Firefighters – the Simulation! begins with a training mission that is supposed to familiarise you with the controls and routines of a firefighter. You are greeted by a bald firefighter that talks to you via text and appears to be hovering above the ground, his legs limply swaying from side to side. The complete lack of voice acting is immediately obvious but maybe this hovering avatar was communicating with me telepathically, his words represented in text. Yes, it is an odd theory, but more on that later. You are given a tour of the fire station, which is populated by numerous bald firefighters that all look the same as our floating guide, except some sport different skin tones. The fire station is a desolate place and appears to be very underwhelming from a technical perspective; this is hardly the hub of an elite emergency service team. The main “control room” has three desks which are populated with paper trays and random desktop computers. The other rooms are filled with 70’s catalogue furniture and there is even a record player in the common room. The training mission came to an immediate halt as my guide became stuck on the edge of a door and carried on walking into it over and over again for 5 minutes. After restarting the tutorial, the same issue occurred but this time my host bounced off the door and continued with the tour. Strange things are afoot in this fire station! The tour culminated in the garage where I was shown the eight fire engines that I would operate throughout my career. The problem is that no instruction has been given on how to operate these vehicles or on how to actually fight a fire.
Baffled and unnerved by some of the paranormal activity experienced during training, my first shift of the day began. There are eight fire engines, each named “Florian” and they all have different abilities. As you make your way up the ranks as a firefighter, you unlock the more advanced fire engines. I began my shift in “Florian 1” a simple van that is used for low-level firefighting and reconnaissance. Only when I walked up to the door in front of “Florian 1” did the first button prompt appear to open the fire station door. Getting inside the vehicle displayed the controls at the bottom of the screen and showed that this version of the game appears to be a mobile port. The buttons to control the vehicle are all set up in a design that is for a touch screen. According to Firefighters – the Simulation! the average day of a firefighter involves randomly driving around the deserted city and surrounding countryside waiting for a fire to break out. “Driving” any of the “Florian” vehicles feels like piloting a barge through glue and is an exercise in patience. The controls are truly shocking and the frame rate lurches around 15 FPS and goes down to a juddering 10 FPS when turning corners. This drop in frames also occurs when walking around the fire station and open world.
Incidents are sent to your vehicle, presumably via the radio, but this is never made clear. Most of the information required to play the game is never given in a clear manner and requires a great deal of experimentation. The first incident was a crash that had caused a fire on a motorway, as I blundered my way to the crash, driving through random cars that appeared suddenly on the road I arrived at the scene. It appears there was a miscommunication as there were three hay bails on fire in a field at the side of the road. The next 24 hours involved equally non-dramatic incidents such as a box on fire behind a house and a bin on fire. After putting out a fire, you are awarded points that are required to progress to the next rank of firefighter. There are nine ranks in total and getting to the higher ranks will require many boring days of firefighting.
Being promoted unlocks new fire engines and each engine has a new set of equipment required to deal with new incidents. One of the “new” incidents that were sent to “Florian 4” involved a large oil spill that was apparently hazardous to the citizens and environment. To clear up the oil spill you pour an absorbent from a sack over it and then sweep up the remains with a brush. However, the brush appears to operate like a Hoover that just sucks up the dirt. This is mind-numbing, soul-destroying stuff and shows a complete lack of inspiration in mission design. How an oil spill in the drive of someone’s home, located in the middle of the countryside, was a danger to the citizens and environment is still a mystery. In fact, the whole environment is a mystery. The surrounding countryside and city located near the fire station are totally devoid of life apart from a random woman dressed in a red dress, a man who appears to be driving the same car around constantly, and a horse that looks like it is made of cheap plastic. This is all very Twin Peaks!
Once “Florian 5” is unlocked, the first “major” fire occurred at a chemical plant. This required all fire engines to attend and resulted in my fellow firefighters all floating to their engines THROUGH my fire engine. Once again, strange things are afoot in this fire station. The “major” incident was actually ONE silo that appeared to be barely on fire and took around 10 seconds to quell. How this incident required the entire fire department to attend is baffling. It occurred to me that the world outside the fire station is so devoid of life that there was no one around to start these fires. Due to the vast amount of paranormal activity, I had witnessed, I developed a couple of theories to explain the events. My first theory is that the game is actually taking place in the mind of a traumatised firefighter showing an idealised version of events. The second theory is that my character is actually a psychopath that is setting the fires but has no memory of them.
In reality, Firefighters – the Simulation! is quite simply one of the worst games that has ever been brought into existence. The complete lack of competence at general game design shown by developer VIS-Games is frankly staggering. This feels like a cynical and exploitative cash grab due to the vast amount of Playstation 4 consoles that have been sold worldwide. The game retails for £24.99 UK, $29.99 USD and €29.99 respectively which is mind-boggling considering the game retails for a fraction of that price on Steam. Sony has stated on numerous occasions that only quality titles will be released on the Playstation Store and they actively need to clamp down on titles such as this. Firefighters – the Simulation! recently sported a four out of five rating on the Playstation Store and unsuspecting parents and young people may buy the game based on that rating. This is unacceptable and Sony needs to enforce a strict quality control system to prevent consumers from being exploited.
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