"The writers behind Telltale Games' acclaimed The Walking Dead have delivered another tour de force videogame story in Firewatch.
As a newbie staffing a one-man outpost in the Wyoming wilderness, the first line of defense against forest fires, you're alone and almost entirely cut off from society. Almost. Your only human interaction is Delilah, your boss, barking orders at you on the other end of your walkie-talkie. And then… well, the story goes on from there. And since experiencing the story—living the story, really, feeling your way through it—is the essence of the Firewatch experience, I should stop there.
Although its creators came out of Telltale's point-and-click adventure factory, Firewatch, available Tuesday for Steam and PlayStation 4, seems more strongly influenced by 2013's Gone Home. They're both first-person exploration games in which the player's interaction is generally limited to moving around the environment, picking up items, examining them to learn a little more about the world, and then (maybe) putting them back where they found them. More so than walk-about games like Everybody's Gone to the Rapture, Firewatch is a more pick-uppy, interacty, hands-on story.
But not challenging, in the traditional game sense: Although there is certainly a pervasive sense of impending doom at every moment of Firewatch—painted in equal parts by the tight mystery writing, Olly Moss' foreboding visual designs and Gone Home composer Chris Remo's deftly executed score—you're never in danger of anything going wrong. But the tension barely drops, even knowing that.
Firewatch has a crunchy physicality to it that other such games lack. In Gone Home and many other first-person games, you get that feeling of being a camera on a stick, floating lightly and precisely through the world. Firewatch‘s protagonist Henry, though, is right there with you—he's a little overweight, he huffs and puffs, he jerkily hoists himself up and over obstacles with some effort. It adds to the characterization, to the outdoorsiness, to the sensation of being a person…"