I’ve a confession to make: ever since I was a wee lad, I had always dreamed of piloting a copter for the British Royal Navy. There is nothing quite like a military helicopter with its nearly silent propellers and an intimidating number of the arsenal as it flies off to battle or goes off to pick up or drop troops. Fireblade attempts to capture this same fascination and adds plenty of action to boot.
FireBlade’s story revolves around a dangerous terrorist organization known as the United Eastern States (or the UES) establishing training camps for their rising army and huge facilities for the production of weapons of mass destruction throughout the world. Their intentions are to wage a massive war against the Western nations. Thus FireBlade — an anti-terrorist military force conceived by the West — is called into action to stop the UES threat once and for all.
Gamers start by selecting the first campaign that takes them through a brief tutorial on how to control your fully equipped chopper via a training instructor in her own chopper. Immediately gamers will get to see how slightly awkward the controls are. Movement is carried out by moving the analog sticks to move up and down or forward (although you can change the setting to fit your style and comfort). Since there is more emphasis on arcade action than flight, however, it’s the weapons and missiles — which can be replenished by collecting power-ups seen as crates — that play the biggest role in the game.
Each mission (there are eighteen missions in total) is composed of various tasks to be performed but the primary objectives are always the ones that take precedence over the smaller tasks on the Mission Map list. Missions vary from destroying a bridge to cut off troops from advancing or picking up troops in the drop-off area before the enemy cuts them down. Depending on the tasks, you either fly the AV-76 Vendetta (fast, sleek and deadly) or the UV108 Talon (bulky but extremely deadly). Both of these also use stealth technology — that makes the copter appear invisible to radars — and many missions require gamers to slide into enemy territory unnoticed.
And the action does pull you in nicely — and what combat obsessed gamer wouldn’t be thrilled with all those missiles and a sniper mode? The game can place many enemies on the screen at once — from ground troops and tanks to UES enemy helicopters — without even slowing the action down one bit. However, there are many instances where the enemy AI hardly misses when they fire at your copter. Stealth mode hardly does its job because somehow the tanks know you’re around. And the foot soldiers are just too hard to hit with the Minigun (doesn’t this thing hit anything?) — you have to waste missiles on them to wipe them all out.
Visually the game is disappointing and that’s most unfortunate since there is much to look at in the game. While the environments are detailed to its fullest, the textures are so bland that gamers will feel that this is really an okay looking PSOne game. However, the special effects such as the fiery explosions or the launching of surface-to-air missiles as it shoots past your copter are truly quite spectacular. The cut scenes are also decent but they’re nothing to write home about.
The soundtrack isn’t bad at all, although much of it is basically just dramatic filler. The real sound quality can be found in its effects, which surround the player especially during intense battles. Rockets whiz past your chopper as the blades thump endlessly. When you knock down towers or shoot at ground troops you can hear their screams.
Despite its small number of faults, FireBlade is still an addictive game with plenty of missions to play through and many battles to test your mettle. While not a chopper simulator, the chopper action is more arcade oriented and should appeal to those gamers that are looking for a title with more bang than just simple flying around.