Emergency Heroes Review

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Graphics: 4.0
Sound : 3.0
Gameplay : 2.5
Multiplayer : 3.5
Overall : 3.0
Review by Chris Matel
Here we go again...

As of late, a few developers have taken it upon themselves to pay homage to those government institutions which protect us from everyday troubles, namely: fires, injuries and crime. They have the right idea, since such men and women deserve heroic recognition. Unfortunately, what has been produced for this generation, so far, is severely lacking in terms of depth and compelling gameplay. Take, for instance, Supersonic Software's Emergency Mayhem: continuously repeated mini-games, done ad nauseam. Lately, though, it's the former Driver developer's—Reflections Interactive, who have since been assimilated into Ubisoft Reflections—who have stepped in to continue the tradition of poor execution; taking hold of the denizen-protecting reins, and steering the valorous professions into the racing realm with Emergency Heroes. While burning rubber around a city to save people, “sandbox” style, may sound like a good idea, don't get your hopes up, else you'll be sorely disappointed.

Of course it would be unfair to assume that Ubisoft might have learned something from the horribly repetitive, ego-bashing Emergency Mayhem, since their development cycles most likely were initiated around the same time, however, the Codemasters-produced game could have at least given Ubisoft enough foresight to do one of two things to the similarly repetitive product which as been produced here: 1) Completely stop development of the Emergency Heroes game, and rework it from the ground up; or, 2) Stop development, deny any existence of the game, and move on to the next project—a new Driver game, perhaps? Either choice includes the inevitable outcome of trashing the product which has ultimately been shipped for retail and, either way, such would have been the right decision.

Editor's note...

Let me take a moment to preface the remainder of this review. Normally, I take it upon myself to finish any game, no matter how good or bad it may be, to the very end; it's the self-imposed code I live by as a reviewer. Sometimes it's impossible to complete a game fully, simply due to its nature—some 100-plus hour RPGs would utterly kill publication dates, and sports games don't really have an end—but, I must confess, this is one instance where I did not finish a game in its entirety, and what follows is why...

Sometimes, more isn't better...

The Wii, being the casual-player friendly format that it is, has invited a host of titles which have taken on the colloquialism, “shovelware.” The term isn't in any official dictionary—save for Wikipedia, and similar user-created databases—but there is a general idea invoked when the word is read or heard: quantity over quality. Emergency Heroes, though it may not look it from the outset, falls into that very category.

A metaphor to contemplate...

Imagine making four different stamps, representing different gameplay mechanics and rescue vehicles: fire truck, ambulance, police car and barricade buster. Now, take out three pieces of paper, draw some squiggly lines on each, and label them the following: industrial, residential and commercial—don't worry about discernible architecture or structures, those will be another stamp for later use. Finally, take those aforementioned stamps—the ones for the vehicles and gameplay—and put 35 prints across the three pieces of paper: two with 13 stamps, and one with 12. There, you've just created identical mission types across the three areas, now we'll just give them random names. And that's how you make Emergency Heroes.

Same old, same old...

If you manage to make it through more than the first location, you'll learn that there is a story to Emergency Heroes; it's basic, but it's there. You play as the washed out Emergency Hero cadet, Zack Harper. Something happened in his past that kept him from finishing the program, and that something eventually becomes the main conflict in the story. Presentation is simple and to the point throughout the game. Zack is called upon by the Alpha Dog of the force, Captain Walters, and assisted by an overly-titillated dispatcher, Kelly. The three are the only remnants of the rescue squad, fallowing the chaos and disaster that has befallen San Alto, and it's up to them to save their beloved city.

In order for you to protect San Alto from fires, reckless drivers and roadblocks, you use futuristic-looking vehicles to traverse an uninteresting, non-interactive, sandbox-ish style city. You have your choice of chase, firefighting, rescue and clearance missions which are initiated by driving around the three districts of the city. No need to worry about having the appropriate car for the job, since the game will drop you into the right one just before you start a mission. You will need to constantly check your map, however, as the real-time GPS system is utterly atrocious, often guiding you through the most roundabout, forward moving course to get to your next “peril” (mission).

If only leveling was this easy in every game...

Once you finally arrive at your destination, things get real old, real fast. The first thirty minutes of the game are the best, since they pretty much entail getting use to the setup, but after awhile, you learn that similar types of missions are nearly identical to each other, with only a few variants as you progress through the levels. The game uses a race style setup for each mission, as once you arrive at your peril, the goal is to the beat out the clock while running through a set, closed course. Depending on how you do, you'll be scored with a bronze, silver or gold rank that will add to your experience points; the more points you get, the higher your rank (up to 9), and the better vehicles you get to use.

Chase missions have you ramming a speeding driver with a police car, but often times the tilt controls make it difficult to hit the sides and back of the pursued vehicle, not to mention it takes the right amount of effort to actually score a hit. Clearance perils use a modified vehicle with a scoop in the front to break through blockades, but there isn't any challenge to these missions as long as you can steer straight. You'll use souped-up EMT cars to race through a burning course to rescue a trapped person; though, again, as long as you can follow arrows, you can't fail. Finally, firefighting missions are pretty self-explanatory, but know you won't have to aim to put out fires, since you're car will automatically target fires for you.

And you thought Continues officially died out when games left the arcade...

The missions themselves don't change throughout your experience, as the only noticeable differences are more in the locale than your objective. You might run across two runaways, or you'll have to crash through certain objects to put out fires, but no matter what, you can't fail at any of the missions, except chases—we sat at the start line for ten minutes on each of the types of perils, and the only way we completely lost at a mission was by getting too far behind an enemy in chases. Without varying missions, that you can't possibly lose at, is there even a reason to play the game?

The game at least runs fairly well, but it's not graphics heavy, with limited dialogue which seems to be voiced by the same people in different inflections. Though, during your missions, listening to Kelly repeat, “Oh, Zack, you're so brave,” over and over again, in a wanting voice, may stroke some people's egos.

Moreover, the open world is just as under-welming as running into hapless drivers, who don't avoid a siren-touting speeding vehicle, will only result in a fading heckle; there isn't any crash damage or repercussion to hitting other cars on the road, which only furthers the uselessness of playing a game that you can't lose—whether your nine or 19, there's just no point.

Still nothing worth it here...

There is a multiplayer portion to the game, and it far exceeds the single player experience, relatively speaking. With several game types, the courses are ripped from the perils in the story mode, but there's actually a point to races, rescues and bomb tag; your goal is to beat someone else. Though more fun than the Zack-only adventure, the multiplayer game only allows two to play on a single, vertically split screen.

You won't get away with this Sammy!...

I mentioned earlier that I didn't finish the game, this time. If what is mentioned above isn't reason enough for not finishing a game, I'll divulge the “last straw” moment. In the final mission—of course, a multi-part chase using the different types of vehicles to catch the allusive Sammy (a scary villain name, no?)—I had just hit my enemy for the 20th time in a chase style mission, to end his getaway, when I was knocked out of the level, making me restart the whole mission over again.

And that was the kicker, after a game full of repetition, and boredom, a glitch was the final deal breaker. Here's hoping someone can come up with a competent emergency services game.

Hell yeah:
+ Upgrading vehicles
+ Racing sections are kind of fun, but get repetitive
+ Auto-aiming firetrucks, where art thou in real life?

Oh, hell no:
- Just about everything else, sorry