Emergency Fire Response Review
By Dwayne Baird |
In the littered halls of budget gaming, you'll find the relics of all manner of niche releases. The tycoons of the world have seen zoos, amusement parks, and railroads. The deer hunters have known years of pixilated sprites. Yet in all this time, the firefighting experience has been consistently lackluster. Many a developer has walked the rocky mountain trail of the firefighting sim, only to trip on a tree root, tumble brutally down the mountainside and land in a gorge of pointy rocks.
But this time, someone brought a walking stick and a radio.
Emergency Fire Response brings a surprisingly high level of production values to the table, for one thing. You can crank up the resolution far beyond what a budget game should be able to do (assuming you can adjust the res at all), and even tailor the experience to three levels of visual goodness. And all the water, smoke and fire is rendered with particle effects, so the game is actually pretty easy on the eyes. You can zoom in and out and rotate 360 degrees in a fully 3D-rendered world. It doesn't look like a budget game.
EFR doesn't act like a budget game, either. You'll get plenty of play out of it, with ten missions divided into multiple stages with their own goals and usually some reinforcements. And each mission has a little story behind it. You'll put out a fire set by bank robbers dressed like firefighters who had planned to flush everyone out and clean out the vault, only to get stuck inside as well when the fire raged out of control. You'll save a mansion and the high-profile pop-singer who lives there, as well as her friends and her cars. You'll save a little town from toxic pollution caused by a train wreck. And you'll even deal with a nuclear reactor. Each mission is engaging, tense, and varied.
Technical detail is one of the things that will hook you into EFR. The flames behave realistically, and the firefighters will have to do realistic things to deal with them. Fires can spread voraciously, but will eventually burn themselves out if isolated. Yellowish smoke billowing from under a door means the room behind is full of extremely hot, trapped gases waiting for oxygen (by opening the door), which causes a backdraft, making the whole room burst into flames and seriously injuring whoever opens the door. Fires caused by damaged pipelines can only be put out by shutting off an upstream valve. Burning chlorine creates deadly gases, so you have to put the fire out from a distance. It isn't just about seeing some flames and putting them out.
With this depth of play, you'll need more than the front-line, basic firefighters. They're good at putting out fires, but you'll also need specialized guys to succeed. The technician can hotwire vehicles and operate certain machinery. There's another guy who uses a grappling hook to get to hard-to-reach places. There's a "de-incarceration specialist" who carries some beefy tools to break through heavy barriers like rubble and reinforced doors. You'll also have a medic who can revive victims as well as heal your fighters. What's nice is that all of them can put out fires, instead of standing around waiting to be needed. And you will need all the extinguishers you can get, because you'll only have a few fighters to work with per mission, although you will usually get some reinforcements once you've completed a stage in the mission.
Although everyone can put out a fire, you'll also need to keep their reserves topped up. They don't have infinite water at their disposal. Each mission will have at least one "pumper" truck that never runs out of supplies, and the firefighters will have to run over to it periodically, or risk running out of juice at the wrong time. You'll have to strategically position the truck so that it's close enough for a quick refill, but not close enough to get caught up in the flames itself. Thankfully, it can take a while for fire to destroy a vehicle, but when it goes, it explodes and becomes a problem in itself. You'll want to keep all vehicles out of harm's way to avoid a total barbecue.