Real Heroes: Firefighter (abbreviated as RH:F for this review) – a game originally released for the Wii back in Aug 2009 has finally made its way to the PC platform. Developed by Scientifically Proven Entertainment and published by Iceberg Interactive, this title looks set to heat up many PC screens this Yuletide season. With cel-shaded comic-book style graphics, realistic looking flames that greedily burn everything in sight, decent voice acting from a Hollywood supporting cast, and a wickedly fun firefighting simulation engine (disguised as a first person shooter), you will find that the experience with Engine Company 13 will be something worth getting for yourself and your loved ones.
What you get
Your career as a firefighter in RH:F begins with a lengthy tutorial mission where you are introduced to the art of firefighting. You are introduced to the four basic firefighting equipment that are employed by all firefighters – a powerful hose (although with a limited range) that will help put out fires via a stream or fog nozzle spray, an axe for breaking down obstacles like crates and wooden doors, a halligan bar for prying open heavy steel doors, and a limited use portable fire extinguisher. Each of these are easily activated with a press of the 1 to 4 keys or the D-pad on your gamepad.
Besides this, you also get to practise calling out to civilian victims trapped in a fire, crouch to avoid thick smoke, perform a fireman’s lift, climb up and down ladders, interact with gauges and switches, slide rapidly down ropes using your sturdy gloves, force open doors with hydraulic spreaders, and use a rotary saw to cutout a door through a wall – all in a day’s work for a rookie firefighter.
There are 8 rather lengthy and complex missions in RH:F – you will be visiting a steel factory, a mall, a neighborhood threatened by a wildfire, a skyscraper, the Museum of Art and Science, an R&D lab, a bridge, and an amusement park. Each of these missions may take at least half an hour to complete so it is a good thing the developers thought of breaking them up into many segments. You activate a checkpoint whenever you complete a major segment of a mission; you will then be able to resume play from that point on.
The game throws at you many different objectives – such as creating a safe path for civilian victims to reach safety, putting out a fire in a specific room, manning the deck gun on a fire engine, or maybe rescuing a fellow firefighter. There are also unique objectives like rescuing animals or saving treasures by putting them in a fireproof vault.
Your greatest enemy in RH:F is the “Thinking Fire”, a proprietary algorithm that the developers have put to great use here to bring to life the flames found in the game. With three difficulty levels to pick from, you will find the fire is at its most “evil” at the highest setting – spreading really fast and strong. You will be hard pressed to keep pointing your hose at a wall of fire to stop it from spreading elsewhere – to the side, above, and even behind you. Keep a look out for an encroaching red haze or it would mean your character collapses from the heat and you restart from your last checkpoint; your body can only take that much punishment from the oppressive heat.
On the other end of the spectrum, you have quite a strong supporting cast of non-player characters – the firefighters of Engine Company 13. You will even find lively banter taking place back at the fire station during a break between missions., or on fire engine rides heading out on a mission. These firefighters are voiced by an enviable cast from Hollywood and includes James Marsters (Spike from Buffy the Vampire Slayer), Jack McGee (FDNY 15th Battalion Chief Jerry Reilly from Rescue Me), Michael Jace (Officer Julien Lowe from The Shield), Jamie Kennedy (Professor Eli James from Ghost Whisperer), and Jenette Goldstein (Pvt. Vasquez from Aliens).
As a first person shooter, RH:F is possibly one of a few rare games where you have no need to run around shooting at enemies. You will instead be hoisting a hose or fire extinguisher to help put out huge fires, rescue trapped victims, and essentially prove to yourself that you are no longer a “probie” (probationary firefighter) the other firefighters believe you to be. If you can get over the cel-shaded style and do not mind the occasional comics-style captions (like “Crash!”, “Pop!”, or “Crack!” appearing on the screen), then this game will possibly be the closest thing to playing as a firefighter in a training simulator. We particularly love the animated graphics for the “Thinking Fire”, the flames look so alive on objects and on the floors, walls, and ceiling; there is even a level where a “forest fire” creates fiery embers that swirl to the ground.
The music that greets you at the main menu is hot and fast, just like the rest of the game. While playing, the music ratchets up at opportune moments, but otherwise it will be the sound effects that will keep you absorbed throughout all 8 missions. The sound effects do sound pretty real in RH:F – you get to hear crackling fire practically everywhere you go. There is also the eerie creaking sound of an imminent structural collapse, the loud bangs of richocheting fireballs, the gushing of water from a deck gun, hose, or extinguisher, the loud retort you hear as you pry open a door with your halligan bar, the satisfying whack of your axe as it connects with an object blocking your way, and the mechanical sounds from the hydraulic spreader and rotary saw.
The translation of Real Heroes: Firefighter from the Wii console to the PC platform seems to have been quite successful. We found that the unlockables and special equipment hidden in the missions have been carried over intact, so you will get to enjoy what was once a console only exclusive game.
Real Heroes: Firefighter deserves a place in your gaming collection for its exciting and fun-filled depiction of firefighting that has been cast as a first person shooter game. You will be doing a lot of good this Christmas with this game as you go about rescuing civilians and fellow firefighters in dire situations that will set your adrenaline flowing and your FPS fingers twitching.
Why not become the “Real Hero” this holiday season with Real Heroes: Firefighter?