GSC Game World, Ukrainian developer who would later create STALKER: Shadow of Chernobyl, was still a small company when it created Firestarter. Like Croteamâ€™s Serious Sam series, this title rejects the notion that first-person shooters must be deep, thought provoking and complex. Firestarter contains 16 levels of frenzied sci-fi action, with each broken down into multiple zones. The goal is to survive, kill monsters and collect powerful artifacts.
There’s a story behind the carnage. Something about a SkyNet knockoff infecting the information superhighway and causing general mayhem. It’s hard to figure out since there are no cutscenes, dialogue, or even real missions. You get to choose one of six characters to play as (marine, android, assassin, etc), with each having their own trade-offs between speed, armor and firepower. There are special abilities which you pick up each time you end a level, and these are somewhat cool. They make you stronger, allow you to carry more weapons, or grant you some other ability.
Firestarter features 20 weapons, differing in fire rate, damage and availability of alternative modes. These include a circular saw (the default weapon), an assault rifle, a plasma gun, a shotgun, a minigun, a rocket launcher, and much more. Some of the larger weapons have several different types of ammunition to choose from. Each gun operates in a different way. Although the amount of guns is commendable, thereâ€™s not much novelty or innovation overall.
Enemies are numerous, and many are mechanical. Among them are low-level flying drones, hemispheres with laser guns attached to their surface, elite guard robots, zombies (including one with its head stitched inside its abdomen and another with arm-implanted impulse guns), monsters with bodies of dragons and the heads of birds, bull-demons and an assortment of reptilian beasts. Even with the addition of more than one attack mode, their AI and pathfinding are visibly limited.
There’s nothing fundamentally obnoxious about Firestarter, though it does have that bargain bin vibe you get with so many import shooters. It desn’t set out to do anything new or novel, but merely apes the better aspects of more advanced games. You can take that or leave it.
System Requirements: Pentium III 1 GHz, 512 MB RAM, WinXP
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