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Real Heroes: Firefighter

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC, Wii
Genre: First-Person Shooter
Publisher: Golem Entertainment
Developer: Epicenter Studios
Release Date: Nov. 27, 2019

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Switch Review - 'Real Heroes: Firefighter'

by Cody Medellin on March 12, 2020 @ 12:00 a.m. PDT

Real Heroes: Firefighter puts players in the soon-to-be soot-stained boots of a rookie firefighter who has just been assigned to a busy metropolitan fire station.

In 2009, Real Heroes: Firefighter was released on the Nintendo Wii. While it wasn't a masterpiece, it surprised people by covering a topic that's rare in video games, while also providing some solid mechanics for a system that didn't have many first-person games at the time. Few would've expected it to be a prime candidate for a remastered Switch port, but that's exactly what happened almost 10 years later.

The premise is that you play the role of a rookie firefighter who's graduated quickly through the academy ranks and been assigned to Engine Company 13. The minute you join the company, you're headed to your first major incident, and with the city in the midst of a major heatwave, the situations escalate before things get better.


The setup would make you think that you're going in with a fire extinguisher and firehose to get rid of the flames, and while you will be doing just that, there's more to the job than you would think. There are situations where you need to rescue civilians and other trapped firefighters, either by chopping down debris with your ax, pushing aside junk that's blocking doorways, or dousing flames to clear a path for them. Later on, rescue will involve using a saw to cut down passageways or using the jaws of life to pry open metal doors.

The missions take place in some pretty normal scenarios, including a metal factory going haywire and a bad traffic accident on a bridge. These missions are special because of how dynamic they are. You may start off by trying to contain a fire, but you'll soon be getting into buildings to rescue people while waiting for a ladder to open up the escape route. That can quickly turn into you manning a water gun and dousing new fires that come from explosions or killing the electricity and gas so that your water and extinguisher can finally make a dent in the flames. It also helps that the fire behaves dynamically. Blasting fire from the top proves ineffectual, as the flames below it will just light up those places again, and leaving even a small spark in one area will lead to an inferno because you let it grow again and reach some explosives. Being thorough becomes an essential part of the job, and that's encouraged, since there's no timer on a majority of the 10 levels.


The concept is enjoyable mostly because you still don't see many titles taking on that fireman premise. The game runs into the danger of being tedious at times, since you'll spend a good deal of time spraying at fire in mundane ways, and the lack of a timer creates a situation where being thorough doesn't exactly translate into excitement. There are enough changes in each situation to counteract the mundane parts, and the game is simple enough for anyone to have a good time with it.

However, Real Heroes: Firefighter does suffer from some terrible design decisions, all of which originated from the game's initial release. For example, the red tint to indicate danger does a terrible job of letting you know how close you are to death because both minor and major damage tints look the same. There are countless times that the system has resulted in surprise deaths. The AI for all of the people you rescue isn't great, since they all take set paths and lack the dynamism to make choices that seem realistic. If a small flame is in their way, they'll stand and wait for it to go away rather than take a step to the side and go down a clear path. It is frustrating, and it's a major annoyance since this is something you have to constantly deal with.


The control scheme for the game varies wildly, depending on how you play and which controllers you're using. If you're playing docked with your Joy-Cons, you'll default to the Wii control scheme, which works fine for putting out fires with more accuracy, but the lack of precision when it comes to cursor detection means that you'll be constantly re-centering the controls. With no option to change this, it's the worst way to play the game. If you're using a Pro Controller, the game defaults to a more traditional dual-analog setup, and that works fine since it falls in line with more traditional first-person shooters. If you decide to go handheld, the title also employs the standard dual analog setup, so as long as you're fine with the looser analog controls, you'll find the scheme to be rather comfortable.

Despite being underpowered compared to the other modern consoles, the Switch can certainly punch above its weight from time to time. This game doesn't demonstrate that, though. On the audio side, the effects for the firehose and similar items lack any impact, but the voice acting is fine. The music only appears at certain moments when the action builds up, but the mixing volume is pretty terrible, since the music can get loud enough to drown out any voices that are giving you hints about what to do.


Graphically, the game now has a cel-shaded look, which makes the dated parts stand out in an unflattering way. The polygon counts for people and objects are very low, and the animations don't look any better than the original Wii iteration. Despite its age, the frame rate is stuck at 30fps, and the animations range from decent for character movement to nonexistent for mouth movement. The texture work is muddy, while the fire looks flat. Smoke and light also come off poorly, since their colors are less realistic than before and create visible polygonal seams. The lack of anti-aliasing makes this game look much worse than it should be.

While the concept behind Real Heroes: Firefighter is solid, time has not been kind to the game. The levels seem more drawn out now; the lulls where you're simply fighting the flames can feel tedious, and issues like the bad AI are more pronounced than ever. Worse is the fact that the port has a poorer presentation than the original, something that's unheard of for a remaster, even if the title doesn't suggest that to be the case. It isn't a terrible game by any means, but be prepared to temper your expectations if you're coming into this after seeing some old reviews for the Wii version.

Score: 5.0/10



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