Find: Games - Movies - Music - Free Stuff! - Electronics - Computers

PS2 Staff Review by Ryan McCarthy

Back on the PSone, I was a huge fan of Electronic Arts Strike series, the helicopter-based, action-heavy shooters. Both titles, Soviet Strike and Nuclear Strike, were superbly executed blast-fests, with great graphics and intense action. Upon hearing of Midways spiritual successor to the series, Fireblade, I was hot in anticipation to relive that old-school feel of blowing stuff up in a wicked-cool chopper. While Fireblade is the spiritual successor to that fantastic series, in its own right, it is far from a success.

Due to the limitations of the PSone, the old Strike series had its fair share of visual problems. The draw distance had to be hidden with a birds-eye-like camera view, and only limited amounts of enemies could be displayed at once, before the framerate starting dropping. Thankfully, Fireblade has improved upon those problems, though the PS2 is probably more deserving of the thanks than the developers. Fireblade is really nothing more than the Strike series, PS2-ified. The draw distance is good, the textures are good, the game runs smooth, and at times there is quite a lot of action going on, without the hint of any slowdown. Yet none of these aspects ever approaches great, or even above average. There is still pop-up in areas, the texturing gets recycled, and there are still moments where slowdown is really noticeable. Though the game looks far from ugly, it certainly isnt up to the standards set by other PS2 action-flight games.

Almost instantaneously I knew that Fireblade was not up to the level of the fabled Strike series. Though it does nail certain aspects, it also totally messes up others. The action is good, and that is a big plus. If there are only a few features to get right, the action is definitely numero uno. The choppers are also very cool, showcasing both modern and futuristic capabilities. The weapons and gadgets are also very slick, especially the ultra-cool thermal-imaging mode. Yet the best feature has to be the inclusion of stealth-based missions. In these, you activate your choppers stealth camouflage, basically rendering your craft invisible. Then, armed with a vehicle-disabling EMP cannon and a (insanely enjoyable) 30mm sniper rifle, you slyly move about the landscape, picking enemies off one by one. Its a great diversion from the all-out action, and is executed well. Sadly, those are the only highlights of Fireblade, as the rest only drags the game down. First, and most damaging, are the awful, awful controls. Both analog sticks need to be used simultaneously to move and aim (as opposed to the left handling all movements, and the right all aiming), and becomes very frustrating, very quickly. Despite this incredibly unintuitive scheme, all couldve been redeemed had the developers chose to include the ability to customize the controls (a standard nowadays). However, they chose naught, and the player is stuck with this highly confusing, fun-destroying setup. As such, aiming your rockets is extremely hard, rendering this important weapon useless. Considering the other missiles shouldnt be wasted on the smaller foes, I found myself using my chain gun around 90% of the time. Suffice it to say, this degraded the fun factor the further I ventured in. Another notable standout is the weak mission variety, as in each youre simply instructed to shoot, and keep shooting at various polygonal objects. Even the stealth missions lack, as you simply shoot, and keep shootingquietly. Overall, the controls hurt the gameplay the most, for had I been able to use a different setup, I probably wouldve enjoyed the game a heck of a lot more.

After just five minutes of listening to awful soundtrack to Fireblade, just one word lingered in my head. Rambo. As much as I loved the movies (go Sly!), the music I did not, especially now almost 20 years later. The effects are commendable, though what company nowadays cant come up with a decent explosion sound? They get the job done, but they could be much better. The same goes for the voice acting, which while during the briefings its acceptable, during play its laughable. Why do so many companies think every General should sound gritty and constantly annoyed?

Actions games always pack a certain amount of value depending on their quality. With 20 missions, Fireblade is about average. There are absolutely no other play modes than the standard campaign however, so if that doesnt float youre boat youre out of luck. Each mission has various medals that are awarded depending on your performance, however nothing is unlocked and no rewards are given, making the whole process half-hearted. The missions lengths are surprisingly short as well, with some clocking in at an under whelming 4-5 minutes. The whole campaign mode on all difficulty levels will probably take the average gamer no longer than 10-12 hours, if that.

Fireblade could have easily been a very solid game, had the developers only opted to allow for a customizable control scheme. The weak mission variety and length would still have held it back, but at least the action would have flowed much more smoothly. But the fact remains that more than half the time youre wrestling with the controls and struggling to aim, and that just isnt fun. Rent this one first to see if you can adjust to the control scheme, but beware, this aint no Strike.

Reader Reviews


Submit Your Review!

All products and names are registered trademarks to their respective company. This site is Copyright & Copy 1999-2000 . All Rights Reserved. This site and the this site's logo are trademarks of the authors.