After many months of development Atari finally unleashed its first
laserdisc game, Firefox, at the Amuseument Showcase International in
Chicago in the Spring of 1984. Atari released Firefox shortly
thereafter, but it came at a time when there was a growing resistance
to disc games in the marketplace from operators who had already
sunk thousands of dollars in such games, and were still waiting to
show a return on their investment.
Based, as you might imagine, on the 1983 adventure film of the
same name starring Clint Eastwood, the game uses actual movie
footage to simulate flying the famed Firefox fighter over treacherous
ice fields, through billowing clouds, and in narrow crevasses.
From the high-tech cabinet designs (both upright and cockpit) to
its rousing original musical score; from the smooth disc operating
system to its effective meld of filmed and computer-generated graphics,
Atari had created one of the more technically impressive laser games
of its time.
The game is operated by means of a two-handed Star Wars-type
controller, equipped with cannon-firing trigger switches and
missile-launching thumb buttons. What you control here is not the
ship itself -- one presumes it's on automatic pilot -- but the
on-screen cursor used to aim your weaponry. One nice fature here
is that the cursor displays information regarding your fuel level
and available missiles, eliminating the need to shift your eyes
away from the action at any time. One bad feature is that at no
time do you feel like you're actually in control of the Firefox ship.
Unfortunately, for all the technical wizardry Atari had demonstrated
in creating Firefox, and for all the creativity the company had shown
in adapting the movie storyline for video game use, all they're really
come up with here is an elaborate target-shooting game. The early
radar blasting stage of each part of the game is nothing more than
an exercise in reaction -- as soon as a target pops up on the
screen, you must shoot it immediately to avoid detection. Since
this is the basic premise of the game, all a really skilled Firefox
player will ever do is shoot at radar targets, which is certainly
not the most exciting part of the contest.
The game is good looking, and offers some nice touches, such as
Clint Eastwood's digitized voice, a variable game volume control,
and other features. However, from a gameplay standpoint it's
no better than average.