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Game: Warhammer 40,000: Fire Warrior
Developer: Kuju Entertainment
Publisher: THQ
Year: 2003
Reviewed: 2009
Platform: PC
Genre: FPS
Game Version: F00
Reviewer: ValkyrDeath

The Warhammer 40,000 universe is the perfect setting for computer games. In this particular instance, they’ve taken the tabletop strategy game, but have turned it into a first-person shooter. Not necessarily a bad thing, since the science fiction setting is well suited to an FPS, but the license alone is not enough to support a poor game.

Warhammer 40,000 Fire Warrior Reading
Even the enemies are bored with the game and have decided to do a bit of reading instead.

Fire Warrior does feature some impressive names in its list of voice actors. Brian Blessed, Tom Baker and Burt Kwouk all turn up at various points in the game. The problem is, it seems the game's entire budget was spent on acquiring the Warhammer license and the voice actors, before they realised they didn’t have anything left to pay for the rest of the game. That would be one explanation for why this is such a shoddily put together mess of a game, anyway.

The first thing you notice on starting the game is that the graphics looks far more dated than they should considering the game was released in 2003. Not too bad if the rest of the game is good, but as you’ve probably guessed by now, it isn’t. The textures are bland and the levels are made up almost exclusively of corridors. To say it came out in the year that saw the release of Deus Ex: Invisible War and Max Payne 2, this looks at around the level of Quake in comparison.

Soon after the graphics, you notice the sound. Or rather, the lack of it. This must be the quietest FPS game I’ve ever played. The entire sound budget must have gone towards getting the voice actors to say the occasional basic line of dialogue, leaving nothing for a soundtrack. There’s no music at all in the game. Well, that’s ok, there’s no background music to daily life, so maybe they’re going for realism and will have great sound effects to make up for it. Or…at least… some sound? Somewhere in the game? Turns out the sound effects are incredibly sparse. There’s not even any footstep sounds as you walk around, meaning you’ll spend most of the time running around in complete unnatural silence. The only sounds are the aforementioned lines of dialogue and the sounds of your weapons. And the guns sound incredibly underpowered and weak.

Warhammer 40,000 Fire Warrior Stars zoomed in
See those huge white pixels in the background? That’s what stars look like through a sniper scope.

Which is accurate really, since they’re some of the most useless weapons I’ve come across in a game. Even at the easiest difficulty settings, the weakest enemies at the start of the game take quite a lot of continuous fire to take down. This is partially because the bullets seem to be pathetically weak, and partially because 75% of the bullets probably won’t hit their target through no fault of your own. Even if you’re standing two feet away from them and aiming straight at them while they remain perfectly still, the bullets still spray all over the place and most of them miss. By the end of the game you have to set half an hour aside every time you want to kill something. And then at the end of each level it gives you your statistics including your accuracy rating, as if it’s your fault that the guns bullets seem to swerve at 45 degree angles to purposefully miss the target you’re aiming at.

So, level design then. As mentioned before, the levels are nearly all generic linear corridors. In fact, this is level design from the very foundations of the genre, ignoring any improvements that may have been made in the previous decade or so. Run down bland corridor after identical bland corridor shooting enemies, occasionally coming across a locked door, where you have to find the right colour coded key to open. Might as well be playing Doom. At least the level design was a little bit better back then.

A couple of levels later on in the game do open out a bit. So to make sure that this doesn’t actually improve the game, it makes sure that you have to continuously move up and down the level again and again, reaching the top of the level just to find a button that opens up an area way back down at the bottom again. Sometimes there was an arrow pointing out the objective, but it was sporadic and only appeared for certain objectives and not others, leaving you occasionally running around without a clue where you’re supposed to be going. And to make matters even worse, I died in this level due to a game bug at one point, and had to restart the level at another due to a different bug, leading to me losing 15 – 20 minutes of progress each time. Losing progress due to your own mistakes is annoying enough. Losing progress due to a badly made game is absolutely infuriating.

Which points out the flaws in the save system. It uses the checkpoint save system which is generally bad in itself. Worse still, they’re very badly spaced, as you can tell from the fact that I was set back 20 minutes. The first time I died and was set back about 15 minutes in an early level, I decided to quit, not wanting to play through it again right away. When I came back, I discovered that the save system was even worse than I imagined, and that mid-level checkpoints only save for that play session, and if you quit and reload the game, you have to start the entire level again. Absolutely dreadful.

