Saturday, February 25, 2017

Game Talk #12: Firewarrior 40k - Fire Warrior


I want to talk about this game because I come at it from a very weird angle compared to a lot of other people who experienced it.

Whenever I bring this game up, almost everyone who has actually heard of it usually reacts poorly. They go on about how it was a shitty, awful, terrible attempt to shove an otherwise great intellectual property into a lame First Person Shooter.

But that isn't how I saw it.

Back in the day, (the game came out in late 2003), I often frequented Blockbuster. Ah, the memories. The cover of Fire Warrior caught my eye one day. I mean...holy shit, just look at it.


Like, I was in love. It looked epic. Plus, they were running their whole 'Who needs Halo?' campaign. I think, (not sure), that by the time I found this game, I had already played Halo. (I didn't get my hands on Halo until January '04.) I was so in love with Halo that I wanted another game like it. I mean, who wouldn't? And hey, if they were willing to claim that this game was a Halo Killer, then it must be really amazing...

Right?


Well, anyway, before we talk about the actual game, let me further explain my view of it. At the time, I had no idea that Fire Warrior was part of a larger universe. I had no idea that Warhammer 40K was a thing. So I came at this game with totally fresh eyes and no expectations. At least, no expectations in terms of how good it stacked up to other content from that universe.

So, let's talk about the game now.

How is it? If you asked me when I was sixteen, I'd have said it was fucking badass. If you ask me now, well...I beat it, so it at least kept my attention for that long.

All in all, as an FPS from 2003, it isn't really bad. I'd say at least above average, though the auto-aim element is probably the only thing that made it playable. But apart from the gameplay, it has a fairly cool story...sort of. Okay, let's take a look at the story.

In the far distant future, you are Kias, a young Fire Warrior and a member of the tau. A race of what might be called 'peaceful warriors', they only seem to attack when provoked. It seems like the tau were modeled around Japanese culture to a certain degree, but I could be wrong about that. (I'm not that familiar with any cultures, honestly.) After a brutal war between the tau and the Imperium of Man, who are a bunch of religious fanatic dicks that worship technology now, a shaky ceasefire has been signed. Unfortunately, that ceasefire is broken when a tau Ethereal, one of their leaders, is kidnapped and brought to a miserable mining plant called Dolumar IV. This sparks a conflict as the tau race to rescue their leader. As Kais, you engage in a brutal conflict with the humans and this is to be your Trial By Fire, or basically your first real mission. Things escalate and shit gets even crazier, but this is the basic premise.

Too bad that most of the story seems to have gotten lost in the echo.

I wasn't too sure what was going on the first time around and I managed to follow the seemingly bare-bones story fairly coherently the second time around. Fire Warrior is a game that, in my eyes at least, stood the test of time. For the most part. It was still fun, at times fairly challenging, even on the easiest difficulty, and overall a decent game.

One thing that was very interesting, however, was something I only discovered near the end of last year. After playing through Fire Warrior again, (I beat it this time! I never beat it the first time around), I did some research online and found out that they had hired someone to novelize the game.

Now, on a little side note here, I'd like to say that I've read more than a few video game books and, well, they fare better than video game movies. But sometimes not by much.

I was very pleasantly surprised to discover that this book was excellent. It's since become my favorite video game novelization. (DOOM: Knee-Deep in the Dead, a novelization of the very first DOOM game, was formerly number one.) The book has a few flaws, though.

For one, the author insists (or probably it was the company that owns the IP insisting) on making frequent references to tau words. Namely, measurements of time. Now, from an understanding standpoint, I get it. I can figure out context clues. I can tell what these words roughly translate to, so I didn't lose any information or story, but honestly, it's just jarring and annoying. Not to mention inconsistent. I mean, they have Orca Class dropships. Come on, Orca? As in, the human creature? Or all the other words that are in English that the book uses. I get that it's meant to make the reader become more immersed in tau culture but honestly I thought the story itself was written well enough to get that job done fine. I have a clear idea of tau society and culture without needing to read a made up word every couple of pages.

Another thing that was kind of annoying at first, but I came to understand why it was done, was that frequently, a brand new character would get introduced. We would get slammed through about a page of information on this character, their back story and what they were doing, and then, not much later, they'd get gunned down by the main character, Kias. At first I didn't like this, because it, too, was jarring, but I ultimately have come to appreciate what it was used for: breaking up the story because honestly, it gets tedious writing about one character gunning down a bunch of others.

But otherwise the book was great. I loved it. It was exceptionally well written. I also came to realize that Fire Warrior is actually an extremely unique game. I mean, how many other games do you get to play as an alien? Or, more specifically, an alien gunning down humans? Or, even more specifically, playing as an alien gunning down humans and it isn't a gimmick or a comedy? It's very rare and it came out very well for this game.

A little more on the book: it fleshed out the story a LOT. I didn't even realize all this stuff was going on and it did explain some of the back story of everything and the mythology of the Warhammer universe.

There is one part in particular that I'd like to talk about. It's spoilerish so, if you haven't played this game and want to experience it without spoilers, stop reading.

Okay, so, in the Warhammer universe, there's this alternate dimension of pure evil and chaos. That's what it's referred to as: Chaos. It's basically Hell and it's inhabited by chaos demons and they want out all the time. So, this game manages to pull an excellent twist in the same way Halo kind of did. The first half of the game is a pretty standard shooter. You're shooting the human bad guys, they're shooting back at you, the plot makes sense.

And then, suddenly, basically out of nowhere, a bunch of crazed Chaos Marines, who are huge, bulky, winged, glowing crimson, shrieking demon horrors, pop out thin air and start killing EVERYONE. And I do mean everyone: tau and humans alike are caught in the crossfire.


Suddenly, you have to set aside your differences and work together against the Chaos menace. I thought this was fucking awesome and it made the game significantly more interesting. There was also a really good build up to it. Several times you came across some of the enemy soldiers talking about not wanting to back to their ship because something fucking weird was going on. And then, when you boarded their ship, you started finding evidence of something else killing the humans, besides you. It was a great mystery.

So, that about wraps up what I have to say on Fire Warrior. My recommendation: if you can find it for cheap, give it a play. It's a lot of fun.

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