As a recently retired firefighter, I definitely didn’t want to be too hard on this video game. I retired in 2019 and know that firefighting is notoriously hard to simulate. The video game industry has put lots of work into first person shooters fleshed-out by voice actors embodying intriguing characters. It has put a lot less into multi-person simulators dealing with firefighting. Rendering a realistic rescue of a victim from a burning building all while locating, confining and extinguishing a fire is a tall order.
Firefighting Simulator: The Squad is set up as a series of escalating challenges with a training center that gets players ready for using the controls and interacting with the environment. The game utilizes the Unreal Computer Graphics Game Engine to construct a 15-acre townscape with clean lines, pothole free streets and no grime. This is not a gritty inner city plagued with poverty, or a rundown logging town that has seen better days.
The Squad starts off with a small house fire that lets players learn the basic commands, and then also gives players the option of going to a training facility. The training is worth it as many of the basics are gone over, and it lets players understand how to use their AI-controlled firefighter teammates.
The basic task of checking a door to see if it opens before forcing it with a Halligan (prying tool) is shown. The use of a hose-line is okay, if a bit tedious. It seems to take too long to put out a small amount of fire, and it also seems to rekindle in seconds after being practically extinguished. The fire extinguisher, on the other hand, is much more effective than you would think.
The rescue of victims is done in only one of two ways. Picking them up and putting them over your shoulder (fireman carry) or walking them out. There is no low crawl dragging or team rescues which might have been a nice touch.
I really enjoyed driving the apparatus and fire trucks to the different calls. Turning down a street with high-rise buildings on both sides, or going over a bridge into oncoming traffic is pretty fun. Once getting on the scene, the fun comes in fits and starts. I mean that literally. For example, I couldn’t always exit the vehicle unless it was centered between an imaginary rectangle.
Once my firefighter character got off the engine, I had some AI-controlled firefighters join me and wait to follow my orders. It is here that I saw people on YouTube who had played Firefighting Simulator: The Squad with a full team of online friends, so they didn’t need any of the AI-based support units. Those human teams online did much better than I did trying to order the three AI-controlled NPCs around. I sometimes became frustrated with the slowness in which my crew responded to my commands.
The gameplay is pretty bread and butter when it comes to this simulation. Breaking windows and forcing doors open are all pretty basic, and there is only one size hose line. The hose line also magically follows the firefighter wherever they go, unspooling an infinite-seeming length with no kinks or hang-ups in the doorway, which is much better than in real life.
Again, I used to do this for a living, so I could see how a developer and even a firefighter advising a developer might not want the regular, deep details about firefighting to get in the way of the most important gameplay element, fighting a fire. I do like how they highlighted there are different apparatus that you use to get to the scene, and the need to have a supply line hooked to a fire hydrant. So, lots of detail is included, with only some of the nitpicky things being overlooked.
The game even has an experience point mechanic that allows players to unlock more serious challenges as they successfully navigate the easier ones. There are 30 different challenges. This range of challenges includes everything from a newspaper stand fire to a blaze at a single-family home. It all culminates with a fire inside a subway car. You can’t jump to the subway fire without dealing with the newsstand or the different housefires.
As a special note, I appreciated that collapsing ceilings were included as a danger, as that does happen in real life. And when it does, it’s always surprising.
There is no overarching story or recognizable personalities in The Squad. I would like to see something like that in future versions of the game as stories can help any title, but this was made by the same people who created bus and construction simulators that concentrate on the job itself in generic settings with anonymous people rather than being story-heavy in nature. The Squad follows that same pattern.
All in all, The Squad is best played with good friends joining you online who can operate as a team to put out fires. That is when it really shines. The slowly responding AI-controlled firefighters mean that it’s not nearly as much fun. That makes sense, because firefighting is not a one-person job, and Firefighting Simulator: The Squad accurately reflects this.
Firefighting Simulator: The Squad is a pretty hot title for those who have an interest in firefighting, whether they are a current or former firefighter like me, or are simply interested in that unique occupation. The Squad earns 4 GiN Gems, but note that it’s much more enjoyable if you can get three friends to jump in and fight fires alongside you.
Developers: Chronos Unterhaltungssoftware
Platforms: PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Steam, Xbox One, Xbox Series X