What haven’t I insulted yet? Oh yes, the enemy AI. It’s hopeless. The enemies dance around firing at you with no particular tactics other than shooting directly at you wherever they are. This includes when there’s another enemy in front of them. They’ll happily shoot in your direction, repeatedly hitting their own allies. Of course, it rarely actually kills them, since they take so much damage.

Warhammer 40,000 Fire Warrior Red
Oh no, I’ve wandered into one of those Oblivion gates again!

Frankly, I’d never have persevered with this game if it wasn’t for my dedication to completing a game before writing a review, just to give the game a fair chance. After repeating sections of the game again and again, I was fed up with it and by around halfway through the game, I would have given up. So in order to carry on, I downloaded a trainer program to turn on invulnerability just to get me through the game so I could see if it improved later on. My 54th review, and the first time I’ve had to cheat before I could even be bothered to complete it, which must say something about the poor quality.

Strangely, I still died several times after that, even supposedly being invincible. The worst case of this was a level where you’re tasked with taking out a group of snipers scattered around the area. If you reach a certain point in the level without killing every single one of them then you get shot and die. It’s not the actual sniper shooting you, it’s the game sounding a gun shot and making you drop dead as if you’ve been shot; a scripted unavoidable death. The sniper might not even have a line of sight to you, but you’ll still drop dead and have to restart the whole section again.

Add to this the number of bugs in the game. I’ll just mention a few of them, starting with the two mentioned earlier. The first, I reached a certain point in the game and got stuck on some scenery somehow. It was a railing next to a ramp and I somehow got attached to it, and couldn’t move in any direction or jump, and having no explosives with me I couldn’t blow myself up to return to the checkpoint, which meant I had to restart the entire level. Which I did the next day, and got slightly further than I had the first time. I reached a point where I was supposed to stand on a platform and press the button, where the platform would transport me along. It didn’t. Pressing the button made the platform move, but for some reason didn’t take me along with it, instead just sliding out from under my feet. Where I fell to my death, sending me back to the previous checkpoint, which happened to be back near the start of the level again anyway. Other bugs included the fact that when I hit the jump button while standing on a lift that was going downwards, for some reason my character went flying right up to the top of the lift shaft before plummeting to his death, and a vent that had to be crawled through seeming to be blocked by an invisible wall that you have to push against for a few seconds before you can finally get into it. There was also an error message saying “The Managed DirectX components for Microsoft .NET were not detected on this machine.” which randomly started turning up when I tried to launch the game after I’d already been playing it a while. It only seemed to affect the launcher program though, and launching the game file directly allowed the game to load.

The only decent part is that they have some good actors doing voices, but obviously that isn’t enough to make a game. And they’re not used all that much anyway. Tom Baker is simply the narrator for the opening cutscene and a bit of background information in the tutorial, while Brian Blessed is hardly heard at all except for very brief dialogue snippets. Burt Kwouk is heard throughout the game, but usually just to say inane comments such as “Destroy this one.” In all other aspects, the game is totally inept. (It couldn’t even do scripted sequences well. At one point, I destroyed an enemy ship by throwing grenades at it. When I’d damaged it enough, there was a brief explosion and it vanished. No rubble or anything, just a flash and it was completely gone. It had only been a foot or two off the ground at the time.) This is unfortunately one of the weakest first person shooter games I’ve played in years. Definitely not recommended.

Save System Review: Dreadful. Badly spaced mid-level checkpoints that don’t even save when you quit the game.
Graphics: Very dated, low quality textures and bland environments. The environments do get a bit more interesting towards the end, but not enough.
Sound: Occasional lines of good voice acting, but no soundtrack and hardly any sound effects, and the ones that are there aren’t very good.
Bugs: Far too many, as mentioned in the main review.
Gameplay: Not very good at all. The combat isn’t satisfying, and that’s pretty much all there is to the game.
Storyline: Simple generic sci-fi plot to hang the action around. Not dreadful, but not all that interesting either.

Arbitrary Final Score: 1 star

If you like this, you might also like: Doom, Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War, Bashing your head against the wall

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