Remember when the only thing you wanted to do was become a fire fighter, but your mom wouldn’t let you because it was too dangerous? Well, now you can be the fire fighter you’ve always wanted to be. Emergency Fire Response puts the men of the 615th Fire Station at your disposal, as all manner of lethal, hot under the collar situations ensue.
This game isn’t just about putting fires out, oh no, there’s much more to it than that. Fortunately you have access to water ladders, pumps and ambulances to help you in your efforts. Each fire fighter is a unit that can be commanded to perform a range of different tasks. There are a number of different categories of characters to command, including extrication specialists who can cut through obstacles, paramedics, technical officers and high-risk specialists. Combine this with the specialist vehicles that can be driven to different areas of the danger zone and you can consider yourself well-equipped to deal with anything the game can throw your way.
Not being a fan of real-time strategy sims, I was prepared to turn this game off pretty quickly, but I’m glad to say I was hooked from the get go. Each mission is preceded by a news style brief, complete with CVG images of the people involved and any imminent dangers, such as a nearby fireworks factory or school bus full of children. The mission priorities are laid out before you start with instructions such as, rescue the fire fighter and stop the fire from spreading to nearby houses. It all starts easily enough, but there’s always something you haven’t seen or thought of and then all hell breaks loose.
For instance, let the fire spread to parked cars at your peril because they will explode and set off a chain reaction down the street and you will be dealing with a multitude of casualties and a fire you can no longer control. The missions are fairly premeditated in that no matter how prepared you are to prevent the fire getting to the VIP suite and endangering the mayor, if the game dictates it, it’ll happen. This can be frustrating when one second all fires are out and then a voice comes over the radio saying, "the VIP suite is on fire, you must rescue the mayor before it’s too late."
The missions are varied enough to peak the player’s interest at every turn. The first assignment features a warehouse fire and the owner is suspected of arson as part of an insurance scam. The player now has to put the fires out, obviously, and gather any evidence at the site. Send the technical officer in and he will retrieve incriminating data from the computers and make sure you rescue the secretary because she is a vital witness.
Another mission features a Hollywood celebrity who has been trapped on his tennis court by a bush fire, as a result of a particularly dry summer. Mission priorities involve rescuing his classic car collection and getting his pop singer fiancTe to safety before her career goes quite literally up in smoke. The swimming pool becomes a useful water source in this level, but make sure the chlorine container doesn’t catch fire because that releases lethal fumes.
Every aspect of each level has been carefully considered, including backdraft, forest fires and the hazard associated with electricity and limiting the effects of a chemical spill on the environment. The missions are split into several objectives that have to be completed to proceed to the next one. Make sure your water ladder and pump vehicles doesn’t run out of water, as it could be crucial for putting the last fires out.
The graphics look pretty nice, with highly effective flame effects and physics. Each fire fighter has an invisible hose, which works by selecting a unit and right clicking on an area of fire. They have a certain amount of autonomy, but all too often you will find a guy standing idle, whilst being roasted alive. The characters also carry a handy axe that can be used to hack down doors or release fumes from an area.
My only gripe is operating the vehicles, which proved annoying in the extreme and best to be avoided if at all possible. Click on a vehicle to activate it and then hold down and drag the mouse. Consequently when you get to the bottom of the screen you have to release the vehicle, scroll down and activate the vehicle all over again. Meanwhile a school is burning to the ground and you’ve got the water pump stuck on a street light".grr.
That said Emergency Fire Response is highly enjoyable and opened my eyes to the possibility of a fire fighting game that isn’t comparable to the tedium of a railway sim. Panic, elation and frustration are all emotions I experienced whilst playing and it actually became addictive. I’m not convinced that this is something for the hardcore RTS fan, not enough swords or Roman sandals, but I recommend it to anyone who needs to release their inner fire fighter. To avoid disappointment I must state that you don’t get to slide down the fireman’s pole"ooh, er!