Go back to 4D Sports: Driving (Stunts)

Written by: Rik

Date posted: May 30, 2011

lookingbackstunts1As part of our 10-year anniversary (2001-2011), we decided to go back and have another look at some of the games we’ve covered over the years. This article is part of that series. Go here if you want to know more.

The Game: 4D Sports: Driving (also known simply as “Stunts”)

Original review: Written by Rik, July 2001.

What we said: “While 4DSD looks and feels like the ten-year-old game that it is, it remains a worthy and involving driving game, and if you can put up with the graphics and sound, chances are you’ll find yourself giving it extended periods of your time, especially if you start using the construction kit.”

Disorganised preamble

Stoo: Hey chief…

Rik: Late! Slept in, sorry.

Stoo: You’re fired!

Rik: How do we get Jo in on this?

Stoo: On Stunts? Or in general?

Rik: On this MSN conversation.

Stoo: Oh.

Rik: There we go. Hey Jo. You there?

Jo: Hellp

Rik: Help?

Jo: Not help. Hello.

Rik: Right, we’re all here. Let me find my notes.

Stoo: I have Stunts music playing.

Rik: I would too but I think my wife would shoot me.

Jo: It’s looping around in my head. Does that count?

Rik: Yeah, that’ll do.

Stoo: *air guitar* (Well, I think it’s meant to be guitar)

Jo: There’s a bit that sounds kind of like a siren.

Rik: If you leave it going on the menu the music goes pretty crazy. I think that’s the siren bit.

Jo: Yeah, I think you’re right.

 

Still got those mad skillz

Rik: Right, anyway. Did you both play the game again?

Stoo: Yes! I even finished a track.

Jo: I gave it a quick go yesterday. I crashed. A lot.

Stoo: I still hate those horizontal tunnel-roll things.

Jo: This was on a corner.

Rik: How did you crash on a corner? Was it one of those raised efforts?

Jo: It started with my zig-zag, not-applying-the-brake method to taking corners, and ended with me crashing into the side of a bridge.

Rik: Aha. So, I was reading the review, to remind myself of what I said about this one. [consults notes and produces the review quote at the very top of this page]. I think I generally still agree with that, except the game is now 20 years old of course.

Stoo: I can still see it being entertaining to spend a morning making tracks. That’s pretty much the feature that gave it such longevity.

Jo: I agree. It’s the kind of game that’s still mindlessly addictive.

Rik: I think it’s worth acknowledging that the core ‘game’ isn’t that good, in that the AI racers are rubbish. And drive into walls. All the time.

tunnelroll

“I hate those horizontal tunnel-roll things…and I actually drive around the side of corkscrews.”

Stoo: Yep, I think people mostly played just for the sake of setting a time.

Jo: Actually, that’s something I was thinking about when I took a look at the game yesterday. While the AI opponents are all supposed to have different strengths – they all seem pretty hopeless.

Rik: And if there was any danger of them beating you, you could just put them in a shit car without being penalised. They had stupid names as well…what were they called? Bernie Rubber was the rubbish one.

Jo: Squealin’ Bernie Rubber.

Stoo: Skid Vicious was the “elite” guy, allegedly.

Jo: Helen Wheels

Rik: Yeah, Helen Wheels was the last one I can actually remember.

Jo: Cherry Chassis, Herr Otto Partz, Joe someone-or-other…

Rik: Good memory! Or is it research?

Jo: I looked at their profiles yesterday.

Stoo: Smokin Joe Stallin’! [reading from the game] He’s good on corners, slow on the straights. I’m guessing his portrait is Jeff from accounts.

Jo: I found it weird that Herr Otto Partz wore a monocle.

Rik: Really? Sounds right for a terrible German stereotype.

Jo: You’d think he’d get contact lenses, considering he was a stunt driver.

Rik: I guess there are limited ways you can make pictures of people who developed the game look like wacky racing opponents. Okay, so that side of the game isn’t so good. But time-trials and the construction kit – that’s where it’s at.

Jo: Agreed.

Rik: When I played the game yesterday I had another go at the ‘default’ track, which I used to play over and over to trim microseconds off my time. When I failed, I noted a list of extremely embarrassing and boastful high score entries that I must have entered some time ago.

Jo: Rik Hard, Rik Of Hardness, Rik HAR HAR HARD, etc

Stoo: Does the default have 2 corkscrews in a row?

Rik: Nah. It’s the one with all the bridges.

Stoo: Right, I was just thinking I have no idea if my default is the original.

Rik: Any track you create and save with the name ‘default’ will be the default track. [School friend with whom we’ve long-since lost contact] Peter claimed he made it. He claimed a lot of things, though. But yeah, I doubt it’s the original. Certainly if you grab another version from the net, it’s not likely to be the same one.

Jo: I think the challenge for me was to complete that track in less than a minute. Never managed it. And if I did, I think my high score was immediately wiped from the board by my brother.

Rik: What a dickhead.

Jo: I tried it again yesterday. Still didn’t manage to do it in less than a minute.

“Otto Partz wore a monacle. You’d think he’d get contact lenses.”

