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Fire Blade
Score: 72%
ESRB: Teen
Publisher: Midway
Developer: Kuju
Media: DVD/1
Players: 1
Genre: Action/ Miscellaneous

Graphics & Sound:
Fire Blade looks pretty decent, graphically speaking. Midway continues to impress me with some of the great ideas they're putting out right now. The environments are what make Fire Blade so impressive. They are expertly textured, as there is massive geographic diversity represented in the game. This of course means that Kuju couldn't cut any corners with what they did. You have the massive mountain ranges of the first areas. Vegetation is lush and almost entrapping. You then skirt along Latin America and through the desert of South America. These are defined by bombed out cities that are as inviting as a slumber party at the Addams Family place. The desert of South America looks so sandy and real, I was instantly parched, and I had to set up a fan or two in my living room. Finally the Artic Circle looks so icy, cold and white. All in all, the canyons and rivers look really good, with excellent camera effects. The solar flare is even there, making the fighting helicopter experience more real. The only thing that I had an issue with was when you're actually fighting. It takes a significant amount of time to get used to all the missiles flying around you. All you see is smoke in every direction, a fighter jet here and there and maybe some troops on the ground firing at you. It's very overwhelming to figure out what's going on, which can be attributed to the graphical point of view you're given. Also, it's hard to see anything on the ground. I don't know if it's because the ground is so well done, that it ensnares the troops and missile trucks, but whatever the reason, it's hard to tell when some little ground dude is lighting you up. So while the environments and buildings look exceptional, I had a hard time with the ground troop coloring and the pure hell of everything going on at once. Very discombobulating it was.

The sound is about as perfect as you could want for a game like Fire Blade. The music is there, but not anything overpowering. It's a very beat-driven, helicopter-flying type of music. Don't expect to see any quartet in the Swiss mountains blowing on their Ricola horns. All you'll get is high energy music here. Trust me, with missiles chomping at your finer parts, you'll love the music. The sound effects are nothing spectacular, but nothing dull either. The machine gun sounds like a chain gun should. Raunchy and metallic is all I need out of my neighborhood .50-caliber. The missiles swish and sound all the more luscious when coupled with the bassy explosion of a nice kill. You also have speech communication coming through your 'helmet,' but that was kind of aggravating after a while. Granted it does warn you before a missile whacks you or something, but after a while I wanted to throttle my captain and my co-pilot. So, to me the graphics and sound were more like a pork loin with spicy ketchup, instead of a butterfly-grilled steak with a delicious garlic butter sauce. It was good and tasty, but there is a lot of room for improvement.

You strap up your boots and down your helmet. Then you climb in your futuristic chopper and strike terror into the hearts of those danged United Eastern States terrorists. They keep destroying things, so you're goal is to chop those weeds down like a weed-eater in Southern Louisiana. Fire Blade is actually a neat concept. I haven't played many games like it before. It's like a 3rd person mixed with 1st person helicopter simulation/action. Yep, I'm still confused so don't feel bad. The camera angle (of which can't be changed - doh!) is always centered on your chopper, of which can be manipulated by using the D-pad and both analog sticks. It's a little tough to get what the heck is going on at first, but after a while you get used to it. The rough part is you have to get used to it. There is no option to change your control scheme, which infuriated me to the point of yardwork. The weapons are all located on the shoulder buttons, so rest assured, you will get quite a workout trying to play the more enemy-laden parts of the game. Disclaimer: discontinue use if you experience tendonitis, tennis elbow or let's say, nausea. There is really only one Game Mode, and that's the Campaign Mode. The tutorial is actually the first mission or two, so it's kind of nice that you have the tutorial as a mission, and not as some side thing. At least I liked it. You are given objectives to accomplish of which you must complete to move on. It seems like a lot no? Well, fear not, as you've been given one of two helicopters (some missions let you choose) that have thermal imaging capability (night missions rock), stealth mode (which let's you discharge a special EMP cannon that disables electronics) and a nifty but unbelievable sniper mode. It actually let's you zoom on an enemy to make a more harrowing shot. It also can be used with your missiles! You have a mini-gun and guided and non-guided missiles. There you have it, a helicopter armed to the teeth trying to stop a world full of terrorists. It sounds like a Ninja Gaiden of the armored sort. Oh yeah, look out for supply crates, they always give you bonus weapons or refills. Yum.

Fire Blade is one of the most difficult games I've played - except for CandyLand. ;) The point of view sometimes is hard to get accustomed to, moreso when uranium missiles are coming right for your rotor. You have an opportunity before each mission to set the difficulty, but Easy is the toughest Easy you'll ever play. I don't even think I lasted five missions on the Hard setting. It seems that you're inclined to play a lot of hunter/hunted with the AI. I found myself going after a helicopter or two at the edge of the group, and then running back to hide behind a hill or building (I hope no one lives there.). I would then pop out and fire a missile or two until I destroyed my hapless prey. I would then repeat the process until some little soldier grunt on the ground would get behind me (and my radar?) and fire a missile right into my gullet. Oh yeah, if the terrorists make your helicopter explode into flames, you lose the mission. I don't think the game got any easier as time went on, and infatuation over the graphics and sound quickly melded into hot tears.

Game Mechanics:
I hated the control scheme, and how you had to take what you get. I can't harp enough about how unconfigurable they were. The manual is a pretty neat read, and it answers any questions you could have. One great thing is that the load times are down and memory card usage is down as well. The camera angle makes the game more difficult I believe, but you have to take the angle with what type of game this is, you know? Also, there's a DVD special that was informative, and serves as a neat thing to show at parties. Yes, yes even though I'm a nerd, I still throw parties.

Riot Rundown: Fire Blade is definitely a neat concept that looks and sounds decent. Unfortunately, I had a heck of time having fun because it was so very challenging. If you want a difficult game, then this is your cup of tea. There aren't any unlockable things from stage to stage so immediate rewards for such a tough time made Fire Blade cumbersome at times. If you're a military guy, or action gamer, then I think you'll really like this game. Kuju really came up with a great concept that needed a little tweaking. For all the other gamers, I would rent first and then make a decision.

-Sydney Riot, GameVortex Communications
AKA Will Grigoratos

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