Half-empty, or half full
Stunt GP is very close to excellent, crossing the lure of remote control cars with the brutal gameplay and addictiveness of a Team 17 title. For all its charm though, it's not without flaws. It's easy enough to become proficient at race-winning, but pulling off the necessary stunts along the way can force things beyond the wrong side of easy. One thing we cannot possibly fault here is the visuals. Clean and crisp, every inch of the track is pleasantly textured, and each car shiny and well modelled. There are three different types: Wild Wheels, Speed-demons and Aeroblasters, with 16 models in total. Each is especially capable in one particular area, as the names suggest. For instance, the Aeroblasters can perform some almighty tricks in mid-air, but the Speed-demons are more at home on the ground. There are 24 brilliantly designed tracks on offer. They start of easy, with simple figure-of-eight routines, and become increasingly complex, with loop the loops, transparent pit stop flyovers and sloping corners. It's some of the most original track work I've seen in any racer, let alone an R/C one for a long time. Points are obviously awarded for position at the outcome of the race, but inter-race upgrades, which rapidly become a necessity, are actually purchased with "Aeromiles", won by performing jumps and tricks during the race. Aeromiles are important, but so is winning the race, and it's creating equilibrium between the two that's difficult. The tricks you can perform are somewhat limited, but ones that accrue the most points like the Barrel Roll will take you a considerable amount of time to perfect. Pulling out off-the-cuff manoeuvres in the thick of a race will do you fine, and ultimately you need to place highly above all else, so you have to act sensibly and maintain momentum.
A near miss
One of the most annoying things about Stunt GP is unfortunately how often you go off the track. Confining you to a certain amount of space would be daft considering the aerial acrobats you are expected to perform, but understeering into any corner at all will send you into the bush, usually dropping you to the back of the already tight field. Walking the stunt-rope so to speak is one of your primary objectives, and putting the entire performance in jeopardy should be a consideration when going for a big jump, but the ease with which you come unstuck is still annoying. The field of six is rather despairing too, and the spread is negligible, presumably to maintain the idea that you're in the thick of the action. The AI isn't as daring as you have to be at times, either, which can be maddening, and put you far, far off behind the pack. The multiplayer options can really help to make up for all of this, however. If you can get four players around a computer using every available extremity for control, you will have a rip-roaring time. Although it's nothing to rival the likes of Mario Kart, your friends are likely to make more exciting competition than the computer. If you get bored of juggling the racing variable, you can all but strip it out in the stunt arena mode, which would be perfect were it not for the crippling inclusion of a 90 second time limit.
Stunt GP is so close to brilliance. It boasts a plush interface, excellent track design, exciting multiplayer and a lot of nice ideas, but things like the time limit in stunt mode, and the difficulty level of the single player game keep it from attaining classic status. And call me a cynic, but even though it separated the tricks from the racing, I thought last year's Re-Volt did the R/C thing with a touch more aplomb.