Rik: I much prefer a local high-score board to the modern method of finding that 10,000,000 other people on the internet are better than you.

Jo: Ditto.

Stoo: Which is incidentally why I got fed up with Audiosurf.

Rik: Yep, that’s why I gave up on Trials 2 SE. It’s really hard!

Jo: Yeah Trials is a nightmare. It made me want to smash things.

Rik: Then you complete a level and then you see a list with millions of people above you. I really did think I was the best in the world at the ‘default’ on Stunts. But there are still people who play it competitively. I don’t want to check and find out that they’re much better than me (which they will be).

Jo: Really? There are still people who competitively play Stunts?

Rik: http://zakstunts.cjb.net/

Stoo: Well there are still people out there playing Doom tournaments. So I can believe Stunts still has its competitive following. [Note: Although Stunts doesn’t actually have a multiplayer mode, the competition is based around time-trials, I believe.]

Rik: Right. So, there was the time-trial element, which was awesome. Building a good track and racing against your friends to get the best time.

Stoo: “Racing” implies being good enough to compete. I settle for finishing intact! I picked some random track out of the list this morning, finished it and actually saw times worse than mine (by whoever owned the copy previously). This is astounding as I’m pretty bad. And actually drive around the side of corkscrews.

Rik: But there was also the crazy stunts element. You know, where you built a simple loop, and then constructed some mad stunt off to the side, which the game wouldn’t normally allow.

Stoo: Yeah, you had to have an intact and legal track. But the game didn’t care what was outside of that.

Jo: I was just going to say that – I discovered some track yesterday which was just a loop, with a hidden straight off to the side.

Rik: I spent a long time trying to see if I could jump over three buildings. The answer is no. Not even with the IndyCar and a massive straight. [As illustrated here].

Jo: I liked that you could use the scenery as part of the stunt. Like putting a barn between a bridge. Because, for whatever reason, I found jumping over a barn amusing.

Stoo: I liked lining the road with boats. The graphics are already pretty abstract, which made it even more surreal.

Jo: Ha ha! I forgot about the boats.

Rik: Yeah, you would kind of not know what they were, dot them around randomly on the construction kit and then be: “Is that…a boat?”

 

But how good is it nowadays? [Audible groans]

"I liked that you could use the scenery as part of the stunt....because, for whatever reason, I found jumping over a barn amusing." - Jo

“I liked that you could use the scenery as part of the stunt….because, for whatever reason, I found jumping over a barn amusing.”

Rik: Okay, well, one of the things I noticed about my review was that it had that hallmark of early reviews on FFG, where we kept banging on about “how good is it nowadays”. And I tried to compare it to Gran Turismo and Colin McRae Rally. I guess my point was that it was never going to outshine modern racers. Which is an embarrassingly obvious point to make.

Jo: I kind of find modern racers a bit boring.

Rik: Is it more reasonable to ask whether anyone who didn’t play it “in the old days” would find anything to enjoy here?

Stoo: Well I think, even if they didn’t play this game specifically, it would help to have some kind of affinity for early-90s gaming in general – VGA graphics, midi music, abstract polygon worlds etc.

Rik: I guess when I wrote the review, there wasn’t really anything like it around in the ‘modern’ world. But now there’s Trackmania (which I wrote about in a side-feature). It’s not exactly the same, but it’s pretty similar – you can build your own tracks, and there are millions of ones already built. It’s fiendishly addictive too.

Stoo: Right, so Stunts no longer has the draw of being unique. So is there a draw for someone who missed it first time around?

Rik: A lot of our fondness is based on memories of playing it I’m sure. There’s also a point about having to make your own fun a bit more “in the old days”. Without sounding like an old grump, you’d have this fun but flawed game, and you just had to make the best of it.

Stoo: Because you couldn’t just go grab another off the internet. [Note: We mean, legitimately, of course, via Steam or GOG].

Rik: That’s how it caught on at school I reckon, it worked on the shitty computers we had under stressful Windoze 3.1 conditions. And you could fit it on a single floppy disk.

Jo: I’m pretty sure that we didn’t even have a PC at home at this stage – didn’t we just play on it when Dad brought his work PC home – like, at the weekend.

Rik: Yep, that’s right, we had to sit on the floor to play it. While our Atari ST sat neglected.

Jo: It was actually something to look forward to at the weekend.

Rik: Life wasn’t that bad was it?

Jo: No – sorry, let me try again…I just mean that, it’s weird remembering a time when you looked forward to playing a game at the weekend (like we did) because we didn’t have access to it all the time. We don’t have that now. Because everything is…well… readily available.

Stoo: Made us appreciate what we had more.

Jo: It kind of makes me wonder if we’d had access to it as much, whether we would have quickly got bored of it.

Rik: I don’t think so, we put in enough hours into it.

Jo: No, maybe not actually.

