You’re racing along in your flashy new Ferrari Spider, nearing 200 miles per hour. The road ahead leads up a hill — but what a hill! It’s a perfect 45-degree angle! Unable to stop and ponder this geological oddity, you fly on up it, and over the top, sailing spectacularly through the air. And then immediately afterward comes an enormous loop-the-loop! You race up it, too, lose control at the top, spin off, tumble through the air, and land inexplicably intact — only to crash into a brick wall half a second later. This, my friends, is the world of Ultimate Stunts.
Back in 1990, Distinctive Software released a racing game called Stunts. Besides being just a generally great racing game, it had the special features of stunt equipment, providing for lots of loops and jumps and barrel-rolls, and best of all, a track editor. Today’s review is of Ultimate Stunts — an open-source remake of the old DOS game. In many ways it’s just like the original, but with better graphics, 3D sound, and multiplayer functionality!
Currently the only way to install Ultimate Stunts in Linux is by compiling the source code. This, however, is not particularly difficult. OpenGL, SDL and SDL.image libraries are required, and either OpenAL or FMOD for audio support. Then it’s merely a process of
make install, and finally
First comes the main game menu. The menu system isn’t particularly pretty, consisting of simple text buttons against a screenshot background, but it works fine, and that’s what really matters. You’ll also hear some of the ambient game music. Music is stored under Ultimate Stunts’ share directory (/usr/local/share/ultimatestunts/music, for me), so if you don’t like the three tracks included, or would like more variety, you can add your own music to have it played ingame. The currently playing track is automatically looped over and over, but you can press F1 at any time to switch to the next piece of music.
You’ll likely want to set up your character, before racing. To do that, select Players and cars and then 1: (Human) Anonymous. Here at the Player Configuration screen, you can enter your name, what car you wish to use, whether you want an automatic or manual gearbox (you can use ‘;’ and ‘/’ to shift gears up and down) and what color you want your car to be. There are 11 different cars to drive, all with different maximum speeds, rates of acceleration, and things like that. Most of them are ordinary sports/race cars, but there are also few strange vehicles (such as a LEGO car, and a Model T) thrown in for fun. And you can repaint them to absolutely any color you like!
And now it’s time for a race. Select a track from the main menu, click Drive!, and it’s just you and the open road. While the cars are very realistically modeled, there’s nice lens flares, reflective windows and chrome, good textures, and great sound effects, you’ll notice that the shape of the terrain is no different from the 1990 original, with angular hills and sharp-cornered roads. Before long, though, you’ll be able to look past this aberration and enjoy the ride — for there’s certainly a lot to enjoy! Depending on the track you chose, there’s loops to go over, jumps to take, ramps and aerial roadways to drive on and tunnels to drive through, roadblocks to swerve around and always the challenge of trying not to lose control every time you go around a corner.
You can drive just about anywhere you like as well (though there are time penalties for leaving the road), so if you want to take the same jump over and over, you can quite readily do so. The borders of the map seem awfully close to the road sometimes, though, and since going off the edge counts as a crash, you may find it difficult to get to the end of the track in one piece; particularly if you’re of the more reckless sort. In that case, you might want to turn off car crashes, found under Settings -> Simulation in the menus. Then you’ll be able to bump into things as hard as you want, with no consequences besides a satisfying crunch sound.
Eventually, though, you might tire of racing by yourself. Want some competition? Select Players and cars again from the menu, click Add a Player, and you’ve got yourself a computerized opponent! The AI is only good for some maps, though. While it’s great at turning corners and going over jumps, it isn’t smart enough to manage loops or roadblocks, and smashes up every time. But merely change the player type to Human, grab a friend, and you have instant multiplayer action! You can have up to four human players (using the arrow keys, WASD, the numpad, and a joystick) at the screen together, and, as far as I can tell, an unlimited number of AI drivers. The number of human players isn’t exactly limited in the menus — you can add as many as you like — but if there’s more than four players in a race, Ultimate Stunts will crash and quit suddenly, so you’re best off not trying. If you want your keyboard all to yourself, however, you can still have multiplayer races. Click Select the game type from the main menu, and you can start a LAN or internet game, or join one.
And then there’s a whole other dimension of fun involved, too: designing your own maps! To do this, click Select a track -> Edit track in the menu. Wait a couple seconds and the track editor will come up. On the left is a collection of all the tiles used in the map with some editing tools beneath it, to the right is the map editing area itself, and at the top is a toolbar with buttons for basic functions. There is no readily apparent way to start from scratch, but you can load any of the Ultimate Stunts tracks (by clicking on the red folder icon), and edit them to your heart’s content. Or, even cooler in my opinion, you can import tracks for the original Stunts game, save them in Ultimate Stunts format, and drive on them! To do that, select the green folder icon, and browse to wherever on your hard drive you have the old maps stored.
The track editor works on a tile-based system. Pick a tile to place in the left-hand collection, and then use the arrow keys to position where you want it to go in the map. The four buttons in the lower left corner are what you use to do the actual editing. From left to right, they rotate the tile to be placed, add the tile, replace anything that is in the current position with the selected tile, or erase anything in the current postion; respectively. The little arrows beneath these buttons can be clicked, in lieu of the arrow keys on your keyboard, to move the tile-cursor horizontally in all four directions, or vertically.
You may have noticed that your tiles are constrained within the boundaries of the track you began by editing. There is not yet any in-game way to resize the map, but you can change the boundaries in a text editor. If you don’t like the selection of tiles you have in the collection, you can add to or replace them by clicking the rightmost button at the top of the screen. This will take you to another screen, from which you can view the complete list of possible tiles — and there’s a lot of them! All the tiles in the collection are, I believe, loaded when you run the track, whether they are physically present or not, so it is a good idea to click Remove unused tiles in the Collection Editing screen, when you’re done. Then, click the floppy disk icon to save your changes, and choose a filename for your edited map. And now you can race on it!
Ultimate Stunts is lacking a few features, and has a bit of a rough feel to it, but it is still only about three-quarters of the way to version 1. Even at the current stage of development, it’s already a terrificly fun game — definitely worth a download!