previews\ Jan 28, 2004 at 7:00 pm

FireStarter - PC - Preview

From Ukranian developer GSC GameWorld comes Firestarter, an FPS that pits players against hordes of nasty monsters in a virtual reality world toppled over by a crippling virus.  You guide your avatar through a variety of missions defeating as many enemies as possible and progressing through the game’s different levels.  I recently got a chance to sit down with the demo build of Firestarter, which aside from a few problems, proved to be quite fun and exciting.


You begin Firestarter by selecting one of six different characters, each with different traits, strengths and weaknesses.  While only three characters were available for play in the demo (Agent, Policeman, and Mutant; the other three are the Gunslinger, Marine and Cyborg) I was able to get a feel for the range in skills for each of the playable characters.  The Agent was fast and nimble, yet didn’t handle heavy weapons as well as the Mutant, who, while slow and lumbering, was better at handling larger guns and could even two-fist them (although this did wear down ammo very quickly).  The Policeman was probably the best balanced out of the group, with average traits.

Firestarter takes a few risks on the standard FPS formula, by incorporating “bullet-time” elements and a few other key features.  Whenever you get too close to an enemy, the game automatically switches to a bullet-time mode (similar to the adrenaline system used in Chaser, for those of you who’ve played it) in which the action slows down to a crawl and you have the means to calculate your given situation and take proper action.  However, the fact that this mode is automatic seems a bit problematic, as the flow of the gameplay becomes disjointed and loses its fluidity.  I for one think it’s fun to be caught in a hairy situation with only impulse and reflex to get you out, and the automatic bullet-time system seems to all but eliminate that sense.  Hopefully, GSC GameWorld will make this a tweakable option in the final game.


Another element that Firestarter throws into the FPS mix is the lack of an in game save feature.  The game allows your character to survive by collecting artifacts, which do serve as checkpoints at which your character can respawn if they die, as well as extra lives.  However, when things get really nasty, it can be kind of a pain to have to go through the entire level again, adding some undue frustration.


The single player mode is pretty sparse on depth, but the game wins some points back with the great multiplayer features.  The demo only offered two modes, Co-op and Deathmatch, but the final version will have Co-op, Deathmatch, Hunting and Slaughter with support for up to 32 players.


The graphics are pretty good.  The environments are huge and sport a great amount of detail.  The enemy models look a bit simplistic and the blood effects are pretty lousy, but the huge levels, good lighting effects and well-detailed weapons make up for it.


The music is a cross between dark, moody ambient music and industrial techno, similar to many other titles in the genre.  The sound effects are also pretty commonplace, with the same kind of demon grunts, groans and gunfire, as you’ve seen before.


Firestarter has a few problems, but if these get fixed, the game should provide hours up great multiplayer gameplay that’ll be worth the twenty-dollar price tag.

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