There were three things I was sure of when I began playing this game.
- I love my mother
- I enjoy video games
- I want to be a fire fighter
I was pretty confident that these things wouldn’t change. But after spending some time in this so-called ‘simulator’, I’m starting to doubt number 2 and 3. And, you know what? If my mother had anything at all to do with Firefighters: the Simulation, I’d probably be questioning my affection for her too.
If that’s not clear enough for you – although, it really should be – this game is bad. We’re talking every character looking the same. We’re talking Nintendo 64 graphics and it’s still framey. We’re talking fighting invisible fires. That’s how bad. But looks aren’t everything. We’ve seen plenty of ugly games achieve success: games that supplemented second rate graphics with top tier gameplay. And in many cases that combination created a quirky and unique aesthetic that propelled the game to acclaim. This is not one of those cases.
Gameplay in Firefighters the Simulation is unrewarding and repetitive. On your first day, you will do nothing. For most of your second day, you’ll do nothing. And just as you’re wondering whether you’re playing the standing around doing nothing simulator, you’ll be called out to a minor fire. For a significant period of time after this, you’ll chase similar incidents: burning park benches, electrical boxes and bushes. As you progress through the ranks you’ll eventually have the chance to do something more meaningful. But the fires don’t get any more interesting as they grow in size. Most fires will be poorly rendered and unrealistic. Others will be invisible. Truth be told, finding and fighting these invisible blazes is the only change in an otherwise monotonous experience. I’m no developer, but I’m pretty sure a glitch shouldn’t be a highlight.
Other missions will have you investigating chemical spills or sampling hazardous waste. During these you’ll have the misfortune of operating the department’s robot – an absurd contraption with all the swiftness and manoeuvrability of an elderly garden snail. The controls for this robot, and other rescue tools, are convoluted and are delivered to you – as are your missions and instructions – through obtrusive walls of text. For a self-declared simulator, the game skips a number of crucial details and instructions. On top of this, the commanding officer’s favourite expression is something along the lines of “we’re short on time so I’m going to skip this series of important details”.
Speaking of skipping details, the developers skipped the part where they put details into the world. Of course, there are the obvious salient land marks: the windmill and the city centre, for instance. But aside from these, the world feels like the same rehashed squares of land. So undoubtedly, you’ll wind up lost, an issue that isn’t helped by the lack of a proper full-size world map. The other firefighters are always reminding you to care for your vehicle. But in the absence of objective markers telling you where to go, you’ll be hard pressed navigating the world. Instead you’ll be stuck trying to navigate this ‘ground-hog-day’ of a map in a clunky vehicle to find a station that looks like garbage.
And I think that’s the main problem. I could write pages about the game’s graphics and shocking frame rate. There’s more to a simulation than just doing the things that these people would do. Immersion and realism are equally, if not more, important. And that’s probably where Firefighters – The Simulation falls most short. It’s impossible that a game so horrible and so horribly boring can simulate a job with one of the highest employee satisfaction rates. 87% of firefighters report that they are very satisfied with their jobs, yet playing this game for even one hour is a particular type of torture. Maybe, just maybe, a few small parts of this game are reflective of the firefighter life, but any truth is distorted by layers of appalling graphics and atrocious mechanics.
I’ve got to wonder what the developers of legitimate simulators think about these budget games abusing the title. Studios are busting their backs to create lifelike and realistic experiences, only to have the market inundated with garbage like this. If you’re after a realistic simulation, this isn’t the game for you. If you’re after a fun and rewarding experience, this isn’t the game for you.
In fact, the only way I could recommend this game to you is if you’re looking for a particularly un-aesthetic type of suffering. But if you’re keen for that then ring me up. I’ll paint myself magenta, scream at you and repeatedly kick you in the shins. It might not be as painful, but it will be free.