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Warhammer 40,000: Fire Warrior Review

publisher: THQ
developer: Kuju Entertainment
genre: Shooters

PIII-800, 128MB RAM, 1.5GB HDD, 32MB 3D accelerator
ESRB rating: M

release date: Nov 19, 03
» All About Warhammer 40,000: Fire Warrior on ActionTrip

We have a saying here at the home office, we don't fight, we frag. Just the other day Petrodon and I got into a huge argument about Kant's Universal Imperative and the Platonic Discourse on Syllogism in Early Man. (Ed. - Dude, you are the biggest liar to ever inhabit the earth.) Fine. We were talking about who had nicer boobs, Pam Anderson or Carmen Electra. (Ed. - I'm telling you dude, Carmen wins, hands down.) Over Pam? No way! (I hate silicone! - 2Lions) Anyway, we decided to take the argument from a possible fist fight, into a HALO deathmatch arena. (Ed. - Which I would have won if it wasn't for that damn rocket launcher you had.) So, here at AT, we enjoy of the killing in the first person. And so, whenever we get a new FPS in, it's kinda like Christmas, only with death instead of reindeer.

This time we take a dive into the Warhammer 40,000 universe with Kuju's latest first-person shooter, Fire Warrior. I must admit that at first I was quite eager to get a taste of the action in the huge Warhammer 40,000 setting. My hopes increased when I heard that Kuju is lurking behind the project. If you haven't heard of Kuju before they have proved themselves in various genres, with titles such as Reign of Fire, Fireblade, Lotus Challenge, Train Simulator (published by MS), and more. Fire Warrior stepped out as a co-project between THQ and Kuju, and was primarily intended for Sony's PlayStation 2 console. The game's PC incarnation launched almost immediately after the PS2 version and now it finally has reached our office.

The storyline cannot be categorized as particularly groundbreaking, but it has a few interesting moments that set the game apart from other conventional FPS plots. (Ed. - Plot? What plot? Grab gun, go forth, kill things. That's as much a plot as most have!) You'll be following the life of a valiant young warrior named Kais, who's main goal is to survive through a great war fought between his own race (the Tau) and the humans (the Imperium forces). To fight alongside the Tau race and having to fend off greedy humans is indeed a rather pleasing variation from the worn-out concept of a heroic bad-ass macho pretty-boy, who meets up with big-boobed lasses and saves the day by kicking alien butt. (Ed. - Sounds good to me.) Actually, me too... Regrettably, the pacing of the story is all wrong. The game has a rather unnecessary slow opening and afterward it takes a while for something interesting to happen. The story becomes more engaging in the later stages of the game, but by then, most gamers will be bored out of their wits and probably won't even care anymore. To make matters even worse, Kuju and THQ put the final nail in the coffin by failing to broaden the depth of the whole experience with the inclusion of some additional cinematic sequences, or anything that would help make the plot a little more dramatic. Gamers who are patient enough to complete the first three chapters won't feel satisfied in the least bit. The game needs more flare - something to get the player interested. Of course, the omission of in-game music didn't help either. Character voicing is good though, and it helps salvage the audio design from complete failure.

Sadly, this is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to my woes with this "FPS gem." Fire Warrior suffers from several annoying gameplay drawbacks, such as mishaps in AI behavior patterns, poor weapon design, and so on. Throughout the course of the entire game, it was difficult to find a feature that can be described as addictive... or even remotely enjoyable. The first few tasks are relatively easy, since everything is pretty much linear and you are also aided by numerous friendly troops as you pass through a lengthy network of trenches. Being railed trough the starting missions didn't seem too bad, but the linear design also turned out to be a frequent occurrence during other missions. The game features a series of scripted events your character must go through in order to advance to the next section. Furthermore, don't expect any brainstorming or any challenging puzzles. It's mostly action oriented and it regularly puts players right smack in the middle of a chaotic shootout. Searching for key-cards is probably the closest I've got to a puzzle in this game.

