The racing genre is a genre where newcomers dare to tread, which is what makes ExDream’s Fireburst a very interesting release. Not only is it an Xbox Live Arcade (XBLA) title, but it’s an XBLA indie racing game. On the surface, Fireburst looks like a Burnout or Flatout clone. Fireburst sets itself apart with the ability to engulf one’s car in flames, in order to increase speed and deal damage to opposing cars. Does this give Fireburst the edge it needs to succeed in breaking into a ruthless genre, or does it fall by the wayside like many other titles that have come before it?
Starting off, the graphics in Fireburst are not exactly impressive. The models and textures seem high resolution, but upon further inspection they end up being slightly fuzzy and lower resolution. In a racing game, this causes a lot of issues. Often, it is difficult to discern which rock is an impromptu ramp or path, and which is just a barrier. This means that players will often collide right with the scenery when trying to go up a ramp. The fire effects from the game’s namesake ability, Fireburst, are however pretty solid. The water effects are also surprising good in certain places. In other places, it’s often hard to tell what is considered water and what is just dark ground. All in all, the graphics in Fireburst are below average for games of the genre.
In most racing games on the title screen, the player is greeted by a generic pop rock band screaming something about driving or racing and Fireburst is no different. However most racing games have an awesome soundtrack to race to, Fireburst does not. Fireburst has very generic sounding bands, and lacks any popular rock tune. To make matters worse, the same song plays at the start of every race. There is also no way to skip the song, or reorder the playlist. The only real way to fix that problem, is to mute the music altogether which works well coincidently. As far as game sounds go, the vehicles sound pretty standard. Each character has their own unique voice and taunts which is definitely a nice touch. These few touches do not make up for the awful soundtrack.
Gameplay and Controls
The gameplay and controls are an integral part in a racing game. Feeling like there is control over the vehicle is very important when gliding across the racetrack. Unfortunately, only some of the vehicles in Fireburst feel remotely responsive. Often, the player will frantically be trying to swerve in order to get through a tight area, and their vehicle will only start to move once it’s too late. This is incredibly frustrating to deal with, as one crash can often mean an instant loss.
Mechanically, Fireburst is actually very interesting. The titular Fireburst ability is incredibly dynamic and requires certain levels decision making in the blink of an eye. This would add a lot of depth to the game, if there was some counterplay to it. While Fireburst is active, the player gains speed and one of four different flame types that damage other vehicles. However while in Fireburst, the player’s own vehicle rapidly takes damage. This means that Fireburst encounters last only a few seconds at most, making it less about artfully dodging other vehicles, and more about getting the jump on another vehicle. This makes the game’s mechanic a lot less fun and enjoyable.
Fireburst essentially has three different game modes: classic race, destruction race and challenge mode. Classic race is like every other racing game: two laps, whoever crosses the finish line first wins. Destruction race pits all of the racers into a smaller arena type map, and the objective is to have more kills than deaths. These two types get boring pretty fast, as the AI is very easy to beat. With only a few games under the players belt, they’ll routinely beat the AI. This is where the challenge mode comes in. Each of the default characters have four unique challenges that range from winning a race with equal amounts of death and kills all the way to winning a race without touching or killing another racer. These do add a bit of depth and challenge to the game, although some of the challenges are a bit absurd. Overall, there is enough variety to keep players entertained for a long while.
The game also sports two forms of multiplayer: local and Xbox Live. The inclusion of split-screen is a great addition in the age where split-screen is a rarity. There is nothing better than racing against a buddy who’s right there with you. The Xbox Live aspect however, is somewhat lackluster. It takes ages for a single person to even join a match, and then they leave almost immediately. That’s the issue with an indie competitive title, lack of exposure. Unfortunately, Fireburst falls victim to that issue.
Aesthetically, Fireburst is an average looking and average sounding. With graphically issues that can often cause crashes, and a mediocre soundtrack; Fireburst doesn’t do anything to please the senses. Gameplay wise, the Fireburst mechanic is interesting at first, but is lacking in depth and skill. The controls are somewhat clunky and unresponsive. The only aspect in which Fireburst succeeds is in the regards to the replayability. The challenges will keep the player interested for a long time, and the split-screen is a nice feature. Overall Fireburst is a sub-par game. However for players that do end up enjoying it, there is a fair bit to do in the game.