FIREFOX GAMEPLAY
Written by Doug Jefferys


While I rave about Firefox, I sometimes forget that there are still some unfortunate souls out there who have never even seen the game and are wondering what the hell I'm ranting about.

Basically, if you like any of the following, you'll enjoy Firefox:

What It's Not Like:

What It IS Like:

Basically, you've got gameplay similar to Star Wars.  The flight control moves a cursor around the screen.  To avoid detection by the enemy, you "shoot down" infrared detection beams (glorified bullets that get larger as they get closer).  If one gets too close, the screen flashes red and you're "detected".
 
Before being detected, the enemy planes just fly around the screen passively.  After being detected, they start firing at you.  Getting hit is (predictably) a Bad Thing, and costs you a unit or two of fuel.  Running out of fuel is a Very Bad Thing, and means game over.  (Also similar to Star Wars; you have only one life per game.)
 
Each stage lasts 3,000 miles and is composed of "rounds" of about 30-40 seconds each.  At the end of each "round", you can change your altitude to "high" or "low".  Flying "high" reduces fuel consumption, but doesn't give you any secret ground targets to hit.  Flying "low" increases fuel consumption but can give you more points.  If you were detected in the last round, you can
force them to start looking for you again by changing altitude.  Each stage ends with two rounds - one across a frozen wasteland and into an ice canyon, and a final sequence through the ice canyon and onto the ice floe for refueling.
 
At the end of each round, you land on an ice floe (remember the movie?) to refuel.  The amount of fuel awarded is based on the number of jets you killed in the last stage.
 
OK, the laserdisc stuff.  The disc is a series of interleaved video streams.  Basically, a lot of different flying sequences
(over varied terrain such as clouds, land, water, tundra, ice fields, the "ice chasm" from the movie, etc) with superimposed video images of jets on 'em.  Music also comes from the laserdisc and comes from the movie.
 
The jets are on the laserdisc; each video stream shows a plane or two, either flying on by, or getting partway across the screen and exploding in a massive fireball.  (Some fireballs fill the entire screen, a really cool effect to fly through)  The sound is also great; I consider Sinistar's explosions the Best In Video Game History, but these are a close second :-)
 
In terms of gameplay, if you shoot an enemy plane often enough before the disc gets to the explosion sequence, the player jumps a few tracks ahead and shows the explosion.
 
The jumps are *so* fast and *so* smooth that it wasn't until I actually *OWNED* the machine for myself that I discovered the
jets and explosions were on the laserdisc and not just computer-generated.  When watching the game or playing it, you don't
notice any jumps, but in fact, the game is skipping about half a second of video about twice per second.
 
Yes, the fact that the planes are on the laserdisc means they appear in the same place at the same time.  No, this isn't monotonous, because shooting down the (computer-generated) detection beams and enemy bullets takes up enough of your time that it's a *very* tough challenge to kill enough jets each round to get enough fuel to survive the rest of the game.
 
Gameplay itself is, IMHO, exceptionally well-balanced.  It's hard to learn how to play from scratch, but once you've got the basic hang of it and a basic understanding of the strategy, you'll find yourself challenged for months.  I can play Star Wars forever, but I'm still sweating on Firefox, even on the easier difficulty settings.
 
It's very hard to shoot a lot of planes while you're shooting down randomly-appearing infrared beams to avoid detection.  Shooting only the beams won't get you enough kills (i.e. fuel) to win the longer missions.  You have to shoot the beams, take a fraction of a second to take a potshot at a plane, and then get right back into finding and shooting the next beam.
 
Remember in Star Wars how you could just "follow the bullets" to the Tie Fighter?  And how tough it was when Darth Vader showed up and took a shot at you from *way* in the corner of the screen?  You had to snap over, nail the bullet, and then get caught up on all the shots you'd missed in that fraction of a second.  Imagine that, but *all the time*.  I'd say it's one of the most intense games I've played in terms of concentration.  A moment's lapse, and you're getting shot at :-)
 
Yeah, it's easy to shoot a lot of planes when you've been detected, but it's also a lot easier to *GET* shot, which can cost you the fuel you're racking up for the kills.
 
The 25,000-point per round bonus (a *very* large bonus in this game's scoring system) for avoiding detection is a major incentive to avoid detection, and to change altitude, even at the expense of fuel consumption, if detected.
 
When playing, you're constantly evaluating "what's the best thing to do at the end of this round?"  The answer varies depending on how far you are into the wave, how much fuel you have left, how many kills you've racked up so far, and how many waves you are into the game.  (You've got about 2-3 seconds to make up your mind between rounds :-)

OK, that's gameplay.  Definitely *not* your typical "watch a sequence of video, make the right move and live, make the wrong
move and die" laserdisc game.

-=+=-

Firefox is K00L.  (Yeah, I've gotta describe the game up there on my web page, instead of just raving about it :-).  It's actually
a combination of the two approaches, taking the best parts of each.
 
Remember Star Wars?  First-person perspective, positioning a cursor onto things to blow them up.  The "things" are computer-generated "infrared detection beams" and bullets, and *video*-based enemy jets.  When you hit an enemy jet often enough, the player jumps to the part of the disc where the jet explodes.  Boom, big video-based fireball and explosion soundtrack, etc.
 
So you've got the interactivity of a Mach III (you choose where you shoot, and computer-generated targets are generated in real time), *AND* the use of the LD's video capabilities when it jumps.
 
Here's the twist.  The Philips player is capable of *amazingly* fast track-to-track seeks.  Firefox's disc is actually four sets of two interlaced video streams.  One stream for high-altitude flight, one stream low-altitude flight.
 
Each (high/low) set of scenery is composed of two interlaced streams, namely "the enemy plane blows up" and "the enemy plane doesn't blow up".
 
Each segment of each stream is about half a second in length.  (Yes, the player is skipping twice per second).
 
The miracle of it all is that there is *zero* visible impact from the player.  All the video is crystal-clear and completely smooth,
to the point where I, didn't *know* whether the enemy planes were on the LD ("because I don't see any glitches and they're better than any graphics hardware could generate") or computer-generated ("because, unlike Dragon's Lair, I can choose *WHICH* enemies get blown up, and there are dozens to choose from!") until I actually owned the game and could play the disc in self-test mode.  Basically, if you can imagine playing Star Wars on an LD-generated background, with LD-based enemies that blow up when you shoot them, and zero jitter or seek artifacts, you've got the idea of Firefox.
 
Gameplay is very intense, and demands *really* incredible concentration.  A good strategy for the game is counter-intuitive, but once you get the hang of it, you'll find that gameplay is *very* well-balanced.  I can play Star Wars indefinitely, but Firefox remains a challenge.


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