Rik: There was quite a good piece recently by Will Porter (who used to edit PC Zone) [Note: in Eurogamer: here] about never having a console and having to glean maximum possible entertainment out of his Acorn Archimedes. It was what he had, there was no choice, so he made the best of it. That feeling, as a kid, of being there on Saturday afternoon, with limited options – you had to work out how to have fun with what you had. Sometimes you could make a single-player game into a multi-player one, by taking it in turns to do levels. I remember playing Interstate ’76 with one person driving and the other one doing guns/shooting. Obviously, that sounds lame now.

Stoo: Nowadays I have a dozen unplayed games ready. And am too lazy to commit to any right now. 16 years ago I had a handful and played them over and over.

Rik: Trackmania is an awesome game. With millions of tracks, and it’s similar to Stunts, but I look at the vast expanse of potential hours of fun in playing it and I can’t even be bothered to try. So I guess we really have to acknowledge the massive part nostalgia plays in this one.

Stoo: For sure.

Jo: Definitely

Rik: But it is still good!

Jo: I think that the holes in Stunts mean that there’s more fun to be had with it (i.e. making illegal tracks and whatnot)

Rik: But I think if those holes appeared in a modern game, we would probably just go “this is shit” and play something else.

"The AI racers are rubbish...if there was any danger of them beating you, you could just put them in a shit car without being penalised."

“The AI racers are rubbish…if there was any danger of them beating you, you could just put them in a shit car without being penalised.”

Stoo: I would say it’s retained genuine appeal (on top of just nostalgia) more than other racing games of its day. I mean, we’re not planning a conversation about Test Drive 3 here.

Rik: Aha. Well Test Drive 3 is terrible. Test Drive 2 is still playable, but very limited compared with Stunts.

Stoo: Car And Driver also. But I can’t imagine spending a lot of time with that one.

Jo: I think I played very few racing games back then. I mean, more than I do now (none) but still, I’m struggling to think of any.

Stoo: I’ve played few racing games ever, but Stunts is one of the few of old that made an impression.

Rik: Stunts absolutely had to be included on FFG. No surprise it was one of the first few reviews on the site.

Jo: I think it’s one of the first (if not the first) PC game I ever played. Apart from Shooting Gallery

Rik: Heh. So, er, anyone else have anything they want to add? It seems like we’re meandering towards something approaching a conclusion.

 

Something approaching a conclusion

Jo: I’m still shit at this game.

Stoo: Same!

Jo: Rubbish at corners, as I am when I’m *actually* driving a car.

Stoo: I love it when a sharp corner comes right after a jump, and I just kind of go sailing past, then have to slowly and embarrassingly turn back onto the road.

Jo: I struggle to find the road again sometimes. The words “Wrong Way” suddenly appear.

Rik: Should we mention the fact that you’re not restricted by invisible walls?

Stoo: That’s a good point. There are fences but they enclose a fairly sizeable patch of land.

Jo: Yeah. Plus you don’t “crash” when you crash into the fence. I speak from experience.

Rik: Well, I guess that’s slightly unrealistic, but generally the fences are set fairly far back. You do crash into everything else though.

Jo: What, I crash into everything else, or you the player crashes into everything else?

Rik: Both – no, I mean, the second one.

Jo: Grr….

Rik: It’s a bugbear of mine in modern racers – when some objects you can smash through with gay abandon, and others bring you to an immediate halt. Like, lampposts are breakable, but trees will kill you. Here, a crash is a crash – I like that.

Stoo: I avoid crashing by driving like an old man. I do on the raised roads anyway, which do have walls.

Jo: I frequently forget about applying the brake.

Stoo: Worst is a raised road with a turn soon after the ramp. Weee *airborne* *smash*

Rik: So, any other thoughts? I’m looking at my notes here, I think we’ve covered everything I thought of.

Stoo: Only that it’s one of the most cheerfully 1991 games I can recall. Green ground, clear blue sky, midi music…

Jo: Boats…

Rik: Bumblebee engines…

Jo: Barns…

Stoo: Yes!

Rik: MC Hammer…

Stoo: All that’s missing is Commander Keen dashing across the screen.

Rik: The cast of Saved by the Bell…

Stoo: But as we’ve established it did a lot right, so it’s something that justifies the nostalgia I reckon.

"A crash is a crash...I like that."

“A crash is a crash…I like that.”

Rik: Definitely. I just want to apologise for using the phrase ‘Cunning Stunts’ as a title for one of the additional articles. I didn’t know it had rude connotations.

Jo: So you should. There was a guy at Uni who had a t shirt with that slogan on. I wanted to destroy him. Still do.

Rik: I’m going to change the name of that extra article right now.

Stoo: I think we have Metallica to blame, they had a video out with that for a title.

Rik: Ah yes. Also, it was in Carmaggeddon. I actually did just think it meant stunts that were unexpectedly cunning. Like a weird jump or something. *sorry*

Jo: Aw. So, anyway, besides all the nostalgia, we have valid grounds for still finding Stunts an awesome racing game, ja?

Rik: Agreed.

Stoo: We’re not going to claim it’s better than Trackmania today, but there are reasons we’re still talking enthusiastically about it 20 years after it was released.

Rik: Well, that’s a good note to end on I think. Thank you both!