Another day, another arcade-style game.
This time it's a rail shooter, closest comparison is definitely the Namco series Time Crisis. That's a good model to crib from, as most of the games in that series are great. Unfortunately, Heavy Fire: Afghanistan misses the mark.
This is going to come off as a really unfair comparison review. I don't care for writing these, since all too often they boil down to: "Why play this? When you can play this instead?" Also, what's the alternative? The PS2 has quite a few of the Time Crisis games, but you need the console, the games, the Guncon controllers, and a suitable TV. There's also the PS3 compilation pack that includes a couple Crisis games, but you still need the system, the games, a couple of Move controllers, etc etc. HF:A is a game you probably already own via a bundle, so let's try and make the most of it.
The biggest issue I have with the game is the length. It's about 2 hours long. Content is king but when it comes to arcade games, brevity is the soul of excellence(???). The 2 hour play-time involves a lot of padding. Each of the 12 stages is more of what you'd expect from a rail shooter. Go to an area, shoot all of the enemy soldiers, move onto the next one. This repeats over and over again with hardly any variation. The bad-guys are in different locations, but little else changes. Arcade rail-shooters generally take around 15-25 minutes to complete, and yet they still do a lot more in that shorter span of time. There are different types of enemies, some are on a variety of vehicles, others attack from all sorts of angles. Boiled down to the basics, rail-shooters hinge on the shooting gallery aspect, where your accuracy and reflexes are what keep you alive. It's how you dress everything up that keeps them interesting. HF:A doesn't do this often enough, despite how long it takes to complete.
That's not to say HF:A is nothing but soldiers firing away. Every now and then there's a guy with a knife, a heavy-gunner on a pick-up, a couple BTRs, and a Hind. Unfortunately the biggest different between the latter three adversaries is the number of bullets they take to destroy. All you have to do is make sure to get behind cover when you hear the machinegun rev up. Part of the problem I suppose is that this game is very loosely based on reality. I can't go into it expecting things like cyborgs, a final boss that's actually a brain in a jar surrounded by laser cannons, a plot to destroy America with a satellite, etc. Still, there seems like there could be a lot more variety. Give some of those soldiers different guns and have them employ different tactics. Most of the time all the enemies do is run to a particular spot and start firing away, only occasionally ducking behind cover. Something as simple as having some enemies running while shooting at you would have added a lot to the game.
Another problem with HF:A is that it isn't quite sure what it wants to be. The guns you unlock come with larger clips and by the end you've got an LMG and going Rambo on the soldiers. Rail-shooters usually fall into two camps by this point. You've got titles like Virtua Cop and Time Crisis where you're given pistols that require constant reloading, and then on the opposite end of the spectrum there are games such as L.A. & N.Y. Machineguns, Space Gun, and Rambo (the somewhat recent Sega arcade release). HF:A tries to do both (sorta like Time Crisis 3 & 4) but it never really works. For most of the game you just end up feeling like you're over-equipped, so there's no strategy. It's unfortunate that making the player-character into a 1-4 man army would have stretched the narrative far too thin. A game where you walk into an enemy base and destroy everything in minutes would have been far more exciting. Soldiers are pouring in so you gotta shoot them all, then the tanks roll in, maybe shoot some jets out of the sky. Basically this game would be turned into a next-gen Operation Wolf.
So this definitely turned out to be a comparison review. It feels like all I did was mention a bunch of games you'd be better off spending your time with. You could probably play through at least four of them in the time it would take to get through Heavy Fire: Afghanistan, and they'd all be more entertaining.