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ups: Numerous improved effects, better movie-making tools
downs: Same problems in core game still present

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The Movies: Stunts and Effects Review
game: The Movies: Stunts and Effects
four star
posted by: Jason Perkins
publisher: Activision
developer: Lionhead Studios
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date posted: 02:41 PM Fri Jul 7th, 2006
last revision: 02:41 PM Fri Jul 7th, 2006

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Click to read.For those that haven\'t played it, The Movies is one of Peter Molyneaux\'s ambitious brainchildren, and puts you in (nearly) complete control of a Hollywood movie studio. While Molyneaux may have eyes bigger than his stomach, The Movies proved to be a fun game and delivered almost all of what it promised. It draws heavily from Will Wright\'s Sims franchise, as your employees all have various needs that have to be catered to. If a star is in a bad mood or develops a drinking problem, for example, any movies they are scheduled to appear in will take a hit for their subpar performance. Lot maintenance, scheduling conflicts, staff shortages, and increasingly needy celebrities are all hurdles to be overcome before your studio is deemed number one.

Taking another page out of the Maxis handbook, Lionhead Studios released an expansion pack for last year\'s film-sim. The suitably named Stunts and Effects bundle includes just what you\'d expect it to: stunts and effects. The scenes in the core game were particularly dull, so this is corrected in true Hollywood fashion with bigger and better explosions. Just as real movie studios participate in a sort of special effects arms race, so too must The Movies.

After installation completes, there isn\'t much of an immediate or noticeable difference in the game other than a new splash screen and logos. In fact, you won\'t see any differences until the 1960s, when special effects really start showing up in movies. After installation, you can resume one of your previously saved games, start a new game in 1920, or opt for the \"Quick Start\". This mode will grant the player a moderate pre-made studio, a decent bankroll, and start you in the year 1960 so you can get right into the new Stunts & Effects technology.

Stuntmen and women will obviously be required to perform these advanced physical feats, so you\'ll find you now have a new Stuntman School building to hire them. To prevent your stuntmen from potential injury, there are three training areas accessible to them. At first, the Spartan Torture training device is the only unlocked option, but it works fine for the basic training of a newbie stuntman or woman. After roughly ten years you\'ll discover Fire Baptism, where the intermediate stunt actor will be able to don a fireproof suit and pass through a doorway, hopefully emerging unscathed. The third training area is only available after thirty years of play, and it finally comes in the form of a dojo, complete with generic sensei. Only for the advanced stuntmen, the participant will battle the reigning martial arts champ, and further his or her skills and ability to ward off danger when it comes to their on-screen performance.

With each action performed, your stuntman\'s condition deteriorates, moreso if the attempted feat is too difficult or complex and fails. In order to combat this fatigue and give your newest group of employees a place to rest and recover, you\'ll need to construct a hospital. Each stunt in each movie is given a difficulty rating, and if your stuntman is up to snuff, you should have no problem completing it. If not, you better use that mysterious hand of god to airlift them to the hospital quick.

For some reason, stunts cannot be reattempted, no matter how many backup performers you have. The busted stunt makes it through production and into the final release, and you take a logical hit in box office sales. Thankfully, the game is fairly helpful and provides enough information so you can make the right decision on whether your stuntman is physically capable or not.

The new special effects don\'t have a great deal of impact on the automated movies in the strategy game, other than increasing your novelty score with the audience, but I have a feeling that Stunts & Effects was created for the actual movie-makers instead. The machinima community was relatively limited by the previous sets and actions in the core game. This expansion fills in a lot of the holes that were present there and provides a much more complete package for people interested in making their own movies. Crashing cars into various objects, helicopters, and jumping off buildings were all absent in the original. For me, any decent movie will include all of these and then some.

Maybe even a car jumping off a building into a helicopter. Now it can.

There is an abundance of new features made expressly for the budding director: a freely movable camera, a new particle engine for more realistic explosions, miniature cities for filming monster movies, blue and green screens, and a fistful of new background sets, props and actions. Some of the movie-making annoyances were cleaned up as well, like the ability to place props in the same place in each scene, something that was previously and painstakingly done by hand.

Some things that I feel should have been changed or added don\'t really pertain to the expansion itself, but the original game. It fails to resolve many of the problems that plagued studio managers from the beginning. The most annoying and inexplicable of these is a severe shortage of applicants. Contrary to popular belief, not everyone wants to get in on the biz, and if you\'re lucky you\'ll get two or three new staffers per year. This makes shooting more than one movie at a time nearly impossible and is frankly just irritating. There are homemade remedies for this available on the Internet, but it would have been nice to see an official fix. Next, I\'m not sure that the disconnection of the sim and production modes can be fixed, but the separation there is as jarring as ever. Taking some time out to make small changes to your movie turns out to be much more of a hassle than it\'s worth, especially considering that the changes have little to no effect on their box office performance.

Another problem I have concerns the ownership of the movies I create. The online community for The Movies is pretty active and has enough features to make it useful, but saving movies into a format I choose is still impossible. That opens up a whole new conversation I won\'t get into, but know that there are very strict rules regarding how and where your creations are shared. With that said, if the above problems weren\'t enough to deter you from playing the original Movies, they shouldn\'t stop you here. Here\'s to hoping that the next offering fixes these.

Overall, the game and expansion were made for the hardcore fan in mind. Anyone too afraid to get into the meticulous art of writing and directing a movie or otherwise chose not to use the powerful creation tools presented here will not gain much from a purchase. Really the only change to the game is a requirement on the player to manage yet another group of needy staffers. However, if you\'re of the cinema-producing ilk, Stunts & Effects is just what you asked for.

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