Heavy Fire: Afghanistan puts you in the shoes of an soldier sent to the frontlines of modern day Afghanistan to rescue hostages held deep behind enemy lines. Taking part in this arcade light gun shooter you’ll travel by any means necessary to complete your objective: by foot, helicopter and even behind a 50-caliber mounted machinegun on top of a Humvee. Grab your Flex-Fire and Sharp Shooter, as well as a few friends; it’s going to be a tough fight.
Upon starting up the game, the first thing you’ll notice is the bland presentation. While the gritty graphics look quite good, enemy fire has a white bubble effect that always sounds muted and distant, even when the enemy is shooting right in front of your face. In the opening level you can actually stand outside of cover for five seconds without being shot, as danger is only imminent when a red exclamation mark appears above the enemy's head, reminding us that this is indeed a low budget title, though it's priced accordingly. But going AWOL upon first arrival would be a disservice, because as the action quickly heats up so does the fun factor.
Looking directly through the eyes of the soldier the camera shifts realistically as he moves from one firing point to the next: running down alleyways dodging enemy fire, jumping inside a Humvee to patrol cities on a 50-cal or sitting in the gunner seat of a helicopter, the cinematic camera creates a great visual effect that gives the campaign a handheld feel. Some moments find you rushing to cover under fire from countless insurgents hiding out inside multiple shell-shocked buildings, as trucks with mounted machine guns rush towards you in the background; other times you'll be ducking in/out of alleyways trying to survive the enemy masses as friendly helicopters offer support from above. When you get to play the gunner from inside said helicopter, you'll have a blast. Once the intensity ramps up, the game’s constant action and cinematic camera overshadow the presentation issues, making the game’s lengthy 24-mission campaign well worth playing through a few times over.
While direct control of the soldier isn’t possible, motion controls are used in quick time events: opening doors, dodging explosions, climbing ladders and so on. While these moments only add to your score, the quick directional motions are used appropriately to break up the shooting sections and at times do a good job of adding to the game’s intensity. Speaking of shooting, the game is indeed a light gun shooter, but it relies heavily on the use of cover. As the soldier moves through the levels, just as in other rail shooters, a stop and go method is used and once the soldier’s movement stops, on screen prompts show which directional button can be pressed to quickly pop in and out of cover. Once the first few missions are completed, red danger indicators appear very quickly, even when you’re facing combined heavy resistance from helicopters and armoured vehicles, making the use of cover essential to completing your mission.
PlayStation Move is a perfect fit for these types of shooters and Heavy Fire: Afghanistan is no exception. Move’s speed and accuracy is unparalleled as always and making use of the Sharp Shooter or Flex-Fire furthers the feeling of being in the boots of a soldier in the treacherous warzones of Afghanistan. The game uses a Move/Navigation set-up: using Move for aiming and firing, and the Navi for reloading and throwing grenades. We’ve previously described the minimal motion controls, but a quick shake of the Move controller can also be used to reload, but it’s more of a gimmick then a necessity. It’s worth mentioning that Move’s calibration sometimes wavers slightly when trying to use the motion controls with the gun peripherals, but a quick calibration gets you back in action in no time.
As with most games of this genre, multiplayer is usually always a heavy focus and four-player co-op multiplayer makes sure that this game is no different. Trying to get multiple Move/Navi controllers paired up correctly can be a bit of a hassle, but once performed, the action gets as frantic as ever. All co-op players use the same screen, so a designated person needs to be chosen to control the use of the cover system. The person will need to audibly coordinate with the others so they’re not stuck in the line of fire in desperate need of a reload, a deadly mistake on the unlockable Veteran difficulty. This creates a true sense of working through these intense battles as a squad, making this a great way to spend a few weekend hours with friends over as squad mates.
On top of the extra unlockable difficulty, a few additional extras are added to heat things up: unlockable perks like additional ammo clips, weapons and extra health all greatly increase the chances of being able to complete the difficult Veteran Mode. Also, online leaderboards let you know how your skills stack up against others around the world. Trophy hunters will also be pleased to know that the game features a full trophy set, with the revered Platinum trophy being one of the easiest to obtain across the entire PS3 library.
Who says that low-budget gaming can’t be fun? Tell-tale signs of the game’s cheap production value can be found throughout Heavy Fire: Afghanistan but, even with its shortcomings, the game does a good job of recreating the intensity of battling enemy combatants in modern day Afghanistan by putting you in the boots of one very brave Army soldier, light gun style.