If you ever wanted to talk dirty to other men over the Internet…
The concept behind Fire Team is simple – cash in on the multiplayer
phenomenon while adding in a new hook — you can actually talk to your teammates
while playing. The game comes with headphones that have an attached microphone
(like Judy, your Time-Life operator), so the equipment isn’t a problem.
There are a
variety of team-based games and Fire Team plays exactly like it should
– a multiplayer two-d game. There is absolutely no story in Fire Team; all you
need to do to get started is to create a user name and log on. The ease of use
of a product like this is extremely important, and may be why battle.net has
succeeded while services like DWANGO have failed.
Fire Team definately falls in the former category – it is extremely
easy to set up and log on, which is a bonus for both novices and experts. No
one wants to have to deal with IP addresses, and a lot of people don’t know
how to, either. Fire Team’s ability to make this completely transparent
is a boon to users everywhere.
The gameplay in Fire Team is split up between four different arena type
games. The first is Base Tag – two teams have a base on the map, you score points
by destroying portions of the other team’s base. Next is the style of play that
almost every game has – capture the flag. Fire Team changes the rules
here just a little bit; it has a system of multiple flags, where the team that
is holding them scores a point every 10 seconds.
Another game, and probably the most fun and innovative, is Gunball. The game
is a hybrid of football and deathmatch. You have to try to carry the ball on
the field into the other teams goal while avoiding both turrets and the other
players. The final mode is Team Deathmatch – fairly boring until the “final
round” where the number of kills you accumulated in the earlier rounds equals
the amount of lives you have later.
All in all,
the number of games is barely satisfying – there should have been more. Fire
Team just needs more variety.
Graphics are what you would expect for a two dimensional game… pretty bad.
But do they make gameplay any worse? No – so it doesn’t really matter. If you
can live with some little munchkin sprites running around on a two-D field you
should be fine – because the gameplay is still pretty good. There are no special
effects to speak of, and nothing is truly interesting to look at. But graphics
aren’t really the point of the game.
However, the sound is! The ability to talk to your teammates while playing
is the big selling point. I originally thought as soon as I logged into a game
there would be a bunch of immature kids yelling about their sexual relationships
with monkeys – but I was pleasantly surprised. All the chatter I heard related
to the game and strategies. And it was actually useful, too. In a game of Gunball,
my teammates were able to tell me where to cutoff their ball carrier, which
in turn prevented a touchdown.
Multitude has done an excellent job at designing a useful and lag free talk
feature. People will be curious as to how much lag there is — in a word, none.
With my 33.6 modem I experienced absolutely no lag in an eight player game with
lots of talking. Since that is really a bottom of the barrel connection these
days, people’s ping time can only get better.
On the other hand, for everything Fire Team does right, there is one
major problem with the service. And it isn’t the fault of the developers at
all. Right now there just aren’t enough people playing the game. At peak hours
on the weekend it was not uncommon to see only around 25 to 30 people playing
the game. Compared to the thousands of people that are playing Quake
at all hours of the day (I’ve played 32 player games at two in the morning),
you’d be hard pressed to find a decent number of opponents for Fire Team
at odd hours of the day. This is the hardest problem to repair too – the only
way for this to be fixed is for more people to buy the game. And who knows when
that will happen…
Fire Team is basically everything that it was promised to be – it is
a solid team game with the cool ability to be able to talk to your teammates.
Lag is so commendably low – this would be much more of an advantage if only
more people played. All they need is a few more people on the team.