Fireburst hands-on preview

What’s a band of misfits stuck way out in the middle of nowhere with a bunch of tricked out, weaponized vehicles to do other than try and blow each other up? The gang of miscreants in Fireburst goes ahead and does just that.

We’re not really sure how a group filled with the likes of Shawn the pro race car driver, Genji the Japanese hacker, valley girl Vicky, Jimbo the redneck, and Iggy Pop lookalike Izzy managed to get themselves all wound up in some sort of desert death race. What we are sure of is how chaotic things can get when they’re all on the track together. Smack talk flies around (a lot of it so over-the-top cheesy we couldn’t resist laughing), flames erupt everywhere, and huge, flashy wrecks abound.

As the title suggests, Fireburst really lets you know that making stuff catch flame is the main priority. Enemies, friends, and the world around them are all fair game. They’re not terribly specific as to who and what you light up. They just want to make sure you’re taking advantage of the Unreal Engine powered looks of the surprisingly full-featured XBLA racer.

They’re not going just hand you a box of matches and tell you to go to town. No, no, that would be too simple, and these aren’t your typical arsonists. Each character utilizes one of four fire-based Fireboost weapons to take down their fellow racers. Fireball, fittingly, engulfs the car in flames, torching anyone that comes near, while Firewheels leaves the same heat in the dust, flaming anyone behind them. Fireblast creates a little nova around the car, blowing up anyone nearby. Finally, Firewall emits a, well, wall of fire intended to do some serious damage.

For a game supposedly all about the hot stuff, Fireburst really makes sure you watch your water intake. Using the boost or any of the various weapons too often will lead to overheating, which is just as fatal as slamming headfirst into a wall or taking a Fireblast directly to the face. But, if you crash some of the various water barrels strewn throughout the levels, drive headfirst into pools of water, or power slide through the stream coming from a hose, you can cool off a bit and extend the amount of time you can spend getting those advantages. It’s all a balancing act.

Despite being a downloadable title, Fireburst has a surprising amount of content. There’s 16 characters, a multitude of cars to unlock, 15-plus tracks to fool around on, all for a budget price. The straight racing mode ends up playing like some insane hybrid of Mario Kart and MotorStorm with fire instead of red shells and mushroom power ups. Things start to get really crazy in Destruction mode, which forgoes all of the checkered flag trappings and just lets players blow each other up. The Destruction-specific maps are designed to encourage carnage, and the various Fireboosts really shine there. Die-hard fans of Twisted Metal and its ilk should feel right at home.

Really, Fireburst has no business being as fully featured as it is. It will cost $15 upon release, but it still boasts tons of characters, two completely different and independent modes, a full campaign, a ridiculous amount of unlockable cars, and a variety of weapons. Yet, here it is.

Oct 5, 2011

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