Into The Flames Review
Imagine a fire breaks out at a warehouse. If you work there (and hate your job), you might consider letting it all burn down. But if you’re a firefighter in Into The Flames, your job is to break down doors, save any trapped victims, and fight the chaotic flames. The scene isn’t under control until every fire is put out, and you’ll use the same tools that firefighters utilise in real life to get the job done.
Into The Flames was developed by Fully Involved Game Studios and published by PlayWay. It spent more than two years in Early Access on Steam, but its official step into the foray of firefighting simulator games is best described as a premature, disappointing launch that fails players on all counts. It’s an unfinished title that can’t find a balance between realism and fun gameplay, and the bug-riddled experience only serves to frustrate.
It’s hard to believe that Into The Flames wants you to understand how to play it. As you step into the boots of an unnamed firefighter, you won’t know what you’re doing if you don’t enter the Academy — an optional tutorial mode you can select from the menu — but you also won’t learn much there either. The Academy is set in a free-roam location with eighteen signs scattered throughout the map. When you interact with a sign, blocks of text appear (sometimes four pages long) containing information you have to remember in order to complete tasks. What follows is a lot of trial-and-error key pressing, as there are no visual prompts telling you how to do anything that you just read. It would have helped if the text was easy to follow, but the team failed to distil information down so players can digest it.
After committing over two hours (yes, you read that right) to the tutorial, I couldn’t believe this game received a full release in this state. The clunky controls and poorly designed UI are not user-friendly, and the bugs seemed endless. If I tried to use a tool, such as an axe or hook, whilst holding a water hose, the hose would then become stuck in my firefighter’s left hand, and the head of the hose would partially disappear. Later I tried to change the brightness of my screen and instead, the game changed my screen’s resolution. Other bugs were humourous, and I would continue to encounter them post-academy, such as climbing up a ladder without my character being fully on it or my perspective of the in-game world becoming tilted to one side after climbing down — funny, but that didn’t make the experience any less frustrating or time-wasting.
Even so, Into The Flames has the makings of a realistic, complex firefighting game. It has over 20 vehicle options, and you’re also given a wide variety of tools, including hazard-protection gear, rotary saws, hydraulic rams, and more. Accessing water on the engines also seems realistic, and it’s one of the most complex yet confusing systems in the game. So it’s unfortunate that it does not have a dedicated tutorial inside the Academy. You can read the available “pumping guide”, but it will take a lot of trial and error before you understand what the text is trying to explain. I don’t have a problem with games that have a learning curve, but Into The Flames could be a much better experience if it stopped wasting your time as you spend hours trying to figure out its basic controls.
The dedication to realism also prevents fun gameplay. For instance, the interiors become unbearably dark most of the time, likely because actual fires produce a lot of smoke. You are given a flashlight, but I found it to be utterly useless. I would often end up stuck in rooms, as I couldn’t see where I was going. Naturally, I wondered if this was an intentional feature and after reading through community discussions, I found that the developer confirmed the flashlight design works as intended — in real life they do little against smoke and navigation for firefighters is difficult. Keeping that in mind, the darkness is not deepening immersion for the player’s experience. I believe it qualifies as a game-breaking issue because I can’t continue to fight a fire if I can’t find the exit of a bedroom. Where’s the fun in forcing your character to die, so that you can respawn outside? Simulators are expected to simulate real life to an extent, but Into The Flames must find a balance between realism and enjoyable gameplay.
You have the option to play online with a maximum of 12 players or offline for a solo session. The map selection includes isolated emergencies, such as a farm, warehouse, or house fire. If you’d like to respond to multiple calls, you’d choose one of the free-roam maps: Airport, Canton County, or The Heights. I originally thought the lack of environmental details was an aesthetic specific to the tutorial, but after exploring the rest of the zones, I promptly realised Into The Flames has nothing substantial to offer visually. The interiors lack detail, and the free-roam maps are bland with copy-and-paste assets everywhere you go.
Perhaps the poor graphics could be excusable if other visual aspects of the game carried their weight, but that’s not the case here. As far as animations go, most things you do in the game don’t have an animation to go with it. For instance, your character will stand frozen with the “rescue spreader” tool outstretched as you spread open a vehicle’s door to save the victims inside. You’ll hear a sound effect of crunching metal, but you’ll mistakenly think nothing is happening because your character is just standing still. However, there is an animation for breaking down a house’s door, which works fine, but then the door will unceremoniously disappear into thin air. You’d also expect a firefighting game to have great fire effects, but there’s nothing realistic about the graphics or physics of the flames.
If I had played Into The Flames during its Early Access period, I honestly would have been excited about it because it has potential. The gameplay loop is clear: arrive on the scene, gather your tools, and put out the fire. But it promises more fun than it delivers. If I wasn’t frustrated, I was bored, but most of the time I was both. The lack of environmental details, animations, or polish would have been acceptable for something sold as a work-in-progress. I have experienced game-breaking bugs and unfinished gameplay in Early Access titles before, and it wasn’t a big deal because you know you’re along for the journey.
Into The Flames left Early Access far before it was ready. Although the developer appears committed to providing bug patches and adding new content post-launch, I’m sick and tired of seeing games — both indie and AAA — misrepresent their status of completion at launch. From bad controls and poor visuals to unenjoyable gameplay, it’s clear Into The Flames needed more time in development.
As it is right now, don’t bother with it. It is not worth its asking price, and it is absolutely not worth your time.
Into The Flames (Reviewed on Windows)
The score reflects this is broken or unplayable at time of review.
An unfinished game that left Early Access too soon. Into The Flame’s inconsistent dedication to realism cannot reconcile with fun, smooth gameplay. With frustrating controls, underwhelming visuals, and widespread bugs, it isn’t worth your time.