Real Heroes: Firefighter – Review
So, you wanna be a firefighter? Charge into burning buildings with nothing but a hosepipe, an axe and a huge pair of balls? Praying to God your teammate has your back, and will be willing to drag you out of the danger zone should you get taken down by falling debris? Keep yourself in great shape so you can actually carry people out of the area? It all sounds a bit like hard work, doesn’t it? Well, good news! Real Heroes: Firefighter lets you do all that from the comfort of your PC, and it’s damn good fun to boot.
Originally a Wii title from 2009, the game throws you into a busy firehouse as a rookie (or “probie” as your team frequently call you) firefighter in a town suffering a pretty harsh drought, which is leading to a string of massive fires popping up all over the place. The drought never actually affects the game, but it’s nice that there’s a little bit of story to keep things rolling, rather than it just being a string of random scenarios.
Gameplay is actually fairly simple, but this very much works in this title’s favour. You have four tools at your disposal: the hose (or “charge line”), which is your main weapon against the flames, and can be used at long-range or switched to a smaller shower that is better for dealing with flames up close, the axe, which is used for smashing open windows and chopping up pieces of wood that people are trapped under, a “halligan” (essentially a crowbar with a nicer name), which is used for opening doors, and the trusty fire extinguisher, which is useless for most of the game until you encounter electrical fires, where you have to use the extinguisher or be killed by electricity flowing through the water from your hose. There are plenty of opportunities to use all your tools, although there’s a huge giveaway as to what tool is right for the job as your reticule changes into a symbol representing that tool when looking at a useable piece of scenery. It keeps the action moving smoothly, but sometimes you wish the game would let you work things out for yourself, and not just hold your hand throughout.
Each level sees you charging into a burning building, taking out fires, saving civilians and dealing with other tasks that are thrown at you. The game actually does a good job of mixing things up beyond simply clearing rooms of fires, and you’ll find yourself saving priceless pieces of art, distracting angry dogs and, um, having boss battles against the sun. There’s enough in there to keep things interesting, and it’s all well put together and great fun to play. The shooting mechanics are solid and the controls are responsive and easy to become accustomed to, so it’s pretty much perfect just to pick up and play.
Interestingly, there’s also a fair amount of humour running throughout the game. Rather than take the serious approach to the world of firefighting, the developers decided to include humorous little quips and exchanges between firefighters, which makes the action that bit more enjoyable. It’s not exactly award-winning comedy, but conversations about what the hell a chinchilla actually is and stupid puns based around amusement park tropes help keep the atmosphere light and relaxed, despite the endless fires you’ll be wading through. The characters are all fairly interesting as well, even if they do fall into their standard clichés; there’s the guy who messes around and is a bit thick, another guy who acts professional and is good at his job, and then the feisty women who’s determined to prove she’s better than the men. They’re really only there to deal out dialogue and be moderately witty though – as it happens, they’re all useless firefighters.
In true first-person shooter tradition, Real Heroes: Firefighters ends up just being you as a one man army, taking down all the fires that threaten the lives of you and everyone trapped in the building. Your buddies are too busy getting trapped by falling debris or showing civilians the way out to be much use, and when they’re not otherwise engaged, you’ll find them pissing about with a fire extinguisher, pretending to put out fires instead of actually helping. It’s cool and all that you’re the big hero in this adventure, but given that everyone’s screaming at you about being a team player while they’re fiddling about with the firefighting equivalent of a water pistol, it’s really irritating that you have to be the one doing all the hard work while they stand around giving each other medals. The civilians are no better; as soon as you show up they start ordering you about, and it’s up to you to clear a very specific path for them to run through. Case in point: in a shop completely engulfed in flames, I cleared the entire left side of the room, to find my civilian still stood at the entrance, waiting for me to clear all the flames on the right hand side so she could follow the path she was pre-determined to follow. It’s seriously irritating that the AI isn’t smart enough to work out where to go for themselves, and are instead stuck to a path that may not even be a smart way out.
You may have noticed that, graphically, Real Heroes: Firefighter presents itself in a comic book style, complete with Batman-esque “BOOM!”-s when things start exploding. It works pretty well, and again makes the experience a much less serious venture than you might expect from a title with firefighters as the subject matter. The cartoon graphics do lead to some problems however, the main one being the fire itself. Smaller flames on the floor look okay and spread like a normal fire would, but the fires clinging to walls are a different matter entirely. You’ll quickly realise that you’re actually spraying at a collection of rectangular animations all bunched together on the walls, which looks especially bad when you see the edge of a flame burning away in mid-air, half an inch away from the wall. It doesn’t affect the gameplay at all, but it just looks kind of lazy.
Some of the backgrounds are pretty poorly drawn as well, looking more like a quick sketch than an actual piece of artwork. Also – and this is a minor detail – when running around with a hose or fire extinguisher in hand, your hands remain static and don’t bob with the movements. This wouldn’t be a problem if the axe and halligan followed suit, but they’re fully animated to go along with your movements. Why couldn’t the main tools that you’ll use almost constantly be animated too? It makes no sense.
You’d best enjoy the sound of running water too, since – surprise surprise – you’re going to be splashing gallons of the stuff everywhere. The sound effects aren’t actually that offensive to the ears, which is great since you’ll be hearing the sound of gushing water for the majority of your playtime. The voice-acting is actually pretty good, and while I didn’t recognise most of the names on the credits, some of the voices sounded pretty familiar. The civilians can be a little dull in terms of acting, and a lot of their cries for help are a tad weak, but overall it’s pretty solid acting from everyone involved. Couple that with a soundtrack that sets a wonderfully tense atmosphere and an opening song that gets you pumped up every time you hear it, and you’ve got a lovely collection of sounds to shove down your ear-holes.
Despite the problems that it has in both departments, the graphics and audio work beautifully together to form a really engrossing atmosphere. There’s a serious sense of urgency, even with your teammates yelling out the scores to the baseball game or something equally stupid. Explosions fire off left right and centre, rooms are usually totally engulfed in flames, your screen goes red as you approach death on a near constant basis – it’s intense, and it’s a great environment to be a part of.
At the end of the day, Real Heroes: Firefighter is a game that doesn’t look like much, but actually proves to be an exciting and interesting take on the incredibly stale first-person shooter genre. Yes, the AI is stupider than a bag of spanners, and yes, the graphics are a bit of letdown, but underneath the ugly façade lies a beautifully simple and fun game that lets people everywhere live out their dreams of being a firefighter.Pros
- Simplistic and seriously good fun
- Oddly humorous, given the subject matter
- Good voice acting brings clichéd characters to life
- Wonderful atmosphere and variety throughout
- Team-mates are completely useless
- Civilians are annoying and incredibly stupid
- Graphics are a letdown, particularly the fire
- Listening to water flowing out of a pipe for hours isn’t much fun
Real Heroes: Firefighter is a lot like a McDonalds that’s just gone up in flames - the exterior is a little off-putting, and it’s filled with stupid people, but once you get inside you’ll be taken in by an exciting atmosphere and plenty of toys to mess about with. It’s packed with variety and fun, and there’s so little of that in the shooter genre these days. If your teammates weren’t so useless and the fire actually looked like fire, it would be one of the best in the genre. As it is, Real Heroes: Firefighter is an interesting take on a stale formula, and one you should definitely check out.
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