GDC 2009: Real Heroes: Firefighters First Look

The title may state the obvious, but firefighting is no easy task, and we find out why in Epicenter's upcoming first-person action game.


Real Heroes: Firefighter

At some point in our lives, we all must have made a trip to the local fire station to stare in awe at the shiny red trucks, and perhaps at the incredibly brave men and women who risk their lives every day to ensure our safety. Formed by industry veterans with plenty of Call of Duty experience, Epicenter Studios plans to focus on fighting fires instead of killing Nazis. It's a welcome change, especially with the flood of World War II games. Real Heroes: Firefighters is set up like a first-person shooter in terms of controls and plot development, but it's geared toward a more family-friendly audience. You play as the rookie: young, ready, and eager to save the day. We met with Epicenter to take a closer look at a near-finished version of Firefighters and found an intense action game that would appeal to gamers of all ages.

Your team will always be by your side.
Your team will always be by your side.

As we were given a special tour of multiple stages, we were told that you'll have the opportunity to explore a wide variety of locations and be constantly placed in different scenarios so that each firefighting experience is unique and exciting. Generally you're putting out fires, but the process changes when people are involved. Sometimes you'll have to protect them until help arrives, and at other times you might need to carry them out yourself. Your objective is given to you at the beginning, and depending on the situation, your goal is to save people first, and the building second. Although it may feel like a slow shooter, you're firing a stream of water into the shifting flames instead of blasting moving targets with bullets. It does get quite intense when your surroundings begin to fall apart as you're trying to find the exit. Some strategy and planning is needed to douse the flames before they engulf everything around you, so you have the option to switch to a spray, which will target a larger area up close, or a stream, which has a longer range. A fire meter on the side will help you determine whether you're actually putting out the fires or just fanning the flames. The fire has its own AI and will spread if you aren't on top of things. There will be times when you need to solve environmental puzzles to get to a civilian, or find a way to shut off the electricity so you can get past a barrier.

It was impressive to see how the fire moves when you're trapped in a burning room with nowhere to go. Trapped civilians will cower and raise their hands against the heat, which acts as a hint on where you should focus your efforts. Considering that firefighters don't have the luxury of memorizing the layout of a building before it goes up in flames, you must explore your environments thoroughly, calling out periodically to locate others. You are armed with some tools, such as an axe and an extinguisher, but keeping an eye out for extinguisher refills is handy. Finding standpipes is also helpful because the length of your hose isn't indefinite.

The controls are similar to Metroid Prime, and there are plenty of options to adjust the setup the way you like it. The analog stick is for movement, and you point the Wii Remote and hold B to spray. The D pad brings up your tools, and you can crouch with the C button to see under the smoke or crawl past obstacles. The developers wanted the game to be accessible, especially because the target audience is between the ages of 8 and 12. However, we were told that the game would still provide a serious challenge for seasoned gamers on the hardest difficulty setting because of how aggressive the fire can get.

Luckily the game isn't so realistic to the point where it's all smoke and ash and no visibility.
Luckily the game isn't so realistic to the point where it's all smoke and ash and no visibility.

There are nine stages in total, with several locations to explore within each. Although it may not be the prettiest game on the console, it does have celebrity voice talent featuring Jamie Kennedy, Jack McGee from Rescue Me, John DiMaggio from Futurama, and several others to bring the characters to life. The game should take roughly five to six hours, and though it may be considered short, the price is set at only 30 dollars, with a portion of the proceeds going to the Firefighter Cancer Support Network. It's nice to see that it is possible to have an action game in which the goal is to save people without the violence. Firefighting is a dangerous profession, but Real Heroes: Firefighters on the Wii gives gamers a glimpse into what goes on when the sirens go off. Be on the lookout when this game is released in May.

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