Bain) and trying to keep in contact with him at all times while heading for the goal; and the shootout missions, where you’re trying to blow up an opposing car with gunfire coming from your car. The get to the goal missions are far and away the most entertaining, as they allow you the freedom to play as you see fit, and usually tend to be fun, despite the game’s flaws. (They basically played like a more freeform version of the Stuntman games.) The chase missions can be frustrating at times, because they often showcase the game’s technical flaws with pinpoint accuracy. (Specifically, how the CPU could pull off things with rocket precision because it was always destined to do so, but you’d end up getting fucked up on the shit controls or the environment.) The shootout missions, besides violating all possible boundaries of reality (yeah, a stunt car’s going to be firing live rounds… right), are also incredibly annoying, and are easily the worst of the mission types. (I mean we can assume you’re firing blanks and the movie is simulating that you’re firing live rounds though I think maybe they explained that you were firing live rounds? I don’t remember. Anyway, the bigger issue was that the vehicles you were attacking were goddamn bullet sponges and these missions took fucking forever.)

The actual gameplay itself is also problematic at times, for the worst possible reasons. Car controls are solid, but even at the best times seem slippery and unresponsive. (“Solid” denotes a positive connotation. I think I meant, like, “adequate” or “unlikely to make you piss blood” there.) The overly cluttered environments don’t help much… while I understand that you’re supposed to destroy stuff as part of the game, it slows your car down entirely too much and makes the game more difficult. The multiple objectives built into each level are less fun than burdensome. And the collision detection is outright horrible, as I’ve watched my character die numerous time because of it. When you can fall through a wall, that’s a sign of poor collision detection. (Yeah, the game didn’t have the most… realistic grasp on NOT killing the player in stupid-ass ways, that’s for sure.)

The graphics here are below the standard of most X-Box titles. Compared to titles like Halo and Dead or Alive 3, the graphics here look like low resolution PS2 output. (As I mentioned during the Buffy recap, most games designed for the Xbox actually still kind of hold up reasonably well today, Halo notwithstanding. This was absolutely not one of those cases.) The cars are pretty, to be sure, and the special effects are well done, no question. But the backgrounds are pretty bland, and are full of draw-in, which makes the game look cheap as a result. (These days we see a lot less draw-in and a lot more “shit going through three different stages of rendering as you come closer to it,” which at least lets you see what’s coming, but isn’t specifically an improvement.) And the character models are ugly… Chase, in particular, looks like a driving Barbie, and this is made blatantly obvious during replays. (Especially on motorcycles, where she literally never emoted, moved, or appeared to be anything but a plastic person on a bike.) And the special effects, though they are beautiful, can often distract the player, as they happen directly in front of or behind Chase, and can cause you to die unintentionally.

The music is pretty bland. A track by Sum-41 starts off the game, (WOW, if THAT isn’t a fucking time capsule I don’t know what is.) but the rest of the game is basically boring, generic heavy music that often conforms to the environment you’re playing in, IE oriental sounding music in the Chinese movie set. (“Asian themed.” I feel like “oriental” is kind of… racist these days? I don’t know if that’s actually a THING per say, but it feels like something wrong in my head for some reason.) You can set your own soundtrack here, thankfully, and that improves the game by leaps and bounds. (Oh for the days when I actually gave a shit about that feature.) The voice acting is also pretty poor… the movie director sounds like a bad parody of a Chinese man, Bain is more annoying than threatening, and Chase’s father sounds really bored. And the sound effects are average, at best… the gunfire sounds muffled, collisions sound weak, and whenever you’re going to run someone down, they make the same scream, regardless of gender. That’s actually pretty funny, but for entirely the wrong reason. (I don’t think it was the Wilhelm Scream but if it was I wouldn’t be surprised.)

Fun Factor
Chase is surprisingly entertaining, if you can get past the inherently stressful parts. (Kind of like waterboarding I guess.) Completing the game’s missions is pretty fun, and if the game didn’t feel the need to throw in the numerous side missions, but had focused on the actual gameplay, the game would have been much more fun than it had ended up being. (Yeah that’s a common complaint with most games nowadays; the game would be a LOT more fun if it wasn’t for the damn collectibles, etc.) The only real problem is that the game’s problems, especially the collision detection, end up frustrating the player to the point where they may not even want to complete the game at all, let alone have fun with it. And that’s a shame, because had the game been more technically sound, it would have been something fun to play around with once and awhile, even after completing it. As it stands, however, this game is barely even worth completing.

The 411
Sticky controls, technical issues, bland graphics, weak music and dialogue, and the feeling that this game could have been done so much better than it actually was… all in all, these things come together to make what can best be described as a play experience worth missing. This game seems like it was made just to rip off Stuntman, and does such a poor job of it that one has to wonder how it even got released at all. (Because someone had just enough money to get it pushed through, one suspects.) This game could have been something fun and interesting for the X-Box, but as it stands now, it isn’t even worth your time to rent.

Gameplay – 4/10
Graphics – 5/10
Sound – 4/10
Fun Factor – 6/10
Overall – 4/10 (not an average) (Probably an accurate overall score, possibly a point lower. Not too much to say about this, honestly, as I barely remember the game, to be blunt about it.)

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