Genre : Action
Publisher : THQ
Developer : Kuju Ent.
Release date : November 17, 2003
In the grim darkness of the far future, there is only war…and blurry textures
First thing's first, Warhammer 40,000 is a tabletop war-game set on a tactical/squad level. The miniatures are made from plastic or lead and you must paint your own army before fielding it for play. In the Warhammer 40K Universe, you have an extremely bleak and grim setting. The Imperium of Man, which resembles a not-so-holy Roman Empire with a good dose of the Spanish Inquisition thrown is, rampages across the galaxy exterminating any perceived threat under the pretense that it is demonic and heretical. But this isn't a review of the tabletop game I have come to love so much. If you want to know more, click http://us.games-workshop.com/games/40k/gettingstarted/intro.htm to learn about the game and see if it is something that interests you.
Warhammer: Fire Warrior is set in that same universe where it is the 41st Millennium and open warfare of an epic magnitude, the likes of which no one can even fathom, sweeps across the galaxy where entire planets are scoured of all life. To make matters worse you have the forces of Chaos lurking in Hyper Space, waiting and trying to get into Real Space where they can use their nefarious powers to corrupt all sorts of people. On top of all this you have Orks and Eldar and Necrons and Tau armies running around taking shots at each other and the like. You would think that in such a universe, the natural game design choice would be that of a Civilizations type strategy game or at least an RTS type game along the lines of Empire Earth or at least Starcraft. Games Workshop Interactive instead have gone the route of the first person shooter and have plopped you down into the four toed boots of a Tau warrior named Kais. It is in these boots that you will endure the Trial by Fire, lasting a brutal twenty-four hours in the young Tau Fire Warrior's introduction to war.
Warhammer: Fire Warrior (herein referred to as WFW) capitalizes on the game's biggest strength: its setting. Games Workshop has about twenty years of table top gaming and fiction to draw from in order to create a fully fleshed out and functioning universe. Any question you have about the Warhammer 40,000 universe you may find an answer to in any of the numerous sourcebooks published on a plethora of topics. Oddly enough, the Tau are a new addition to this universe. In any event, the rich background world helps create a mythical and edgy game-world for the player.
The gameplay mechanics are straightforward. If you have played an FPS on a console then you will find the controls relatively easy to slip into. There is a wide variety of weapons but you begin with Tau plasma based weaponry. There is a carbine with a grenade launcher and an assault rifle to start off with. You begin with grenades and you are equipped with a suit of battle armor which also provides you with a shield that regenerates on its own. As the game progresses you are able to get into better armor and better weapons such as autocannons or lascannons. While the Warhammer arsenal certainly does not disappoint, the weapons do seem rather mundane. As with all FPS games there is a pattern of weapon types in which WFW adheres to diligently. Oddly enough, you are equipped with a katana like sword from the get-go, something I did not notice on the other Tau warriors, but melee weapons do figure heavily into the game. Wait until you cross an Imperial Guard Commissar wielding a chainsword…
I was bred on the mouse and keyboard format for FPS games and have always had trouble performing well when playing FPS with console pads. In the case of the Dualshock 2, WFW performs as adequately as the Dualshock 2's analog stick will allow. Minute adjustments are touchy and anything that is above or below your immediate plain is difficult to engage, however I did not find aiming to be too overbearing as with other FPS games I have played on the PS2. The controls are enhanced with a duck and jump function which lead to some jumping puzzles. Being able to lean would have been nice.
In terms of graphics and sound, WFW comes up somewhat bland. Early screenshots of the game did not look promising to me so my expectations were low, especially for low-res PS2 graphics. The textures are muddy and the lighting effects are very generic. The models, whether they be the early Imperial Guardsmen or Space Marines later on or even the Chaos Marines left me disaffected. I am very familiar with the Warhammer 40,000 iconography and in that department WFW nails everything down to the bibles next to the Adeptus Mechanicus podiums and workstations, however the lack of graphical flare and low grade texture work doesn't make any of this dazzling to someone who is not familiar with the game's universe.
The games sound effects and voice acting are again passable, but not stellar. There are some curious accents affected by the actors which fall in line with the Samurai flavor that inspires the Tau overall design, but in the end it leaves little impact on the experience. Your foes make grumbles and grunts but these mutterings are not varied and do not add very much flavor to the game. Music is only a feature for the menus and so you are left with the din of battle as your only soundtrack. Weapons have their usual clattering and staccato bursts and the explosions reminded me of Half Life for some reason.
All in all, WFW is a great game if you are a fan of the tabletop franchise. There are many references to pick up on and the game creators paid very close attention to details. You'll see clunky Leman Russ Battletanks lumber about. Space Marines address each other as "Brother" or "Brother Sergeant". The overt racism of the Imperium of Man is flagrantly displayed in Man's loathing of anything alien or heretical. When everything is said and done the game's environments and atmosphere match that of the game's origin which is one of the game's best strengths. Its weakness is derived from its otherwise mediocrity. Unless you are a fan of Warhammer 40,000 or a diehard FPS console gamer, you will find little to hold your attention. The multiplayer aspect of the game can only be tapped into if you have a broadband connection and the possibilities of a WFW online community are dubious at best. Right there that cuts off, or rather considerably hems in, one of the FPS genre's best gameplay strengths: blasting the snot out of people you don't know.
I liked WFW, but I admit to my bias. From an objective standpoint, this game would be a recommended rental. Its fun for a while, but doesn't exhibit staying power. The game designers capitalized on the game's lore, but could've done better in that department if they had chosen a different race to focus on. Granted the Space Marines and Imperial Guard are human-supremists, they do have some really cool characters to play around with. The Dark Angels make for a very tragic and compelling band of warriors. The Ordo Malleus' Grey Knights are fearsome in their Tactical Dreadnought Armor as they use their psychic powers to combat demonic hordes. The Ultramarines would make for a fun time in their long running battles with the hideous Tyranid swarms and Hive Fleets and let us not forget the temperamental if not misinterpreted charm of the Ork Warbands. Everybody loves Orks. In the end, Warhammer: Fire Warrior rates best as a cult classic. If you are a fan, check it out, if not then borrow you friend's copy or give it a whirl at the rental desk. Who knows, you might discover its charm as I did.
Score : 7.0/10
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