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Emergency Fire Response

Developer: Monte Cristo
Publisher: DreamCatcher Interactive
Genre: Real-Time Strategy
Players: 1
Similar To: N/A
Rating: Teen
Published: 10 :03 : 03
Reviewed By: Tom Keller

Overall: 8 = Excellent


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Minimum Req.: 500 MHz Processor, 128 MB RAM, SB, DirectX 8.1, GeForce, ATI Radeon, or higher, 1.5 GB hd.
Reviewed On: P4 2.66ghz, ATI Radeon 9000 (64 MB VRAM), 256 MB Ram, Win XP Pro


On the somber side of things, Firefighters will never be looked at the same way again after Sept. 11th, and for good reason: they never got the credit that they deserved in the first place. Across this country thousands of men and women volunteer their services or willfully choose a career as a firefighting professional. In a metropolitan area, this is an especially dangerous line of work and one that most of the populace used to take for granted. No longer is this the case. If you need an even further appreciation of this occupation, Emergency Fire Response might be a good place for you to start.

Gameplay: 8/10
Emergency Fire Response is an RTS that's right up my proverbial alley. You are given the background of a particular event and some of the circumstances behind it and are usually issued specific multiple goals before you can proceed further in the scenario or move on to the next event. Goals are very specific in nature - you'll be asked to save victims, prevent computer data from being lost, find evidence that will conclusively prove arson, and a host of other objectives as you progress throughout the game. You'll be given the command of a certain group of firefighters which can be controlled individually or as a group. There are specially trained individuals (such as Paramedic, Technical Officer, Extrication Specialist, & more) that must be used for specific tasks that cannot be accomplished by others in your team. For example, the Extrication Specialist can use a circular saw to remove debris and the Technical Officer is the only one who can drive the forklift that you might need to open the garage door that's stuck. The High Risk Environment Specialist would be used to rescue trapped victims on an unreachable second floor, for example, and the loss of that particular firefighter might render the mission a failure.

The individuals can be selected individually or collectively to accomplish a particular task, such as putting out fires in particular locations within each building, for example. You can split your team into groups to accomplish different tasks. While the it's fairly straightforward, the game suffers from the same glaring weakness that plagues most RTS titles - namely that despite your best efforts to do otherwise, someone either gets lost in the shuffle or stops fighting the fire because you haven't ordered him to while trying to control 15 other aspects of the game. Even on the worst day, a firefighter armed with an extinguishing device would have the wherewithal to put out a fire that's closing in on him (or at least move SOMEWHERE) without being issued an order to so. In a realistic simulation such as this, that shouldn't happen. This isn't a plea for the game to play for you, rather have a pause option (similar to Europa Universalis II, that really got it right) where you can "catch up" and issue orders to units that have otherwise gone astray. If the game were truly a test of ones skills at issuing orders with lightning efficiency then why bother to make it realistic at all?

That issue aside, EFR addresses many many realistic events that firefighters have to face when combating this explosive element. Explosions, backdrafts, flashover (an accumulation of heat that can bake a whole room instantly), corrosive smoke, metallic fires and more. The systematic approach that you need to take fighting fires in buildings,banks, forest, and many more is fascinating and the game accomplishes a certain level of genuineness that is needed to make this "feel" right. You can also control fire trucks (Pumpers, Rescue & Water Ladders, Ambulances) which can be positioned around the blaze that you're fighting and it's left to you to figure what is the best way to utilize them. Steering of these is a bit strange, as it requires you to press and hold the mouse button and move along a green (or red, if you can't go that way do to an obstruction) arrow path to where you want to go. It's not the most intuitive system, but it's functional, and the vehicles are less of a focus for the title than are the actual individuals fighting the fire.

There is a rating system in place for each set of objectives that you will be rated on at the end of the scenario. You'll be graded on a scale of 1-5 for each aspect of the mission that you were supposed to accomplish. Obviously, lower scores might inspire you to retry the mission and score higher. Saving potential victims is always the most important part of each scenario, so keep that in mind while playing.

Graphics: 9/10
Emergency Fire Response really excels in this department, with realistic fires and behaviors. The level of detail within each environment is astounding (my wife looked over my shoulder and asked "What movie is that?" - that tell you anything?) and fire's movement, whether it be slowly all-consuming or explosive, is spot on. Interactive elements, such as ladders, clues, switches, and more are all cleverly highlighted when you're close and easy to distinguish. The game offers three levels of texture detail depending on the horsepower of your rig and you can change this setting at any time.

Sound: 9/10
The music that accompanies this is both heroic and frantic, certainly suitable for this title. The in-game sounds are impressive, with the firefighters communicating with you to let you know if a firefighter or victim are in trouble and what kind of condition they're in. There were a few instances where sentences were cut off or inaudible, but the sound elements of this title are very strong and the level of urgency conveyed by the units on the ground is impressive.

Control: 8/10
Monte Cristo got it right, for the most part, by keeping the interface and commands very simple. There aren't menus and sub menus, ad nauseum, from which to choose. Simply select with your left mouse button and click with your right to determine who you're controlling and where they are going. The camera can be rotated via a selection in the bottom left corner of the screen (your firefighters can also be accessed from the bottom of the screen by name/title - making it easier to figure out where your specialists are if you happen to lose them) and the scroll wheel allows you to zoom in and zoom out. The aforementioned vehicle movement is a bit clunky, but workable. If the title had a pause/issue Omanis feature, I'd bump this score up to a 9.

Overall: 8/10
Emergency Fire Response is a uniquely energetic RTS that captures the daunting realism of being an actual firefighter with deft precision without compromising the fun factor. If you can overlook the considerably small detractions that I've mentioned, this is well worth the cost of admission.

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Related Links: Official Site