Fireburst is a fantastic looking car combat game that lives and dies on its fire attack nitro boosts that can also kill you. When your car overheats you explode and respawn. Ramming through a red barrel will make your vehicle heat up considerably. To keep your vehicle cool there are plenty of puddles, water falls and blue barrels to drive through. Its an interesting mechanic that has you watching the flames on your windshield rather than the action on the course.
Its a game that puts forth a lot of style, attitude, presence and ascetic. Almost every locale is a beautiful vista whether its driving along side a dam or on an oil rig the game looks superb and even the most mundane areas look incredible thanks to light, shadow and style. This shadow can be your downfall, because there are no headlights even in a darkened train yard. Its easy to get stuck in a dark corner. You can always adjust the brightness in the options to see better.
The game plays good and runs smooth. Its like a lot of other arcade racers where you control with forward and backward rather than a real brake. There is a boost button that doubles as a weapon and you have the ability to see behind your car and change between a chase cam or a hood view.
The vehicles look great as well. There’s a diverse array of cars, trucks, racers, muscle cars, dune buggies, jeeps and even vans. There’s something to your liking each with its own stats for speed, acceleration, handling and heat resistance. They all have their own heat attacks such as leaving flaming tire tracks for opponents to drive over and heat up. A fire burst, a fire shield and a fire wall. The longer you hold the boost, the greater your range.
Of course the issue is using these attacks heats up your vehicle, so why even use them unless there’s plenty of water around and even if there’s a pool or waterfall, that means your opponents can benefit from them as well making it useless. I think of the combat as a gamble. Who will die faster? You or the foe next to you? That’s my real problem with the game. So I relegate myself to using it only as boost when my engine is cool.
The game starts with eight racers to chose from each of which is a caricature of a stereotype that gives Fireburst its flavor, flair and style. You have the seasoned stock racer, the juggy goth, a big money businessman with a mohawk, an old hippy ladies man, a slim blonde nerd with glasses, an Asian schoolgirl that might be too young to drive and so on. They all have their own stats and they all say things as they race. Its part of the game’s attitude for the old hippy to say “I could be your father,” or someone else that says “yes they’re real.”
The voice work is good and believable and sometimes what I think is glitched. The old hippy keeps sputtering the same random comments over and over with no break in between. Perhaps it was just him or that circumstance. I’ve come across another visual glitch that had the game stuck in black and white until I quit the race and went to a new one.
As for the game itself there are three major modes, a challenge campaign that lets you participate in different challenges for each driver. I consider this to be the main mode because its the one that lets you unlock new vehicles and new drivers. I’ll be honest and say while I’m not into drivers as characters, this game does a good job of making me want to unlock them. The real problem is the challenges themselves are difficult and convoluted due to the fire mechanic.
Some events are simple like make it through a warm-up lap and then a qualifying lap. Others force you to win or win without wrecking more than three times. Then there are some which force you to hold your boost twenty seconds without wrecking. On paper this might sound easy, because let’s just put a bunch of hoses, puddles and blue barrels around, but that’s what makes it challenging. Doing all of it for twenty seconds. Even doing it for five is a challenge, but you need to start somewhere. These challenges turn me off, but for anyone that’s into them, they are different for each character with each one putting you behind the wheel of a different vehicle.
With the other two modes, they’re more mundane, a race and a destruction derby. The derbies are built in figure eights and they’re really a testament to game design. This ensures that someone will always zoom by you giving you enough time to destroy them and that way the maps stay short and sweet. The races are what I care about and there are twelve in all at least from the start. After one race, the same race starts again and that’s a let down. These are closed circuit courses with two or so laps taking place in real world environments. Airfields, an oil refinery at night, a fright port, a gorgeous giant bridge similar to the Golden Gate with a different bridge below it and so on.
I stress even if these locales seem ordinary, the game and its aesthetic makes them incredible. You’ll find ramps, jumps and branching paths in each of the courses. There are places to drive through parked cargo planes. Other areas have shipwrecks or driving by moonlight. The look awesome and they play awesome. A lot of work was put into each one to make it feel special with a twist. The refinery lets you drive through moonlit water. The oil rig has ramped walls and even the fright depot has jumps and tunnels beneath towering cranes.
For people that like to hand tweak settings there’s a program launcher that lets you update controls before you get into the game, along with advanced settings to let you update the ini files yourself. It would have been nice to have all of this in game rather than having guess work, but something is still better than nothing. You can tweak your graphical settings the same way. The texture pop in is noticeable when outside of a race. The character and vehicle textures both take a split second to load and its a problem larger developers still struggle with, so I can see past it.
When you respawn, you’re already driving and you just fade into reality again. Its a good way to keep the action going, but make sure not to respawn in any other vehicles. I’ve also managed to hang up on some questionable places and explode even when trying to get unstuck. It feels like that issue could have been better. The whole exploding for ramming something too rough in an arcade racer seems to take away from the fun factor. I found myself exploding far too frequent. What’s odd is the fact you can explode on the simplest things, yet try as I might, i could never roll a vehicle. Sure I’d drive on the side of a wall, but never roll or explode.
There is local multiplayer splitscreen and online multiplayer, but a budget title a year after its release always has a struggle keeping players playing online.
Fireburst is a tough game to enjoy its main challenge mode. There’s a higher than necessary skill level for what is essentially an arcade racer. You can always slide the skill slider to your preferred level, but even then it feels like there’s no happy medium where racers can be competitive. Take out what makes the game unique and it would make for a better experience while crushing the soul of what makes it unique. Its a tough toss up, but it should stand on its gimmick even if sucks the joy out of an otherwise fun experience.