Now you can finally live out your dreams of becoming a firefighter.
During GDC 2009 I got the opportunity to meet up with Bryan Jury, the CCO of Epicenter Studios, and he took me on a guided tour of their upcoming Wii title Real Heroes: Firefighter. I’m OK with admitting to being one of the few who doubted the game’s quality. When I first heard about the title, I was hesitant to try it out, thinking that it would be like every other generic action video game out there. To my surprise, it was the complete opposite. I liked what I saw and came out of the meeting greatly anticipating its release.
Real Heroes: Firefighter is at its core a first-person shooter, developed by a team who previously worked on the Call of Duty franchise during the previous console generation. After branching off they decided that shooting Nazis had grown tiresome, and they needed a change of pace. Instead of a war hero you take control of a newly-graduated firefighter put straight into the field. This isn’t your normal first-person shooter though; instead of shooting enemies you are dousing fires in different locales and situations. The result is a first-person shooter that a six-year-old could safely play without psychological repercussions.
It employs a typical first-person narrative, with the action and cutscenes all in first-person perspective. You come across characters voiced by famous actors and actresses such as Jamie Kennedy (Malibu’s Most Wanted), Michael Jace (The Shield), and even John Dimaggio, who voices the illustrious Bender from Futurama. These recognizable voices definitely give the game more personality.
The game gives you a wide array of equipment to utilize in the different encounters you face. You start with basic firefighting equipment, your primary tool being an axe which is used to chop down doors and obstacles. You also have a fire extinguisher which is used as a portable fire douser. However, the real weapon of choice is your fire hose. It has two types of shots: the first one is a straight stream which more accurately removes of fires, and the second is more of a spray. It doesn’t travel as far, but it can remove a larger radius of fire.
All the weapons have unlimited or rechargeable ammo, with the exception of the hose. Just like in real life, a hose can only go so far. Once it reaches its maximum length, or a sequence seals you off from going back, you lose the ability to use your current hose until you find other emergency hoses located around each locale.
The game boasts nine missions all located in completely different areas. This allows for completely different gameplay that is unique to each location. Your firefighting squad will see itself tackling obstacles in a factory, a forest, a museum, and many more. As you progress through the game different mechanics become available; it’s not all fire-dousing. Doors may need to be spread, mandating the user of a hydraulic spreader. A quick jab with the Wii Remote jams it in, allowing you to then proceed further into the level. Smoke can also block your vision, which can be fixed by smashing windows to vent a room. There are also gas leaks that need to be turned off through a valve, with the only way to find it being to follow the gas pipes. This adds a nice puzzle element to the game. You’ll also have to rescue people trapped in rooms and lead them to safety. Overall it tackles every obstacle a firefighter could possibly come across.
There are also several different difficulties that’ll challenge every player. Each level features the fire acting in different intensities. At the highest difficulty, Brian mentioned that players will not have time to react slowly. It’ll be non-stop action that’ll require quick thinking.
What I found most impressive was Epicenter's Wii engine. It ran pretty smoothly and featured a steady framerate. According to Brian, the Real Heroes engine can handle at least 12,000 individual fire "objects" at any one time and render them on-screen. The fires aren’t scripted events either; if you don’t put out a fire it’ll just continue to grow, making the amount of fires even greater. To see the Wii handle all of this is quite amazing.
Real Heroes: Firefighter is to be released sometime this summer for the budget price of $30. With a price like that it’s definitely something to check out. Jury even mentioned that proceeds from game sales will be donated to the Firefighter Cancer Support Network, which makes the purchase even more worth it.
There are no plans yet to do more games in the Real Heroes series, but it’s something that they’re willing to look into. Real Heroes: Firefighter is currently scheduled to ship in the third quarter of 2009.