Platform: Nintendo Wii
Developer: Ubisoft Reflections - Ubisoft Barcelona
Steering Wheel Compatible
We here at Gameboyz.com had the chance to review Emergency Mayhem a few weeks ago. This game was Crazy Taxi like whose theme was more akin to that of emergency services (e.g. police, ambulance and fire). I thought that the premise of emergency services in a Crazy Taxi like environment was neat but the execution in Emergency Mayhem fell short. Well it looks like Codemasters was not the only developer/publisher honing in on this style of game so my hopes were once again lifted. Ubisoft has recently released Emergency Heroes, a game that seems once again very familiar to Crazy Taxi with the emergency services theme, but it also adds a bit of open world experience to it all while trying to manage the premise that you are going to save the town from various disasters. So how does the game fair? Unfortunately not as well as I had hoped. This is somewhat disappointing given that Ubisoft has been on a bit of roll lately.
The graphics are not nearly what I had expected with Emergency Heroes. Now we all know that the Wii has never been touted to be a powerhouse when it comes to graphics processing, but the machine is capable of presenting some pretty nice looking games. If anything it seems that the visuals in Emergency Heroes were somewhat rushed to get the game out. What I mean is that they just seem to lack some final spit and polish to take them where they should be. The game is presented with some comic or cartoonish style to it, but as you progress through the city you will see blurry textures that seem a tad to simple to be those programmed for even the Wii’s hardware. There is glimmer of hope now and then as the developers implemented lighting, shadowing and even a few other special effects (e.g. heat rising from a fire). But as you see that glimmer it is quickly extinguished by such things as blocky and simple graphics (e.g. chunks of a destroyed building falling to the ground), muddy smoke effects and simple fire effects. That being said the rest of the game is substandard.
Emergency Heroes is not presented in true widescreen as there are small black bars that run down the side of it. This was quite strange given that the Wii has been out for sometime now and developers should be taking advantage of those with widescreen TV’s. Technically speaking the game runs pretty smooth, even with a lot of traffic on the road in front of you. I found very little, if any, noticeable sign of slowdown during my gameplay experience. There is the odd bit of clipping now and then but this was more due to my getting stuck in the odd corner of a track as I didn’t turn in time. Overall the technical aspect of this game isn’t that bad, but as with the whole visual package, it could have been so much better.
Like the graphics, the audio in Emergency Heroes leaves a lot to be desired. Right from the get-go the voice over work is quite ‘cheesy’ which is due to not only those who voice the script, but the dialogue itself. The voice actors seem quite robotic and they really seem to force their lines with no emotion. The characters seem somewhat generic too and it becomes quite evident that the dialogue starts to repeat later on the game. I don’t know what I really expected in this area of the game, but I can sure as heck tell you that it was not this.
As for the music, it seems to do the job, if just barely. There is nothing really special about the game’s soundtrack. It would have been better if the music seemed to increase the scene’s impact that you were viewing. But unfortunately it didn’t and given that you are trying to save San Alto from various perils or disasters, music could have amped up the feeling of such, which in turn would have made for a more enjoyable experience indeed.
Finally, the sound effects are a little more then adequate. From the crashes to the squealing of tires, everything you’d expect in a game like this is there. But as with the rest of the audio in the game it just doesn’t manage to do anything spectacular.
There us semblance of a story in Emergency Heroes. You play as Zach Harper, a former cadet who was kicked out of training academy for the Emergency Heroes Squad as a training exercise he was participating in went awry and caused the death of fellow cadet Sammy Silvestri. However, during the course of the story events take place that requires the Emergency Hero Squad to call on Zach to help save the day and save San Alto from the various perils it faces. During your adventure you will interact with two other people: Kelly Okada, your trusty guide for your missions, and Captain Walter, the hardened veteran who was forced to let you go after the training incident. The story itself makes an active effort at keeping you engaged; even in the short time you’ll play the game.
