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Real Heroes: Firefighter
Lots of us have daydreamed about being a fireman. Well now those childhood imaginings can be realised without the actual risk of burning and smoke inhalation. Real Heroes: Firefighter is undoubtedly a strange idea for a game and it can be most closely described as first-person shooter but this budget title is nothing like The Conduit. The concept is really good and the game casts you in the role of a rookie fireman and challenges you to battle some impressive blazing scenarios. As an alternative to combat based games this is a refreshing first-person experience.
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The control mechanics are inspired by FPS games that got it right and you’ll control your extinguisher, hose, axe and crowbar with the Wii Remote and Nunchuk. You are pitched straight into the action in the middle of a big warehouse fire and each level assigns you with a series of mini-missions to carry out. You’ll rescue trapped people by hacking away fallen beams with your axe, you’ll smash windows to let in fresh air and you’ll pry elevator shafts open with the Jaws of Life. These are all achieved by holding B and performing the appropriate action. The controls mostly work well and feel fairly intuitive but there are a couple of irritating actions which are tough to line up.
Your portable extinguisher has limited effectiveness but the big fire hose is powerful. You can use the spread setting for close fires and the full stream for dousing flames that are further away. Despite the obvious overall aim of putting out fires the majority of your tasks are specific mini-missions and you’ll mainly need to use the hose in order to create routes that you can safely navigate. It is very easy to accidentally stumble into the blaze and if you overheat you die and it’s back to the last checkpoint.
The game is fairly unforgiving and it definitely commits the design crime of forcing you to die in order to learn how to complete the level. Thankfully it doesn’t do that too often and although the pace is slower than a typical FPS it is surprisingly fun and satisfying to play. The AI is another weak link in the overall package and sometimes rescued people seem to lack any survival instinct but these rough edges are to be expected with a budget title. The occasional puzzles don’t represent much of a challenge but they do provide a bit of welcome variety because spraying the fires can get repetitive.
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The game looks quite good for a Wii title. You can’t expect greatness but the fires are quite impressive and the characters are reasonably well modelled. The animations are a bit clunky and the water is very unimpressive but the real star of the show is the fire. I enjoyed the fire effects and the way it spreads and grows is almost hypnotic at times. There are sequences back at the fire house between call outs and you can upgrade some of your equipment although the choice is far from overwhelming. The menu and loading screens are well done and there are some nice quotes and poems about firefighters which help to build the mood.
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The audio is where developer, Epicenter Studios, really went to town and for me it makes the game. The sound effects are solid, the music is sparse but adds to the drama for big action scenes and best of all the voice talent is excellent. This is like taking part in a slightly cheesy but stirring b-movie about a rookie firefighter learning his trade. They managed to hire James Marsters (Spike from Buffy), Jamie Kennedy, John DiMaggio (Bender from Futurama), Michael Jace (Julian from The Shield) and Jenette Goldstein (Vasquez from Aliens) amongst others and the script is full of corny comedy. The beauty is that the voiceover lines from your comrades come through the Wii Remote speaker so it really feels like a walkie talkie. This is a beautifully immersive touch.
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The game lasts around ten hours and there is some replay value in the form of collectible evidence medallions. If you find all three in each level then the cause of the fire is revealed. The lack of a multiplayer seems like a missed opportunity because the game would really suit cooperative play. There is no denying the repetitive nature of the action but you could level that criticism at the vast majority of first-person shooters. Seasoned FPS fans will probably get bored of this quite quickly.
The fact Real Heroes: Firefighter offers an alternative to shooting things in the head has to be commended and it would actually serve well as an introduction to the genre. It doesn’t have any revolutionary mechanics or ideas but the whole thing hangs together nicely and the voiceover work really elevates it and gives it a sense of fun. It certainly does enough to justify the $30 price tag.