Emergency Fire Response

Emergency Fire Response

Written by John Yan on 9/3/2003 for PC  

The thought of controlling firefighters and putting out the beast that feeds on oxygen sounds intriguing. Monte Cristo has taken this idea and turned it into a real time strategy game. Emergency Fire Response looks to capture the frantic action of controlling a blaze while rescuing victims and important objects.

Emergency Fire Response is a full 3D real time strategy game that lets you take part in ten levels with three to four missions per level. You’ll have a host of vehicles and specialists to control and utilize. Using each strategically having them fight certain parts of the fire is essential as you’ll have to prioritize certain areas to accomplish your goals. Do you sacrifice the important documents to rescue an unconscious victim in a room? Or do you think can’t get to the person in time and sacrifice the victim for the other objectives? Emergency Fire Response will put you in such situations and many more when going through the game.

Before each mission, you’ll be shown a prelude that includes some real time rendering of the events leading up to the fire. The prelude will give you some advance warning of what you’re going to face and have to save. You’ll take part in saving a couple actors or rescuing some bank robbers to name a few. After the quick intro you are thrown to the fire. The missions offer some good variety instead of just putting out fires. You’ll be asked to save some important items that can be a clue to a case for arson or save a vehicle from being consumed by the flames.

The full 3D engine allows you to rotate the camera and also zoom in and out. A nice touch that Monte Cristo did was that you could select victims that are obstructed by obstacles without having to position the camera for a clear view. A glowing depiction of the victim appears behind walls and objects. This makes it a lot easier and you don’t spend time fighting the camera to get a good view of the victim to save. And you don’t want to spend time fighting the camera because the game can be rather hectic. Fires can rage out of control pretty quickly and you’ll have to strategically place the fighters in good areas to try and keep them contained.

Because of the hectic nature of the game, it can get easily frustrating with the inconsistent AI. While for the most part the fighters do well in continuing to fight parts of the flame that are connected, I have experienced a few times where the firefighter would put out a part of the fire and just stand there when the blaze continues to grow around them. They’ll also step into the fire every once in a while even though you specifically tell them to start at the edge of it. If the AI would take a more proactive approach instead this would’ve made the game a lot less frustrating in the long run.

With the active nature of the fire, you’ll be scrolling around a lot trying to keep your firemen out of danger and to make sure everyone’s doing something. Luckily, the icons of your firemen at the bottom have a question mark on the ones that aren’t doing anything. The overlays on the icons help easily identify what the firemen are doing or what’s happening to them. If one’s engulfed by flames, you’ll see fire on the bottom of their picture. I would’ve liked to have some indication of what grouping the fireman is though such as a number in the corner. Without it, or any indication on the character itself, you don’t know who’s in what group.

You’ll also want to be careful of where you place your men as there are environmental effects that can put your men in danger or a quick death. Barrels can explode or glass ceilings can come crashing down on you doing serious damage. I had one fireman strolling up to put out some flames and failed to notice a stack of explosive barrels near him. Next thing I know, they explode and take out my guy.
Vehicles of various sorts are also available for you to use. You’ll need the refilling truck for your fireman as they run out of repellent and need refilling. You’ll have to find a nice balance and alternating of fireman with low and full tanks. Walking a whole group away from a job to refill usually results in the fire growing back a significant portion. It is rather annoying to keep having to tell your fireman to go refill their tanks and I would’ve liked an automatic command to have the fireman run back to the truck and back to the spot they left to make things easier.

Driving the vehicles can be a bit of a hassle itself as you have to hold the right mouse button and drag an arrow or direction your car will follow. The longer the arrow, the faster the vehicle will travel. An option to click and have the vehicle would’ve been a lot better too as there are times you just want a vehicle to go to a certain area but don’t want to baby sit it and rather using your time concentrating on the firemen themselves.

If you do achieve some of the objectives in the level early, you will be forced to complete or fail on all of them before moving onto the next objective of that level. For example, on the third level where you have to rescue the billionaire, I had the whole fire put out but hadn’t rescued the people in the green house. Trying to send one of my firemen to bust down the door yielded a voice that said that objective is not a priority at this point. When the final person was rescued for that part of the scenario, I was shown a cut scene of the trapped people in the greenhouse along with some new fires that started in places I had already put out. One of my firemen was right in the middle of the restarted fire causing some havoc. You would think that once a fire is out in a certain area, it wouldn’t reignite when the next part of the level starts. I don’t really agree with the game limiting me to objectives if I am doing a good job or causing fires to start up for the sake of the next objective even though you’ve taken care of that part of the level.

Graphically, the game does a pretty good job at modeling the fire. It sways and moves just like real fire. For slower machines you can turn down the level of fire detail as it can bog a machine down if the whole screen is ablaze. Areas that are burned leave behind a black spots and charred remains. The character models are nothing spectacular but you can easily distinguish them and their specialty by color alone. The environments are modeled well and some can be interacted with. The objects that you can interact with will flash occasionally and the icon on your mouse pointer will change to show what kind of interaction will happen.

Overall, this budget title isn’t too bad. The game will get hectic quick and you have to be really quick on your toes. There can be times where it becomes really overwhelming and that can be frustrating to deal with. AI problems will cause more headaches as well. There are no multiplayer features so once you finish the game there’s not much replay value other than to up the difficulty level. Emergency Fire Response offers some fun and frustration but for $20 it’s not a bad pickup.

Sometimes fun but often times frustrating, Emergency Fire Response offers some good value for a budget title. It's got some AI problems and design issues that keep it from being really good.

Rating: 6.5 Mediocre

* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company for review.


About Author

I've been reviewing products since 1997 and started out at Gaming Nexus. After writing for a few different sites that went under, it's nice to bring back a site that's not dependent on revenue and just wants to deliver news and reviews of products.

I'm  married, and enjoy first person shooters, sports games, and real time strategy games.


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