Version tested: PlayStation 2
Fighting fire with fire. Sometimes it's the only thing to do when a game turns up the heat on its customer and decides to do everything it can to pour cold water all over your fun.
It all looked so promising for Konami's heroic rescue 'em up - a wonderfully original third person action title (It's not a license! It's not a sequel!) that has players hot footing it around performing death-defying rescue missions in various flaming environments, with the basic aim to get as many survivors out as possible.
Armed with a hose and an axe, you control Dean McGregor on a series of quick-fire (pardon the pun, again) missions to get to a handful of survivors before they perish. Radio communication with your chief keeps you informed of key information, such as how many survivors there are left, while a mini MGS-style radar map provides an instant reference to where to head.
Using what appears to be tech not dissimilar to Silent Hill, initial impressions are good, with an engine more than capable of rendering the flaming environments with a good deal of depth and atmosphere.
The problems start with the typically throwaway voiceovers and plot, which builds on the premise that hungry young newshound Emilie Arvin will go to almost any lengths to get the scoop on the mystery building around the eruption of these fires. Suffice to say that unlike the celebrated Silent Hill and Metal Gear Solid cinematics, these bear more of a resemblance to the cheesy old school Japlish of Silent Scope - in more ways than one.
Arcade principles extend to the gameplay too, which quickly settles into a predicable pattern reminiscent of light gun shooters, with mini-missions lasting no more than a couple of minutes, each taking place within a bigger environment, eventually climaxing with the dousing of a 'boss' fire.
But the initial novelty value of squirting a hose around with gay abandon is more or less immediately compromised by the repetitive nature of the gameplay, and control issues which turn basic tasks such as movement and camera manipulation into a chore. McGregor lumbers around the environment punch drunk, while minute tweaks of the camera view with the right stick sends the view lurching wildly. The game offers a simpler version of the controls without camera control, but it offers little respite to the feeling of not being fully in command.
Once novelty firmly gives into repetition, the game ups the ante with more environmental hazards to negotiate, such as gas leaks and electrical spikes requiring careful movement, and prescribed use of the environment to crawl through ventilation ducts and even leaps of faith across ropes. Other hazardous anomalies such as sentries make life more difficult, while the bizarre concept of boss fires usually means switching your nozzle onto long range and ducking out of the way of whatever 'attacks' it has - usually fire, as it happens. Lots and lots of it.
When Firefighter F.D.18 plopped through the mailbox unheralded it sounded a curious concept, and we were keen to see if Konami's Tokyo studio has come good on its promise to promote new game ideas. You certainly can't fault Firefighter F.D 18 for fiery originality, but its ambitions are cruelly extinguished by overly simplistic game design and a clunky control system makes it the kind of cult curiosity that only the true hardcore would ever dare parting cash for.
5 / 10