The racing genre is almost as tough to gain success in as the stagnating FPS genre, so when an indie team takes the risk to create another racing game, they need something special up their sleeves. There are plenty of great, well-crafted racers out there, but many of them never get the praise they deserve due to the crowded market. Franchises such as Gran Turismo, Dirt, Motorstorm, Formula 1 and Need For Speed have the genre covered, so innovation is absolutely key.
Fireburst is a quirky, off-road racer developed by Germany-based exDream and published by indiePub and Strategy First. At first sight, Fireburst is a beautiful game, developed using the Unreal Engine 3 and using it quite nicely. The game gives you a few basic graphics options, and if you know your way round the Unreal Engine configuration files, you can do some extra tweaking to the graphics and controls.
Fireburst‘s persona can best be described as a motley crew of characters, all wacky and over-the-top. The stereotypical washed-up rocker, the hillbilly, the geek, and others are present and accounted for. This is a nice change of pace and is reminiscent of classic driving games, like Crazy Taxi. However, they are a little grinding on the ears with their repetitive, loud catchphrases and show-off personalities. It is surprising to see the ability to not only choose your character, but also the vehicle they would be driving. It’s nice not having the usual dedicated vehicle for each character, leaving you with no choice in the matter. There are plenty of cars to choose from, including buggies, cars, trucks, jeeps, and more, and they’re all well-modeled and unique.
Boosting is a big part of this game, but few games do it quite like this. Boosting is an entire meta-game that takes place while you’re racing in Fireburst; however, you have to be careful when you boost, because it may cause your car to overheat, which causes it to explode. There are some ways to avoid overheating, which include driving through large puddles, waterfalls, or even specially placed blue barrels. Make sure to avoid the red barrels, though: they’ll have the complete opposite effect. This may seem straightforward, but it’s very difficult to learn when to boost. Considering how easy it is for you to overheat, it’s something you will have to get used to.
There are four different types of abilities in the game, and they activate when you boost. While they are active, you are lethal to any opponent who crosses your path. The first ability is “Firewall”, and it does exactly what it sounds like: a wall of fire to either side of your car shoots out to engulf your opponents. Second is the “Fireball”, where a blast of flame hits a vehicle, setting it on fire and making you invincible for the duration of the boost. The third ability is “Fireblast”. Vehicles with this ability active are surrounded with a ring of fire that gets larger the longer you boost. The fourth and final ability is “Firewheels”, which is pretty self-explanatory: it leaves a trail of flames in your wake. Each one is deadly if you or an opponent comes into contact with any of these abilities. If you do, it will cause the vehicle to explode immediately or overheat at an alarming rate.
While there’s no sign of a story mode or career, there’s a fair amount to do here to keep you busy: a destruction derby, deathmatch mode, regular races, and character-specific challenges. Boosting is the key to all of these, and if you want to succeed, you will need to master it. Good driving alone won’t get you the prize. There are a ton of maps to race and compete on, each unique and nice to look at. On top of the boosting, racing, and avoiding attacks,there are various short-cuts and obstacles to think about, so you’ll need plenty of concentration. Even veterans of the racing genre may find themselves struggling to do well in the races of Fireburst. This isn’t to say it’s too difficult; it’s just very challenging. You’ll need to perfect the timing of the boost mechanic, and concentration is key. There may be times you feel robbed, and you probably didn’t deserve some of the bad luck you get, but the feeling of accomplishment makes it worthwhile.
Unfortunately, there are some problems with the gameplay. Immediately, you’ll feel unsure of the controls, and though it’s meant to be arcade-like and easy to pick up, it fails to accomplish this right off the bat. It’s almost like the developer started working on the driving physics and decided to leave them in a pre-alpha state. While they aren’t completely dreadful, they could have been much better. There are some times where some wacky physics take over, causing you to finish the race in last place. This doesn’t happen often, but it is worth mentioning.
At just ten dollars, there’s a lot of content here, and a ton of fun to be had. There’s local and online multiplayer for players to enjoy, on top of a robust offering of stages and customization. Yes, the characters can grind on you, there are some frustrating moments, and the controls may be a little off, but there’s a fun, challenging, addictive experience to be had here for a budget price. If you’re interested in picking up Fireburst, you can do so on Steam.
This review is based off a retail copy of the Steam version of Fireburst by exDream