Firefighter F.D. 18

Not as hot as it looks


The Lowdown

Pros: Innovative concept

Cons: Graphical mess, focuses too much on memorizing levels, cheap gameplay

Purchase at Play-Asia
Many games focus on fighting aliens, monsters and even humans. So when Konami presented the idea of Firefighter F.D. 18 it was something fresh. Instead of fighting against a foe, your enemy was nature. Instead of finding gold coins, you're job is to find stranded survivors. While this isn't the first firefighting game ever made, but its been awhile since one was released. We were excited to give this game a playthrough, but it wasn't what we expected.
Firefighter F.D. 18 places you in the shoes of a firefighter named Dean. Dean's job is to go into blazing buildings to rescue hapless citizens. When you're placed into a building you only have a few tools with you, your hose and your axe. You're going to mainly use your hose to douse the fire around you. The hose actually has two types of nozzles, one that is linear and highly concentrated and one that is spread shot that is not as concentrated. When you have a lot of small fires around you the spread shot is king, but when you have a giant fire you're going to use the linear shot. Spraying fires with water will eventually make them disappear, unless they are a "special" fire. Some fires act like boss monsters, they have their own life bars and shoot flames to spread a blaze. These fires need to be hit accurately and quickly to be taken out. If you get into a bind you can call "backup", which is essentially a bomb mechanism. Your backup can heavily damage a boss or clear out a lot of fire. While you are a firefighter you aren't really concerned with eliminating the red blaze. Instead your job is really to save the civilians.
There are civilians scattered throughout the area. While civilians are trapped in fire they lose life. If you miss saving even one of the people before their life runs out he mission is over. Saving civilians is the core part of the game and it quickly becomes a frustrating ordeal. You are given a map on the top right hand corner of the screen that shows you where civilians are located. What the map doesn't tell you is that often the fastest route to saving a civilian is blocked off. You either need to use your trusty axe to break down a wall or find a key hidden in the level. By the time you find the actual path to save the civilian they die, which means you have to start all over again.  It's always nice to have a challenge, but the game tricks you into going to an incorrect location. The whole ordeal ends up becoming frustrating.

Besides having to restart missions due to the poor level design, you'll be dying quite a bit from the surrounding fire. When Dean is standing in fire he loses life rapidly. This wouldn't be too much of a problem if flames didn't spread around you. For instance you could douse a fire, just to have it later respawn underneath your feet. You could be focusing on taming a large "boss" fire and not even know you're losing life until its too late. The game also has a number of traps that take off huge amounts of your life. For instance there are "explosions" that happen without any prior warning. If you don't know they're there you'll incur heavy and sometimes fatal damage. Once again forcing you to restart the level, yet again. Instead of making this a challenge to spot traps or even dodge them the traps are more like memory exercises. There are items that you can find to recover life, such as vitamins and first aid kits. If you use one of these items your health immediately recovers, but finding these items are quite rare. Especially in later levels where you're forced to lose life by running through flames something to recover your health would be nice.

While wandering around the burning buildings the game looks pretty sparse. The walls are typically gray and there are few graphical touches in the background. This makes every area seem like the last sans civilian placement. Konami did do a nice job making the fire, but the effects of it soon get tiresome. When you first look at the fire, it glowing orange and red. Soon when you're surrounded by it the screen is covered with so much bright orange you're eyes hurt. So you douse the fire and of course steam comes out, but steam doesn't just come out it surrounds the screen. So for most of the game you're going to be seeing a mix of orange and gray, not exactly the best looking game out there. When the effects in the game spend more time clouding vision than being eye candy there is no point in having them. There are some less dramatic effects that could have been done, even making the fog less dense.

Firefighter F.D. does have some nicely laid out and animated story scenes that you see after completing a level. While the character models aren't revolutionary they still look pretty good, on par with today's games. The cut scenes tell the story of conspiracy about who is starting the fires. You can opt to skip through the story and just play the game and you won't be missing much. Once you solve the mystery the game is over. You can come back again to collect more costumes and find collectible items throughout the levels, but there really isn't anything to do on a second playthrough.

Import Friendly?

Voices are in English with Japanese subtitles. Unfortunately the menus are all in Japanese, but they contain plenty of pictures for you importers.

US Bound?

Firefighter F.D. 18 has a March 9th release date.

Overall

Firefighter F.D. 18 attempts to be something new and tries hard to make a genre for itself. However, it doesn't exactly succeed due to stale gameplay mechanics, cheap puzzles and sloppy graphics.