After all the controversy surrounding games like Six Days in Fallujah and Medal of Honor portraying American servicemen in combat in live warzones (well, Six Days in Fallujah might, assuming it ever was released), I was surprised when a game with a title like Heavy Fire: Afghanistan hit store shelves without so much as a murmur in any direction. Perhaps the media was simply sick of the story, or perhaps the publishers, developers and PR behind the game had decided that maybe an ad campaign that potentially glorifies the deaths of American soldiers was maybe not the best idea.
And so, here we have Heavy Fire: Afghanistan, an on-rails shooter released for the Wii and PS3 (and coming out of the Xbox 360 with Kinnect support sometime in early 2012). If you haven’t heard of Heavy Fire, I don’t blame you. The budget title (release date price of $20) released during one of the most jam-packed release months of all time, and without the marketing power of a Modern Warfare or Assassin’s Creed behind it, has proven pretty invisible.
But here we are! In the game, you play as a U.S. Marine, battling through various parts of Afghanistan, killing “rebels” and saving the behinds of your fellow Marines. Aside from the hokey voiceovers, there isn’t much of a story. The game knows what it is: a shooting gallery where you blast everything in sight to get the highest score. It follows the basic rail shooter formula: blast the foes, duck into cover, poke out and fire some more. There are a variety of weapons, and an upgrade tree allows you to improve your base weapons package, reload times and so forth as you complete more and more of the game. There are also sections where you’re placed in control of a turret, breaking up the basic cover/fire action from time to time.
The game is surprisingly well animated for a budget title. It’s not on par with your average AAA release, but looks might better than I was expecting. That said, there are some weird animation issues (shoot someone in a crouch, and they’ll glitch to standing and then fall down and die) and problems with the lighting. Whenever the camera rotates into the sun, it’s impossible to see and while I appreciate the realism, it’s not enjoyable when I’m trying to shoot things and “blinded by the light.” Still, even with the camera swinging wildly, I was able to pick my targets and tell friend from foe.
One recommendation I make to you, the reader (and hopefully player), is to utilize the PS Move Controls. The Siraxis controls are fine (and the motion control therein is put to effect in the game on a number of occasions), but there are some awkward reaches when you’re trying to reload. Taking cover uses the right thumbstick, and reload is the X button. I found it difficult to hit both of those at the same time. That said, the aiming worked well (though it was better with the Move). It was nice of Mastiff to include the Siraxis controls, but the Move controls should certainly be your first choice here.
The one surprising thing about Heavy Fire was the inclusion of both local and online cooperative play. So, if you and a friend several states away were looking from some classic on-rails shooting play, this would be the game to try. Too many budget games forget that we’re in the internet era, and I was impressed the Heavy Fire took the time to include it.
Heavy Fire: Afghanistan is the rare title that knows exactly where it’s place in the world. It’s not going to unseat AAA blockbuster titles, and is priced accordingly. It offers a fun, though short, experience. Once you’ve mastered that, you can play through again at higher difficulty, or bring a friend. That said, the game is not without some odd animation issues, and the blinding light you experience at some points is near unforgivable. If you have the PS Move, I’d recommend taken a pass at this one. This niche is one that has been empty for some time, and being able to bring the Time Crisis or Virtua Cop experience directly to your living room could be worth it to you, especially at this low price.
Pros: Price, On-rails experience, Online co-op
Cons: Weird animation and lighting issues, very short
3* out of 5