The dream of many a young child is to grow up and be a fireman (or woman). And United Independent Entertainment have now presented us with an opportunity to live that dream. What could possibly go wrong? Lots, and we’re not talking about the fires you have to distinguish.
First, it’s important to note, this is billed as a simulator. And as such, you should expect more of a realistic presentation and execution than that of an arcade game.
Firefighters the Simulation launched previously on PC before being ported to console. If you’re familiar with it from its previous release, there have been no reported changes to the title.
You begin as a trainee fire fighter. With an option to play a tutorial, which you’ll quickly discover, will rank as one of the most tedious tasks you’ve had to endure in your gaming history. The first thing that you can’t fail to notice is the graphics. Now we’re not elitist snobs when it comes to looks, but United Independent Entertainment must have been on a very short and tight schedule, or this was developed in a bedroom. It could probably have been pushed out as a very high end Nintendo 64 game. Now we’ve got the elephant in the room out the way, we’ll go back to the tutorial.
You’re led around the fire station and introduced to each area of importance. You’ll discover your living quarters, how to perform vehicle mechanics and of course, be introduced to the firefighting fleet themselves. It takes a while to progress through the tutorial as you are left following around a senior fireman who is showing you the ropes. It all feels a bit slack, and characters themselves have an unnatural movement. Or even at times, look to be floating above the ground.
Once you progress you can finally get stuck into the simulation. You’ll be assigned a basic firefighting van for your first day; equipped with a smoke detector, a hazardous waste robot and a paltry fire extinguisher. When you’ve taken to the roads it’s now a case of waiting for an emergency to happen and receive that call. In your vehicle, you’ll find simple simulation mechanics. You can indicate, switch on your lights for night driving and best of all, turn on your siren and flashing lights.
You’ll soon discover several aspects. The small sandbox world is like a Marie Celeste. It’s an almost lifeless world with few cars and a handful of people wandering the streets. You could get to a fire, and we’re talking in your first day nothing more than a wheelie bin in flames, and wonder who started it as you just rarely see anyone. If you’re successful in extinguishing the fire, you’ll gain points which go towards ranking up on your way to becoming the chief firefighter.
During your day, you’ll need to tend to the vehicle you’re assigned to, ensuring it is in working order and clean. You must also ensure that fuel is sufficient by visiting one of the petrol stations that are scattered over the map. It’s essential to maintain your standards and fuel. If you’re called to an emergency you are against the clock. Running out of fuel will terminate your shift early with some stern words from the chief.
As you start to rank up, you’ll be granted access to different vehicles and situations will become more fraught and dangerous. And this is where you’ll fall into one of two categories. You’ll either have lost all hope after day one, or you’ll be too intrigued to consider stopping. Chances are even the most die-hard simulation fans among us will give up early on. And as much as you do become intrigued, or laugh at running around in the first person with a jet wash, it’s just a soulless experience. And a mellow trance backtrack does nothing to sooth the soul as you persevere.
The whole experience feels archaic. Right down to the save system. Your progress can only be saved at the end of the day, and it has to be a manual save. If you work a few shifts, rank up and forget, then you’ll find yourself right back at the start. And whilst it can’t be seen as a hindrance, players have now grown more expectant for titles to deliver easy save functions.
The premise is almost an untouched potential, but the developers have done almost no justice to the simulation whatsoever. The execution is lazy, embarrassing and uninspired. This is not helped by its extortionate price tag of £23.99. Had they of given development more time and more thought, this could have been a special simulation. But you’ll probably get more enjoyment out of using your own hosepipe to water the garden.
Whilst United Independent Entertainment have given us an opportunity to live those childhood dreams, like many fantasies, some are just meant to be left alone. If you really want to have a worthy fire fighting experience, track down yourself a Sega Saturn and a copy of Burning Rangers.
Firefighters – The Simulation is available now on the Xbox Store, priced £23.99
Whilst the premise of being able to save civilians from ravaging fires holds great potential, Firefighters – The Simulation delivers none of it. Let down further by the extortionate price tag, graphics fifteen years out of date and soulless world, it would be difficult to recommend this even if it was free. Even though there is a very short term element of fun if you look past the negatives, being bugged, unfinished and frustrating, this is one fire you want to leave burning.