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Review of Fire Blade
The first thought when starting this game is, I don’t really know how to fly a helicopter, will this be a problem? Fortunately, for this game, it’s not. The first campaign starts with a tutorial of how to move and shoot. This helps you with the grasp of all the controls. You are using both thumbsticks to control forward, left, right and elevation. Then there are all the face buttons and shoulder buttons to get used to using. While the training program won’t make you a master, it will be enough to get through some missions. The operative word for this game is patience. You’re going to need a lot of it. The missions aren’t simple, one or two try for each of the events is the norm. There is a lot of ambiguous information you get and the rest needs to be figured out. So, it takes several tries to find ways to get through the various stages. And, the mission starts over, even if you are most of the way through when you get shot down or the mission is aborted. Strategically placed checkpoints would have been a blessing.
I found the controls to be relatively easy to master. The options allow you to invert the thumbsticks if the controls don’t seem natural. I had to experiment with the elevation controls to find the most natural feel. The fire controls can’t be changed around, so those button assignments are fixed. The key is to remember which ones to use when in the heat of battle. They also change when in stealth mode, so that has to be remembered as well. There is a nice level of complexity that with practice makes this quite a powerful game.
The structure of the game is pretty simple. There are four major campaigns. In each campaign are several missions that you have to complete. At the beginning of each mission, you are given a very basic mission objective. There is very little other information provided. You have to fumble through the mission several times before you get the general idea of what you need to do. For example, in the training mission, you get a radio message to rendezvous with your flight instructor after you fly around and get used to the controls, but the rendezvous won’t happen if you haven’t done the first task of the mission. You have to press the start button and check the mission objectives. Also, there is a mission map that will help you orient yourself to the objective, which is very handy.
As you progress and get used to the very ambiguous missions, you can start progressing along each mission. It’s a steep learning curve at first, but it will get easier.
While I found the graphics to be very good, there is nothing that makes the graphics stand out against other PS2 games. There is no popping or seaming, no ghost renderings or anything of that sort, but also no major/real time shadowing or details in the backgrounds. Also, there is only one view as a pilot—from behind the chopper. Like in driving games, I prefer to have the in-seat view to give a better perspective of the battlefield. This limits the peripheral vision, but then there is a better direct view when firing. There is no choice, but that one.
Other than that, the graphics are very good. No noticeable polygon rendering, and all items on the battlefield are easily identified. The HUD (which can be turned off) contains useful information, and doesn’t interfere with the field of vision.
The sound effects are all very realistic. There are a couple of radio voices giving you your instructions. They have the intentional tinny voice. There are puzzling phrases that you hear along the mission that when you repeat the mission, happen at the same time regardless of what you are doing. In a stealth mission, at a certain point, a voice shouts out “if you do that again, you’ll blow your cover!” Do what? Besides that, the radio voices are kept to a minimum and don’t too annoying.
OUR PLEDGE: We promise that we have fully played 'Fire Blade' before writing this review. The scores given above are our honest opinion and were not influenced in any way by the manufacturer or distributor of the game.
This review was written by Tom Downey © Absolute PlayStation
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