The main difference with Emergency Heroes over Emergency Mayhem is that the game tries to be open ended in that it has an open city for you to explore sand-box-genre style. The game seems to be split into two different sections. The first one, which is evident from the start of the game, is that you cruise around the city looking for those who need rescuing. This is definitely where I feel the game gets its open ended feel as you need to drive around looking for those in need. That being said, you will also realize that the city is not as large as it could be, and it becomes somewhat repetitive when you are looking for those who need help. The second part of Emergency Heroes is where the game seems to depart from its attempt at an open world concept and becomes more or a circuit racing game which focuses on the target at hand. Let me give you an example. In many of the fire fighting challenges you forced to race around a ‘track’ after reaching the building that needs help. As you drive by your target you only need to press the A button, which fires your water cannon, in your effort to extinguish the flames. You keep going around and around until such time that the fire is put out.
Emergency Heroes does try to mix it up a bit by throwing in some chase scenes as well as some weird street cleaning tasks. The chase sequences have you tasked with chasing an identified criminal in another vehicle and you need to hit him a certain number of times before you “take him off the streets”. The street cleaning events on the other hand have you clearing rubble off the designated path by running into it with a clearance vehicle. Both of these modes remain in the open ended world that that game tries to establish and after playing the missions in the aforementioned circuit modes mentioned just above, it was a small but nice change indeed.
The Emergency Hero Squad has been blessed with a large number of emergency and rescue vehicles. These include pursuit vehicles, fire trucks, rescue buggies, clearance vehicles, and an all in one vehicle. Each of these vehicles has strengths and weaknesses in such areas as speed, handling, toughness and style. I found that each of these vehicles did differ somewhat, specifically in terms of what mission you had to use it for. Controlling the vehicles in the game involves you turning the Wii-remote on its side and using it as a steering wheel. If you have any of the steering wheel shells that are currently on the market, feel free to use them as well. I have the Mario Kart wheel, which in my mind is the best one on the market and I used it for my review. The vehicles themselves feel somewhat floaty at times no matter what you do. You will find that there instances that you are all over the road and you’ll wonder what the heck is going on. I was disappointed by this point given how well some games do manage to control on the Wii using a steering wheel-like control scheme. Younger audiences may get frustrated with the control, but that being said, they also may just enjoy the fact they can steer a car on their TV and do so with reckless abandonment. Regardless, the control could have been tightened up somewhat.
The single player mode sounds great in concept, but at the end of the day it just didn’t manage to provide the wow factor that I had hoped for. If anything the single player aspect of the game did not seem refined or engaging enough to keep my interest. After sometime with the game I found that the missions seemed repetitive and that they just didn’t have that level of excitement to really hold me. The city itself is not nearly as big as it could have been for an open-ended style game either. Sure, you have a large number of vehicles to choose from but they just end up being used in so many similar missions after awhile and the aforementioned control issues also affect this area.
The single player story is very short clocking in at around five hours, give or take some time depending on your patience and skill. For a game that seems to try to be an open-ended game, this is quite short. But then again, this may be a blessing in disguise given how the game feels overall.
Emergency Heroes does offer some split-screen multiplayer madness. There are seven different modes and they are as follows:
1. Fire – A head-to-head race to put out fires. The first player to put out the target number wins.
2. Chase – Go head-to-head and try to take out the target vehicle first.
3. Rescue – Race against a partner to see who can make the rescue first.
4. Hero Race – Competitive races around peril locations – minus the flames.
5. Pass the Bomb – One player starts with a bomb and then has to try to pass it on before time runs out. Pass the bomb by simply running into your opponent.
6. City Race – A simple race through the streets of San Alto.
7. Assault Course – Drag racing but with jumps, obstacles and slaloms that fill the route.
The multiplayer modes are a nice diversion from the rest of the game, and they provide a little extra to playability against a friend. There is no other feeling then sitting down beside a buddy in some simple competitive fun while throwing down some smack talk. That being said though the overall finish of the game manages to affect the multiplayer mode given that the control is still floaty and you now only have half a screen to look at. Oh well, some mildly entertaining multiplayer is better then none and the younger ones may enjoy trying the simpler multiplayer races with their friends.
Continue to Page 2