While Carmaggedon is often credited with having done the best job of blending violence and driving, it’s certainly not the first title to do so. Back in 1988, Titus Software released Fire & Forget for Amiga systems, a game where you drove a super-powerful armed off-roader called the Thunder Master and fought the Intergalactic Liberation Organization’s forces as they attempted to take control of our planet.
Skip forward 25 years and the plot hasn’t changed much, but the vehicles and ships have — and so is the device you’re enjoying the game on. In Fire & Forget: Final Assault, developed by Anuman, you’ll be behind the wheel of the Thunder Master III and will be charged with the duty of taking down enemy ships on land and in the air, in important locations around the world. Has this franchise aged like fine wine or soured like prison hooch? Let’s take a ride and find out.
F&F’s focus is on the main (and only) playable vehicle, the Thunder Master III. Armed with a primary double laser cannon and a secondary missile launcher, this sweet-looking ride can not only driven on land but can also take to the skies with the tap of a button. Now, before you get too excited, check out the caveats: throttle is automatic and always at a moderate pace (making this feel like an endless runner), and so is aiming — all you need to (or can) do is steer and fire.
While that might not sound too bad, it leaves little room for thrilling action. With auto-aim, you can almost always hit a target as long as it’s visible on the track. Plus, all vehicles including yours appear to be following residential neighborhood speed limits, making driving and flying a bit too easy. Flying is also restricted to 13 seconds at a time, after which you’ll have to land and allow your vehicle to regenerate its aerial ability — meaning this is more of a gimmick than an interesting game mechanic that you can learn to use in tandem with your playing style.
With throttle and aiming being handled automatically, all you need to do is steer, nose your flying TMIII up and down and fire. F&F goes down the accelerometer route for this, meaning that you’ll have to tilt your device to alter your course. There are on-screen buttons to toggle between flying and driving modes, and two buttons for firing primary and secondary weapons. You can’t configure your control scheme in any way, which is something I would have normally cribbed about — but it’s not like you’re going to get engrossed or invested in this game in any case.
While F&F looks promising on the outside, from the app icon to the launch screen, the game is, unfortunately, light on content. For $1.99, you get 10 unimaginatively designed levels which are more like race tracks, even though there’s no lap time to beat. Only the Thunder Master III is available for you to drive and destroy enemy ships vehicles with, and their designs are as forgettable as the environments. The game starts you off playing at normal difficulty and requires you to complete all 10 levels before you can try the harder modes — but I doubt any player with a shred of self-respect come back for seconds on this one.
Shooting down enemies is a cinch, and defeating the boss (who goes by the spine-chilling moniker of Captain Nucleo) at the end of each level is almost just as easy — they’ll fire a few lazy rounds at you and drop mines, but all their attacks are easy to dodge and you only need a minute or so to take them out. You don’t even need to be very careful while dealing with Nucleo, or even adopt any special tactics to beat him — just try not to fall asleep. In the event that you purchased this game thinking you’ll go head-to-head with a friend in 2-player mode, don’t get too excited — you’ll both have to play separately and then compare scores at the end.
The only graphic element that looks good in F&F is the Thunder Master III; other than that, enemy vehicles look like they popped out of campy sci-fi comics from the 80s. The environments are tragically boring — even though each level is supposed to take place in a different location around the world, they all look the same: desolate landscapes, wide open roads and the occasional tunnel. In-game menus and static cut-scenes look sketchy too. Animations, or the lack thereof, also detract from the experience: watch out for the red enemy cars that magically pop up from out of nowhere and see what happens when you crash your ride (there’s just a screen that says ‘Crash’).
Should you buy this game?
In case you skipped the rest of this review: no. F&F is a lazy reimagination of a franchise that could have made for fun, satisfying gameplay. This iteration does nothing to expand on the plot or even do justice to the concept of the main game mechanic, and fails to fully take advantage of the graphic and systemic capabilities of today’s devices. I didn’t enjoy the time I spent playing this game at all, instead wondering why the developers built things the way they did at every turn. If you’re looking for engaging vehicular combat, skip this and give Carmageddon a try.