RELEASE DATE: 09/90 – (EU)
The phrase “fire and forget” isn’t just some developer’s idea of an edgy game title. It refers to a missile that, once launched, does not need any further guidance towards its destination; an independent, self-motivated missile, if you will. Though the phrase was coined specifically for missiles, you could apply it to many different situations. A person who’s given a task, then carries it out without further instruction or help. Smart devices that manage themselves via updates. Or, in Fire & Forget II‘s case, a game that careens from intriguing to terrible without any assistance from the player.
The sequel to a Europe-only PC game from 1988, Fire & Forget II attempts to blend high-speed racing with mild shoot-em-up elements. Your car, the Thunder Master II, is has 850 horsepower under its hood. It also shoots bullets, launches missiles, makes frosty margaritas, and can even fly. Such raw power requires lots of replenishment. Blue fuel and red kerosene tanks are vital for staying on the road and in the air respectively, while gray cans restock your missile supply.
The goal of each level is to race through the desert wasteland where the armored boss car awaits. At the top of the screen, a timer will count down how long you have before you reach the boss. As the numbers spiral downwards to zero, enemy jeeps, tanks, and other lumbering vehicles try to interrupt your progress.
These enemy vehicles are an odd sort. Some of them sit in lines on the side of the road and wait for your bullets to find them. Others will fly right up to your front windshield and taunt you, but not actually attack. Still others – the worst kind – somehow destroy you the moment you see them. Maybe they fire hidden projectiles at you. Maybe they’re just able to level your vehicle by osmosis. Either way, the Thunder Master II explodes, and with it, your ability to make adult beverages on the go.
After dying a dozen times on the road for seemingly no reason, I took the Thunder Master II to the skies. This made the game a little easier at first. Flying mostly uses kerosene, which means your fuel drains slower than if you were driving. You can also fly over land-based enemies with zero consequences. After you’re in the air for awhile, though, the game sends out squadrons of fast-moving planes. If you don’t land on the road before the planes reach you, they’ll take you out without hesitation.
Fire & Forget II is the rare game that’s both too easy and unfair. As previously mentioned, there are sections in each level where you can drive around or fly over streams of enemies. Sure, you miss out on points, but you’re also saving yourself from unnecessary deaths, which are all too prevalent. Simultaneously, I died so many times without knowing why. Sometimes you’ll just explode for no reason. Sometimes you’ll run out of fuel because the level fails to provide any refill tanks. Developer Titus seems to know these things will happen too, as you’re provided with a generous six lives and three continues. Even with the cheap deaths, this is more than enough to make it through the game’s five short levels.
Even if Fire & Forget II provided a moderate, fair challenge, the generic racing and shooting aren’t engaging in the least. The roads are all surrounded by the same barren deserts. The enemies all bear similar grey, chunky designs. While it’s initially cool to switch from driving to flying, the experience is largely the same on the ground as it is in the air. I wanted to fire and Never Forget, but I’ll be surprised if I remember the details of this disaster more than a week from now.