It feels like I’ve been on a quest to find a decent game about Firefighters my entire life. As subject matter, it feels like a no-brainer right? The fire. The fighting. The slidey poles. It should be the origin for amazing games but so far, every game I’d tried that has used it as a basis has been plain bad to really poor. Real Heroes: Firefighter (a port of the 2017 PC version, itself a remaster of the 2009 Wii version) while an admirable game with big aspirations, fails to buck this trend. Played like a first person shooter only with a hose and an extinguisher (a douse-’em-up?) it’s lighthearted fun, despite having one of the weirdest bug’s I’ve ever experienced in a game.
If I had to describe Real Heroes: Firefighter in a single phrase it’d be “What would happen if Michael Bay decided to make an ambitious game about Firefighters on a shoestring budget?”. You play as a new recruit to the fire service, fresh out of the academy. You’re thrown in at the deep end during the cities longest ever drought which is causing fires all over the place. Using the tools of the trade from water hoses to a circular saw in a first person douse-’em-up, you’re tested to save lives and extinguish fires.
Portrayed in a cel-shaded art style which is on par with the original Borderlands, Real Heroes: Firefighter pits your fire fighting skills to the test across 8 locations including a shopping centre with a cinema, a museum and a theme park.
At each locale, you’ll be asked by your ‘potentially an inspiration for Captain Holt in Brooklyn 99’ hard ass boss to complete a series of tasks – put out all the flames in a location, find X number of civilians and escort them to the exit, carry someone to the exit, clear a path through the flames for NPC’s to use to escape, collect and secure items and more. While doing all of this, you have to avoid the flames yourself because if you stand close to them for too long, you’ll pass out and head back to the last checkpoint.
In order to complete these objectives, you’ll need to use the full kit of the Firefighter. Debris in your way? Pull out the axe and hack it away. A door locked? Bust out the Halligan bar and break on through. On screen prompts help you decide on when and where to use these tools. These tools even add mechanics to the game too – some environments have bare and exposed wiring. Here you need to make smart choices between your water hose and your extinguisher (hint: using the water hose will get your electrocuted). Of course, to balance the fun with realism, the act of fighting a real fire is very different than what happens in Real Heroes: Firefighters. Hoses just magically appear in your hands without a connection to a hydrant or water source for example. Still, it’s at least grounded in reality. Just an action film version of it.
The core of the game is all about fighting those flames. Either on foot or on one of the Fire truck hoses, the mechanic is simple. Point your hose at one of the fire textures and squirt until it disappears. Like a real fire, if you leave them for long enough, they’ll spread along walls, floors and ceilings. While this is initially quite thrilling, the repetitive nature of the game quickly sets in. After an hour, it becomes a chore, like vacuuming a shaggy carpet that won’t come clean.
While the environments of Real Heroes: Firefighters have a retro appeal, the fire in this game betrays then game’s age. Little more than a texture effect that float just over the walls, and displayed as small cones when on the floor, it shows that the original game is more than a decade old. This is most adequately demonstrated when you’ve put out a fire and the underlying surface looks perfectly normal with no charring or blackening.
Real Heroes: Firefighters has a schlocky action comedy film feel a lot of the time. That’s intended as a complement. The game never takes itself too seriously and despite its serious subject matter, packs in a lot of humour. During the museum level, one of your team mates Jimmy ‘Match’ Morris (voiced by none other than Spike from Buffy, James Masters) decides it’s a false alarm and says he’s going to do a lap of the building. While he’s off walking the outskirts, you’re fighting blazes in Egypt exhibitions which culminates in – and I can’t believe I’m about to write this – a boss battle against a model Sun that’s rolled out of the astrology section and threatens to make the model dinosaur’s ‘extinct’. Match, having found no signs of fire and missed all the action, returns at the end of the level and says “See, it was a false alarm”.
In another level, a panicked resident asks you to save his prized Chinchillas from a fire. This prompts team mates ‘Ezzy’ Vazquez (voiced by Jenette Goldstein who you might know as the badass Vasquez in Aliens) and Lt. Scott (Michael Jace, famous for The Shield) to debate about what a Chinchilla actually is. Initially they think it’s some kind of pepper. Real Heroes: Firefighter is filled with moments of levity like that.
The PS4 version of Real Heroes: Firefighters is probably the best version of the game because of one console specific feature. Conversations with characters nearby are put through the TV/monitor as per usual but any communication across the radio channels comes through the Dual Shock 4 speaker. It’s a basic thing but it certainly adds to the immersion.
And this leads us to the weirdest bug I’ve ever experienced in a video game. When ever you turn your view point using the right thumb stick, the controller vibrates. Look up? Vibration. Look left? Vibration. You get the idea. It’s incredibly distracting and seemingly has nothing to do with what’s going on on-screen. The kicker is that there’s no way to disable it within Real Heroes: Firefighters itself. You have to disable it via the PS4 system menu if you want it to stop. After a few hours play, you might want to get checked out by a doctor for carpel tunnel syndrome.
Elsewhere, there’s some dodgy AI that only want to follow a particular path, even if that means walking into a fire. Performance wise, the game runs admirably taking into consideration what’s going on on screen.
An all star cast and a lighthearted, almost comedic tone aren’t enough to save Real Heroes: Firefighters from mediocrity on PS4. The fire visual really underline the age of the original game, as does the AI. Among environments that have been spruced up for 2020, it’s quite jarring. That being said, there’s some set pieces here that are genuinely fun to play and game play which, while eventually repetitive, can be thrilling at times. Even with it’s issues, it’s the best game about fighting fires I’ve ever played.
Real Heroes: Firefighters is available now on PS4 (review version), PC, 3DS and Wii.
Developer: Epicenter Studios, Scientifically Proven
Publisher: Maximum Games, 612 Entertainment
Disclaimer: In order to complete this review, we purchased a copy of the game. For our full review policy, please go here.
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