Can you imagine films without special effects? Would The Matrix have been half the film it is without its incredible camera technology? Would Star Wars have had the same impact if it had been shot using cars made up to look like X-Wings and TIE Fighters? Could Titanic even have been made? While the last question probably has you cursing the fact that Celine Dion's voice wasn't digitally removed, most films simply wouldn't be the same were it not for the expensive effects that draw us to cinemas in droves.
Players of The Movies can now bring their studio lot up to date thanks to the Stunts & Effects expansion pack. While it doesn't quite give you WETA at your fingertips, it does introduce stuntmen (and women), new sets, action movies, and includes enhancements to the movie making tool that shipped with the original game. All this integrates into the game rather seamlessly, and after a while you'll wonder how you ever got by without it.
Stuntmen function in pretty much the same way as the actors you employ, so you'll have to build training facilities, pick the suitable stuntman for the role, and even send them to hospital every now and again in order for their rather battered and bruised bodies to recover. As with every aspect of The Movies, the goal is to do things before your competitors, and the expansion introduces stunts and special effects into the mix. Whether it's the use of 'Blue Screen' technology or filming in a miniature set, doing so in a film released before that of another studio will earn the movie great reviews and bring in large amounts of cash.
As ever, you'll have numerous scripts on the go, a number of films in production at once, and never enough staff to do the job properly. Despite being a game about the most highly competitive industry in the world, it seems that in video game land you just can't get the right staff. You'll need to keep on top of things, often having to move workers about from one job to another, simply to keep things moving.
If anything, the introduction of the 'Blockbuster' movie makes micromanagement all the more important. Simple movies can be churned out fairly quickly, but a big-budget spectacular will take a long time to film. This means that the staff involved in such a movie won't be available for an extended period of time. It's vital that you keep things ticking over with cost effective productions, and time your big release to coincide with Awards season. Nothing helps more than winning a prestigious industry award.
While far too time consuming for some, the movie making tool that shipped with the original game did wonders for the game's online community. With movies being sharable online, it seems that the closet movie makers from around the world came out of hiding and created some bizarre, but rather brilliant short films. This expansion makes the movie making aspect far more versatile, thanks to the new 'Freecam' mode. This gives you full control over the camera, allowing you to make movies that simply weren't possible in the original game.
Seeing as the content integrates into the game, what you see and hear is largely the same as what you saw when you played the original release. The Movies is a management sim, so fancy visuals weren't necessary, but it looked smart last year and looks just as smart now. The new sets and effects add some sparkle to the movies you create, and the new sound effects fit well, livening up an already impressive package.
Stunts & Effects is an expansion, and therefore will only be of interest to fans of the original game, and as such does its job of extending the game pretty well. The new sets, vehicles and costumes add another element to the movie making pie, and while the same old problems remain, the gameplay is as engrossing as ever. Wannabe movie makers will also find their lives taken away from them thanks to the newly improved movie making tool. Could The Movies live without Stunts & Effects? Probably, but it's more entertaining thanks to the additions found in the expansion.