Stunts (a.k.a. 4D Sports Driving)

4D Sports Driving

When I was just a young boy and have seen today’s review’s game for the first time on my friend’s Amiga I knew I had to have it. In fact I wanted it more than badly! I needed it as one needs to find a toilet after a huge plate of burritos followed up by a gallon of sweet cider… It’s obvious however, that when you’re that young and have cravings for something, you have your ways of getting it… Begging parents to buy it for you, borrowing money from a friend or even be it finding a way of obtaining an illegal copy… Whatever means were necessary, for this game were well justified!

4D Sports Driving

Stunts (in Europe known as 4D Sports Driving – now how dull & silly sounding title that one is!) was one of those games that revolutionized its genre by being well ahead of its time, but I’ll get into this in a minute. The game was developed by Distinctive Software and released by Broderbund Software on PC & Amiga in late 1990. Just like my little sister, developed by my father and released in 1990 by my mother… Just like that! ^__^

Anyway, who has at least a vague knowledge of personal computer history, knows well that it was still the time when Amiga was the „King of the Hill” and packed most gaming power of all early 90’s platforms. PC VGA card’s 256 colour mode was not extensively used yet, so Amiga games stood out as better looking ones out of all 16bit Computer ports… Stunts was a fresh breeze of „new” in already well established by then Racing genre. What we expect to find in games today and feel as if it’s usual to have it was not as common in 1990 and Stunts by bringing a plate of those little changes to the racing games table changed the way we „dine” forever…

First of all there were multiple cars to choose from – all with various stats and specs, and all handled different to one another. There were not 40, 50 or 60 of them but more than a typical by then – „three or less”. 11 to be precise. It’s obvious that just having a bunch of cars thrown into a game does not make for an awesome racer but people at Distinctive Software knew that well and made sure that Stunts was not only a car showcase but also a bottomless bag of goods for all speed freaks…

With loads of different cars a Real Player needs variety in tracks as well, to keep him/her occupied. Devs could just drop a bunch of those on players and keep them happy for a relatively long time but they didn’t. In fact there was not a huge number of those but it made no difference nonetheless as Stunts took another, as time proved, much better route. There may have been only few tracks to choose from but they were really smartly laid out and what’s even more important & crucial here…

…they were ridden all over by numerous obstacles like ramps, corkscrews, loops, jumps, iced paving and many more to keep the game more challenging and raise the gameplay excitement in the same time. Sounds fun? It is! But you know what? There were many games that were fun and never made it big… Many! So, what exactly could push Stunts to stand out by a long mile ahead of the competition? Well, maybe…

…first EVER racing game Track Editor? Maybe? Nah! For sure! It was simple yet a powerful tool that allowed user to use all elements available in official tracks in their creations. Needless to say many of those quickly sprout out amongst players who challenged themselves to make the most daring or challenging tracks to play. By today (nearly 20 years later), there’s several thousands of these and the game whilst being only 8 years younger than me is still as playable as it was on a day of its release and much more fun than I could ever be. I wanna hear a loud „Hell Yeah!” here. ^__^

If that all was not much enough, Stunts also introduced something of similar characteristics to well-known achievements of today’s games. A player was not allowed to use all the cars from the beginning or play against all opponents, he had to slowly work his way up the „Racing Food Chain(tm)” to unlock tougher drivers and better rides. Now, ain’t that a lot of fun!?

Stunts was also first game to take place in full 3D environment with everything being built out of 3D polygons – tracks, cars, jumps, trees & buildings… You get the picture by now, I hope. ^__^ Now, in 1990 it was not a common practice… In fact, most people even did not think possible of having a 3D game running smoothly on a vanilla Amigas, yet alone a racing game. But then somebody (who knew nothing about that notion) came and just done it. Figures! Well done Distinctive Software, well done!! As one would expect from a truly „Groundbreaking Wind of Change(tm)” in Gaming World all that can be seen from various camera views and recorded as Replay to share amongst friends or prey on their weaknesses by showing them your Mad Gaming Skills… And nothing says more „Great Game” than being able to destroy your friend’s self esteems by beating them time after time in an awesome racer on tracks that you have made yourself just for the purpose alone! It’s like taking a Lolly Pop from a child, but more fun.

I know it may appear as if I am a bit over excited but just imagine for a second that it’s not 2010 no more, but humble 1990 and most games (Stunts alike) run in 16 colors in 320 x 200 resolution and not 1920 x 1080 in 16 Millions of shades with 3D acceleration, Depth of Field, Z-buffers, Fog and other numerous graphical effects which names tell me no more than a calorie count on a box of Rice Crispies… Also, try to visualize what one gets to experience after playing countless hours in racing games on flat gray surfaces filled with 2D sprites with three or even no cars to choose from (and usually they only looked different but handled identically) when one’ve seen Stunts in its full 3D glory!? I, for one was stunned at seeing Stunts and could not say much more than „awesome”. I know, I know, I’ve overused this word by now in my previous reviews and that’s alright as all those games were in fact awesome as well. But did they change their genres for years to come to the same degree Stunts did? I think that you realize by now that the answer can only be… No.