Emergency: Fighters for Life is a unique and fun "light" strategy game from TopWare that got far less shelf life than it deserved. It is a real-time strategy game (RTS) that is very different from the rest: instead of killing everyone on the map, you control a team of emergency rescuers, including police, firefighters and doctors. Your objective in each mission is to save as many people as possible from an emergency situation and bring it under control. It's an intriguing idea that has no close competitors (only SWAT 2 and Emergency Room come to mind as similar games).
Okay, so the idea is great. But how is the execution? Unfortunately it is a mixed bag. While the game is definitely fun, the interface is a bit awkward and the AI could use a lot of refinement. The highlight is the great variety of missions you will play. There are thirty different real-life scenarios, from handling EMT and fire-fighting duties at a car race to scary building fires. After listening to the briefing, you first need to select appropriate vehicles and personnel to send to the scene. Your next task is then to deploy your personnel around the site -- this could mean giving the firemen hoses and getting them to put out a house-fire while another masked fireman goes in and pulls out the injured. The doctors can then give the victims some medical treatment before they are carted away to hospital in an ambulance. As you progress through the game, you will have new vehicles to play with, including helicopters and very cool mobile water cannons (used to disperse rioters). Although you have a limited budget to spend on vehicles for each mission, this seems more like a nod to realism than an actual gameplay issue, since I never seemed to be running out of money, and vehicles are replenished to full capacity in time for the next mission.
There are a few flaws that prevent Emergency from being a genuine classic. The game's most glaring flaw is the incapable AI. More specifically, pathfinding AI severely needs a facelift, as your units seem to take the longest, not the shortest, route possible to get from point A to B. The user interface could also be better, as it takes too many mouse clicks to perform most actions in the game.
Despite some glitches and design flaws, Emergency boasts an excellent diversity of missions and a unique premise that is carried out well. I found myself suffering from the "just one more mission" syndrome, which speaks highly of any RTS. Die-hard strategy fans will probably be disappointed with the game's poor AI and relative lack of challenge, but if you are a casual gamer who likes "light" and unique games, Emergency: Fighters for Life is well worth your time. Thumbs up!Reviewed by: Underdogs