Over the course of video game history, players the world over have saved cities, countries, planets, and entire galaxies from alien scourges, evil ninja clans, death-dealing robots, and brutally insane wizards millions of times. But, as you might surmise from the game's title, Firefighter F.D. 18, Konami's new third-person action game, brings the scale of the crisis down to a more personal level and has you fighting something less tangible than ninjas or zombies. Fighting fires instead of more typical corporeal opponents is certainly a refreshing change, but the gameplay can't make entirely good on Firefighter's unique concept.
In modern Konami style, Firefighter injects additional tension into an already tense job with some between-mission melodrama. You play as Dean McGregor, a firefighter haunted by a tragic accident where he was unable to save a loved one. Now, McGregor finds himself juggling a spunky young female reporter who likes to get too close to the action and a twitchy, paranoid arsonist who has his sights on McGregor. Though a lot of the dialogue is pretty embarrassing, and a lot of the dramatic sequences seem hokey, it's all Hollywood enough that it kind of works.
There are few things as primal and frightening as an out-of-control fire, and Firefighter tries to capitalize on that.
As firefighter Dean McGregor, your primary concern is saving civilian lives, though you do get points for extinguishing fires, and you'll have to cut your way through plenty of flames to do the rescuing. You have your trusty fire hose for extinguishing most fires, a portable chemical-based fire extinguisher for the more stubborn stuff, and an axe for breaking through walls and smashing various other obstacles. Most of the time, the fire is already at such a full blaze that, as a one-man rescue team, you have no hopes of putting out the entire fire. At best, you can clear a narrow path so you can reach those in peril and hope the fire doesn't catch up behind you too quickly. The game does give you a good sense that you are almost always on the verge of being engulfed in flames yourself, though it's also pretty dependent on scripted events, which can make different sequences predictable, and that makes most of the game's difficult sequences simple exercises in trial and error. The scripted nature of the game also reduces its value, since there's little reason to go back to it after completing the game, which can be done in under 10 hours.
After a few levels of search and rescue, the game will face you off against (and we're not kidding here) a boss fire. Complete with unique names, life bars, special moves, and vocalized death knells, these fires tend to require you to use special tactics to defeat them, and they can be pretty challenging. The AI at work here is pretty blatant, which goes against the inherently unpredictable and dangerous nature of fire, though this is only one of many liberties Firefighter takes with the job. Your hose can follow you anywhere--up several stories in a building, inside ventilation ducts, through closed doors, you name it. When a civilian is rescued, he or she will issue a quick thanks and then magically evaporate into the ether.