Next on the list of things I didn't care about in this game is the frustratingly misfiring weapons arsenal. The first half of the game equips you with not more than three or four different weapons, most of which do not seem to do enough harm to the enemy. Believe it or not, you can fire a rocket launcher at close range or lob a grenade right in your opponent's face, but that often won't be enough to stop him! (Ed. - The bad guys must have hired soldiers on PCP. Because taking a rocket to the chest would certainly give me pause.) Likewise, point-blank hits from, say, a shotgun, sometimes pass directly through your foe damaging an object in the background. Well, I wouldn't mind missing from afar, but at close range... C'mon! The Tau Pulse Rifle, the Pulse carbine, and the Lasgun, all proved to be inaccurate and ineffective - incidentally, these are the most common weapons in the game. Clearly, hit spots were shoddily distributed across the character models, and that can cause a lot of problems during combat. There's ample ammo and energy to be found in the nearby area, but that hardly improves the situation. You'll usually find gunfights and duels very frustrating.

The AI doesn't make the game challenging or motivating in any way. Opponents do not seem to respond intelligently enough to your actions. Instead they seem to be too darn accurate, constantly hitting you on the mark from impossible angles. In addition to that, I've witnessed freakish occurrences in some levels - one time a baddie rushed at me, shooting like crazy, when all of a sudden he jumped into a wall and completely disappeared (alakazam!). What gives? I hate it when foes vanish on me... But that's not the half of it. Friendly AI is no better either. While your comrades can put up a decent fight against multiple foes, they sometimes seem to be completely oblivious to your presence. Consequently, you'll end up looking like Swiss cheese if you happen to get into their line of fire.

So, does Fire Warrior possess anything interesting at all? Well, the last two chapters in the game present a certain Quake-style in-game ambiance. After playing the game for about a day or so, I finally came upon a rocket launcher. Praise the lord! As I said, it's not the best weapon I've ever fired in a game, but at least it's more powerful than most others in Fire Warrior. In this section you come up against heavily armored and well-equipped opponents. This made a nice change in gameplay pace from fighting against those beserkish and insanely accurate grunts.

Still, even this point in the game doesn't compensate for the generally weak level design, which was clearly perpetuated throughout most of the game. The really disappointing bit is that a great portion of the game puts you in confined areas and claustrophobic surroundings, seldom giving you a chance to go through more outdoor sections. This brings me to another point. There are many levels and scenes in Fire Warrior that unsuccessfully mimic and exploit ideas from FPS's like Half-Life, Halo, and Quake. In truth, there are a couple of scenes almost identical to Half-Life - for instance, an elevator crammed with technicians and scientist going off in smoke.

In the visual department, I think it's safe to say the PlayStation 2 console did its part in the worst possible way. Character models and all the objects in the background have a low poly count, texture patterns are scarce, and particle effects are feeble and infrequent. (Ed. - Hey, it's not the PS2's fault here, the console is three years old now! Blame the programmers for not keeping up with PC reqs!) Okay, I'll admit it, it's not COMPLETELY the PS2. Fire Warrior displays some of the ugliest weapon models I've ever seen. Another evident shortcoming is the unoptimized engine code. This should account for freakish AI routines, enemies disappearing into thin air, sudden frame rate drops (especially after explosions), and similar issues. Although the game does put features like lighting and shadows to good use, that still seems insufficient to go with the many visual cockups that are in the game. Oh yeah, to top it all off, the game crashed a couple of times. At least there is a patch available now, I recommend you grab it if you own a copy.

The multiplayer carries nothing of particular interest. There's a 2-4 player split screen mode, during which you may use almost all the weapons from the single-player campaign. Otherwise it's a display of standard deathmatches, CFT matches, and team deathmatches. We didn't find anything in the experience that would notch-up the game's overall quality.

On the whole, Fire Warrior is a frustrating experience that treats you to many bug-infested levels, freakish AI, monotonous plot, and a tedious atmosphere. Quake gamers might find it fun (that is if they still believe it's 1996 - 2Lions), but only if they manage to finish the first half of the game. Even hardcore Warhammer 40,000 fans should steer clear of this one. I haven't had the "pleasure" of trying Fire Warrior on the PS2, but somehow I doubt it would change the verdict. Let's hope and pray they don't plan to make a sequel.


1.9   Don't Bother 

I'm struggling here... Occasional Quake style gameplay can be fun, solid voice acting;

Slow opening, claustrophobic level design, friendly and enemy AI sucks, engine bugs, crashes, weapons arsenal, no music during gameplay.



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