Emergency Heroes (Wii) review
"Well, the way this works is that you have one of three districts—later all combined into one—where you drive through crowded traffic to find glowing columns of light that represent missions. The time spent between said missions is mostly devoid of anything worthwhile, since you can only occasionally find diversions and they can pull you away from wherever you're supposed to be headed. Worse, the traffic you must navigate is downright annoying."
In the future, the city's emergencies are primarily handled by automated systems. The brave men and women who still do it the old-fashioned way--by risking their lives--are few and far between. The people of the future world are okay with that... until suddenly things go very wrong. Now the city is grappling with a crime spree perpetuated by a mysterious masked man and his motley crew of misfits. Only one person--a cadet once stripped of his badge, no less--dares to stand against them. That one person is you!
Emergency Heroes doesn't have a bad premise. It might not scream “I'm original and awesome,” but that's okay. The foundation is still there for a great game and it's obvious why Ubisoft gave the green light to its internal studio when the concept art crossed whatever desk it crossed in the planning stages. What's less clear is the mindset of the individual(s) who eventually said “Yeah, it's ready” and shipped the game to retail. Because honestly? It wasn't ready at all.
At a glance, you might think otherwise. As Wii games go, Emergency Heroes is one of the prettier ones. You'll spend time racing through a seamless city on the way to various mission objectives and really, it's all attractive. Overhead, cable cars ride rails suspended high about futuristic freeways while jets soar in the distance and tall, glass-faced skyscrapers rise toward a baby blue skyline. The architecture, streets and vehicles all have a slightly stale appearance to them, but at the same time they nicely fit the art style and the idea of an impersonal utopia.
Within actual missions, you'll also find thoroughly destructible environments. Debris falls all around you, raining down from the skies like ash spewed from a volcanic eruption. Blazing support beams crash across the roadway, stone columns sway precariously and you'll often find yourself driving through glass partitions or launching from one portion of a crumbling overpass to another. There's the sort of attention to detail that we so seldom see even in the best of next-generation titles and Ubisoft is to be commended for taking the platform seriously up to that point.
The praise stops when you try to play for more than a few minutes at a time, though, and the other faults begin to manifest themselves.
Emergency Heroes is one of those games where you toss the Nunchuck aside and rely exclusively on the Wii Remote, like you might in Excite Truck or the similarly-named Emergency Mayhem from Codemasters. When that control scheme works properly, it's fun and really brings arcade racing to your living room. This is not one such instance, however. There's not a single vehicle that ever feels properly responsive. The initial ones lumber along like a waking giant. Then you upgrade to the speedier ones and suddenly it's difficult even to drive in a straight line. Most of this you can adapt to in time, but it seems odd that so fundamental an issue would have crept its way into what is essentially a racing game.
Even if you forgive the play control, you're not likely to be as generous with the repetitive gameplay. As already mentioned, Emergency Heroes revolves around a crime spree in the city and the lone hero who works to stop it. Well, the way this works is that you have one of three districts--later all combined into one--where you drive through crowded traffic to find glowing columns of light that represent missions. The time spent between said missions is mostly devoid of anything worthwhile, since you can only occasionally find diversions and they can pull you away from wherever you're supposed to be headed. Worse, the traffic you must navigate is downright annoying. There's too much of it, everyone drives slow and the streets are too narrow.
Once you finally find your missions (which thanks to an effective navigation system isn't difficult to do, just time-consuming), you'll be asked to complete one of four mission types.
The first two are variations on the same theme. In one you race through a series of burning structures, passing through checkpoints that increase the number of potential victims you are carrying. In the other, you zip through those same areas only now you're spraying water on blazes. This is accomplished by holding the 'A' button while within range, and sometimes by crashing through water pipes and such as you make your circuit.
In the third type of mission, you simply drive through a short area and crash through obstacles blocking the road. You treat your vehicle as a battering ram and charge directly through them. Then you repeat the process until you arrive at the end.
Finally, the fourth challenge is hot pursuit. You follow a criminal through the crowded streets and try to ram into his vehicle a set number of times--usually around 20. At first you can do this any way you wish, but extra rules arrive as the game progresses so that eventually only contact from certain angles will deal damage. You also have to make sure that you don't fall too far behind.
In a nutshell, that's Emergency Heroes. You're either completing one of those same four missions repeatedly, or you're driving through annoying traffic so that you can have the opportunity to do it all over again. Your motivation, aside from a skeletal plot, is the thrill of seeing how quickly you can do it. You're given a medal and points that go toward unlocking concept art and new vehicles, but for the most part it's easy to place high. Even if you don't, the stages aren't inspired enough that you're likely to bother repeating them very often. Also, there's no real sense of true emergency. I blazed through the whole game in a few short hours and didn't fail even one mission. For that matter, I'm not even sure you can!
There are numerous ways a game can go wrong. It can feature horrible graphics, a useless plot, annoying sound or even just a horrible concept that never should even have been attempted. We've all played games that completely screwed up in one of those areas. Emergency Heroes mostly avoids such pitfalls. Instead, it commits an even worse offense: it bores the player. React accordingly.
Staff review by Jason Venter (June 09, 2008)
Jason Venter has been playing games for 30 years, since discovering the Apple IIe version of Mario Bros. in his elementary school days. Now he writes about them, here at HonestGamers and also at other sites that agree to pay him for his words.
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