Whenever I see a game based on firefighters I steeeeer cleeeear, Console, PC or otherwise. Now understand that this isn’t because I have a problem with our brave men and women putting their lives at risk. It has more to do with the fact that companies seem to want to capitalize as much as possible on the “current hot topic.” In the last three years there have been a TON of fire and rescue type games and they all stunk worse than a pile of rotten cow yack. Needless to say I was appalled to see Firefighter F.D. 18 in my queue of “To review” games. After I finally forced myself to put the CD in the PS2 I was surprised to find out that this one didn’t smell anything like cow yack… More like a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
The graphics for F.D. 18 are pretty good. Being a firefighter game you’d expect to see a lot of fire, and with there being a lot of fire it better look good and realistic right? Yup! The fire effects may not be perfect but I’d say that fire is probably one of the hardest things to try and present graphically. F.D. 18 does a good job of presenting the different types of fire effects. Floor and object fires look realistic whether a small flicker fire or a blazing inferno. I thought the ceiling fires looked really good, being a darker red and moving like water across the ceilings in question. Smoke effects are present and look okay. I thought that a burning building would have smoke everywhere but it doesn’t seem so dense in FD 18.
Water effects from the hose and fire extinguishers are also well done. The two modes of the hose, concentrated and spray, look like you would expect them to and look pretty fluid.
In-game character and object modeling is average and arcadey. Obstacles flash and disappear when destroyed and characters have default repetitive movement patterns. Cutscenes are well modeled and smooth. In-game environments are designed fairly well. They all look unique and make you feel like you are actually in a burning office building or stuck in a blazing roadway tunnel.
The music for the game, at points, was very good. I especially remember hearing creepy tension music just before entering an unknown blaze ridden area. Besides those few points, though, the music is secondary and you don’t even hear it.
Sounds for the game are great with a few exceptions. Smashing boxes, busting doors, explosions and the like sound very realistic. Fire sound effects are a little lackluster but I would be extremely impressed if they got it right on the money. Modeling fire graphically or audibly is not an easy task.
Voice acting in the game is done very well. Unfortunately some of the lines they are forced to read have a cheeze frosting.
Controlling Firefighter F.D. 18 is straightforward and relatively easy. Circle is kick object or door, R1 is use hose, ax or item. The other buttons have other various controls that are barely used, like kneeling to get out of smoke.
Camera control is frustrating. It never seems to do what you want it to. The camera is fine in large rooms or long corridors, but if you have to turn a corner or turn around and move quickly you’ll sometimes find yourself losing direction and having to stop and correct to move where you want to go. So FD18 has a moderate case of “Cameritus.”
The basic formula for F.D. 18 consists of watch cutscene, enter area, fight through flames/obstacles, rescue survivors, fight “fire boss.” Fire boss? Yup. I’ll get to that later. You play the game as Dean McGregor, a firefighter with a solemn hidden past. As you play through the game, the overall story is played out in cutscenes each revealing more about each character and the storyline as a whole. The overall story is intriguing at first but plays out to be a little cheesy. There are a few main buildings/areas each separated into many small levels. Each level’s objective includes rescuing all survivors. To do this, Dean must make it through large blazes, live power lines, security robots and other strange obstacles. His standard equipment includes a “SUPER LONG” fire hose, an ax for obstacles and walls, and a chemical fire extinguisher. In addition, he can pick up first aid items and boost items along the way. At the end of certain sections Dean will have to defeat a “Boss Fire,” a somewhat sentient like blaze that has special abilities and “attacks.” The “Boss Fires” even come complete with life bars and can be pretty tough to beat. I liked this aspect of the game as it added some sense of deadly personality to the blaze. Levels are fairly short making it easy to retry if you fail. The game allows you to save after each main stage. Each level is made up of 3 to 5 main stages and each main stage is broken into 3 to 5 small sections.
In the end there just wasn’t enough variety to keep my interest. After defeating 4 or 5 bosses, I became bored and wanted to put the game down.
If Konami would’ve added more variety to the game, i.e. more weapons, improved hoses and better firefighter gear this would be worth the $40 shelled out for the game. As it stands, I don’t really care for the genre and wouldn’t have tried it without some recommendation. This said I was very surprised at how good the game actually was compared to the other games of the sort. I’d say maybe a $20 or $30 price tag is more reasonable.
As for replay value, a large portion of the game is based on triggered scripts and the levels are always the same. This makes for a poor replay value score.