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Nintendo Wii Review: Real Heroes: Firefighter

This very affordable, all-ages game has nine flame-filled levels including unlockables and special items. These components include combinations revealing fire origins (fire cause determinators) and special firefighting tools. The final amusement park level incorporates some creative boss challenges and exciting mayhem that gets that heart pumping.

The stars of this game are the flames and fireballs, Epicenter's proprietary "Thinking Fire" technology, which have great physics and characteristics making you feel the realism behind this heroic profession even more. This realistic experience challenges players with quick-thinking scenarios and unpredictable explosions/special events.

The storyline centers on a rookie firefighter (A.K.A., you) learning the ropes at a metropolitan fire station. The recognizable cast adds some appeal. John DiMaggio, the voice of Bender from Futurama, voice the fire squad’s leader, Captain Kotaka. Michael Jace (The Shield) voices the second-in-command while Jenette Goldstein (Aliens) gets a reprisal role of sorts as the tough Velasquez. Jamie Kennedy provides some comic relief as Cam; James Marsters voices the veteran Match and Jack McGee provides vocals for Big Ed. Characters even add a little humor as they make comments while awaiting players and have some decent banter.

The first-person perspective makes sense, but the movements are stiff, not reflecting the usually smooth Wii control capabilities. Players can adjust control sensitivity, which improves movement and customizes preferences.

The control pad is used to equip the fire extinguisher, axe, hose and halligan – a pry bar used in two different ways. Rotary saws and everybody’s favorite, giant hydraulic spreaders, handle the big jobs. The hydraulics requires a series of angled movements, which represent the biggest learning curve. Just remember to hold that B button before starting movements.

Automatic checkpoints shift more focus on the varied action, which includes pushes, dodges, chops, and even reviving victims. Navigational arrows, fire meters and a victim health arrow help along the way after a detailed beginning tutorial.

The flame visuals that appear around the screen edges definitely cue players in to when they’re getting hurt, but the controls are a different story. Even with assisting animation, the motions could have been more automatic to reduce trial and error scenarios.

Additional correcting animation after dying on the scene would have been more helpful, but would incur considerable logistics and programming. The timing, locking on (B button), spacing, and sequence are still a factor, so a larger visual buffer zone would’ve been nice, but would’ve likely reduced the skill aspects in the control scheme.

The thundering sound effects help optimize the experience, especially the radio call option that can boom through your remote delivered in authentic, static style. Players can always read missed radio transmission in the mission log. After firefighting, you can rest at the base fire station, check progress in the Captain’s office, change equipment in the garage or view collectibles in the rec room.

This game currently has a one-player format, but future installments could certainly expand to co-operative and online network play plus a less linear story with multiple ways to problem solve, complete missions and save lives/property.

The well researched content and admirable themes create high potential for an expanded game series ("Real Heroes: Paramedics" or "Real Heroes: Lifeguard" anyone?). A portion of your game purchase ($29.99) goes towards the Firefighter Cancer Support Network.

Real Heroes: Firefighter is rated E10+ (Everyone 10 and older) by the ESRB for Action Violence.


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