Fast, fur-ious fun - Review By Mr. Domino
We've all had dreams of mutilating small fuzzy animals, haven't we? I have childhood memories of torturing the local bears with sticks, stones, and
whatever else I could find to inflict damage on them -- preferably
something with an iron barrel. Of course, any OJ will tell you how
difficult it is to get blood stains out of clothing, let alone fur.
Ah, but those are just memories. Thankfully, Acclaim has released Fur Fighters, which
allows me to take out all of my made up frustration on the bears of my
youth without any of the messy clean up. Developed by Bizarre Creations,
Fur Fighters puts players in control of six fuzzy critters in
numerous 3D environments, blasting the stuffing out of hordes of evil bears. Of
course, it's not just shooting and another word for shooting, since Fur
Fighters is actually an adventure game, and a long one at that. You see, the evil General
Viggo has animalnapped all of the Fur Fighters' children and hidden them
throughout the 30 large levels which comprise the game. Taking a cue
from MDK2, Bizarre Creations has used "Turok control" -- using the
Dreamcast controller buttons for movement and the analog stick for
sight. Thus, the game plays very much like a cute FPS with added platform
elements and "collect the goodies" stuff.
So, can Fur Fighters successfully combine the violence and control of Quake
with the cuteness and gameplay of Donkey Kong 64? More importantly, can
Acclaim break the space-time continuum and actually release a
wholly good, original product despite a notorious history of milking
licenses with garbage games? Let's take a look.
Fur Fighters is simply a huge game -- possibly the longest playing
Dreamcast title to date. Expect to spend a good forty hours or so to
complete the game, and then some more hours trying to find and do
everything you missed the first time through. You can easily get lost in
some of the environments, or spend far too long hunting down
that kid you're missing. The levels are massive, and you truly get a
sense of the size when you find yourself hiking up some stairs in a
tower or across several city blocks. Most everything is designed in the likeness of the real, human world, meaning that many of the obstacles and structures
dwarf the spunky, pint-sized heroes. While this may not make much
sense in Fur Fighters' well-developed animal world -- especially
considering General Viggo's bizarre pet human -- you'll probably be
enjoying the game too much to give that another thought.
The 3D worlds are beautiful.
I really enjoyed Fur Fighters. It's all too rare nowadays to get a 3-D action
game which has (gasp!) action. Far too many 3D games are
either dumbed down to compensate for being 3D (Sonic Adventure) or
remove most enemies altogether, creating vast, almost-empty wastelands of
exploration (Mario 64, Rayman 2). Although I'm not much of a first (or third) person shooter fan,
I'm pleasantly surprised by the difference the inclusion of FPS elements has made to this sagging
genre. You'll often be attacked by three or more enemies at once, and
will quickly find yourself strafing, jumping, and running madly to even the odds in
your favor. Enemies attack with the same weapons available to your
character: the shotgun is the typical short range weapon, the
machine gun is the basic mid-range weapon, and others such as the rocket
launcher can be used from longer distances. Switching weapons is also
done ala MDK2, using the D-pad to cycle through the available
choices. Eight weapons are available, and each is distinguishable enough
from the others to give them individual advantages. As in all FPS games,
you'll always have a basic melee attack for those times when you're
out of ammo, or in an area in which it would be wiser not to fire.
Each of the six Fur Fighters have his or her own basic attack and
special skill, and most of the puzzles in the game require you to select the
correct character to overcome some obstacle. There are several
transporters throughout each level, and a specific Fur Fighter can be
controlled by accessing them. If, for instance, you're playing as Rico (a swimming penguin), but come across a wall with scratches, you'll
need to find a transporter which will let you change into Juliette, a cat who can climb certain walls. You'll also need the correct Fur
Fighter to rescue the children scattered throughout the game -- ie., you
may be able to reach a puppy with the kangaroo, but you'll need to find
some way to get the dog up there if you want to save the lil' guy.
Many of these puzzles are well thought-out, and solving them can yield a
satisfying sense of accomplishment.
Real time cut scenes utilize the in-game engine.
Although Fur Fighters may look a bit simplistic and "Nintendo 64-ish,"
its graphics are very well done. The framerate remains steady and reasonably
smooth (although not Rayman 2-smooth), and the horizon is far away, without a hint of fog or slowdown. Some pixelation of the textures can
be noticed up close, but that is easily forgivable when one considers the wide variety
of textures present in the game. Nearly everything is unique to itself
in the game -- no artwork, billboard, or whatnot ever gets repeated.
The enemies duck and roll convincingly, and the cutscenes which fuel the
story are well done, complete with cute mumbled animal sounds.
I was also impressed with the way the game handles jumping. While camera problems
plague many other 3D platform games, Fur Fighters' camera is almost always
able to give your character the best possible view of a jump. Of course,
tilting the camera down to give you a better perspective of a gap's
length also obscures your view of approaching enemies, but that's a small niggle.
Otherwise, the game's standard, behind-the-back viewpoint is
great, allowing it to combine all of the flexibility of a FPS
engine with the better positioning abilities of a 3D platformer. The leaps
the game requires from players are never that difficult, but it's nice
to know that the leaps that are present are accompanied by few user-unfriendly
Next: A bit more Good, The Bad and The Final Word