You have to give a game credit when it tries something new. In the hands of most developers, Firefighters F.D.18 would be a fast-paced, high-adrenaline action game, with a heroic fireman pursuing terrorists or something through a long series of burning buildings.
Konami, instead, has made something that's about half arcade action, half simulation. Firefighters F.D.18, if nothing else, gives the player some vague idea of what it'd be like to be a fireman, running through hallways full of smoke, in an environment that might collapse or explode at any moment. It's tense and exciting, but it's really not much of a game.
As Dean MacGregor, a veteran fireman with some unexplained trauma in his past, your job is, first and foremost, to save people. In each level, armed with your trusty axe and a seemingly infinite firehose, you'll extinguish fires, circumvent obstacles, smash obstructions, and occasionally beat the hell out of annoying cleaning droids. When you've rescued all the civilians inside a given area, you're done. This puts an impromptu and flexible time limit on the game, as each survivor only has so long to live before they succumb to heat exhaustion or smoke inhalation.
Your constant opponent in each level is, naturally, fire. There are other hazards--collapsing ceilings, backdrafts, pools of oil, sudden explosions, exposed wiring, annoying little cleaning droids--but they all pale into insignificance next to the burning building around you. The flames constantly multiply, often respawn from inextinguishable red blazes, can never really be put out for good, and occasionally manifest as strangely living things. The boss battles in Firefighters are almost supernatural, where Dean goes up against a blaze so strong as to have its own name, attack pattern, and lifebar.
To fight the fires, you'll use your hose. It can be set to either a wide-focus spray, which is good for getting rid of flames in a broad angle, or a narrower stream that works best at range, or against single targets. If you get trapped in a corner, the press of a button summons Dean's partner Craig, who'll knock out the fires around you with a short-range blast of flame-retardant foam. Unfortunately, you can only call Craig three times a stage, kind of like a bomb in a shooter, and there are no bonus items that'll let you call him again.
As I've said, this is a great idea for a game, with plenty of opportunities for action. The problem is that Firefighters is stuck between genres, and doesn't go far enough in either direction.
Most of the hazards in Firefighters are sudden events, like a collapsing ceiling or an explosion. Dean, weighed down by full fireman's gear and an oxygen tank, moves relatively slowly, and even with his dodge move, he'll usually get hit by any hazards that're anywhere near him. It feels like sometimes the game smacks you down, just to remind you that it's wearing the daddy pants.
That problem is compounded by your inability to stock up on medical items between stages, your inventory emptying out between missions, and a truly annoying announcer, who likes to let you know that you should look out for explosions about half a second after one's already hit you. Unless you go through each level multiple times, with an eye for memorizing a stage's patterns so you avoid them, it'll sometimes seem like Firefighters is killing you just to kill you. You have no real say in the matter.
This is especially apparent against bosses, which can light the entire floor on fire if they so choose. They've got obvious attack patterns, yeah, but they take forever to "kill," Craig's extinguisher is near-useless against them, and you'll generally be taking damage for the entirety of the fight. It's not fun.
That's not to say that Firefighters is wholly a failure. If you're willing to learn its patterns and work to counteract them, it offers a challenge that's quite unlike any other game on the market these days. It's occasionally frustrating, yes, but it is, at least, frustrating in a new way. You might want to rent it, just to see if you'd be interested.