Retro Coin Op Synopsis
Atari’s Fire Truck was a fireman’s worst nightmare and a video game lover’s dream come true. Racing toward a fire you would never reach, you piloted a large fire truck through narrow city streets lined with oil slicks and parked cars. It was a high-pressure situation, but Atari included an ingenious way to help relieve some of that stress: you had a buddy at your back.
The most remarkable feature of Fire Truck was its two-player, two-steering wheel cabinet, designed for cooperative gameplay. While one player sat in front of the screen and steered the fire engine’s cab, a second player could stand behind that seat and control the truck’s trailer section with a separate wheel.
The winding roads, mazes of obstacles and the general unpredictability of the vehicle itself made Fire Truck a tricky ride for both players, requiring expert teamwork and split-second decisions. If you didn’t feel your partner was up to it, you could always drive solo, allowing the computer to control whichever section you didn’t.
Though the truck never actually reached its destination, time was still a factor, and the more distance you covered within the time limit, the longer you got to play. Longer rides also meant more points, moving you up in the rankings from “Sorry” to “So-So” to “Good” to “Ace.”
With selectable levels of difficulty, realistic sound effects (squeals, skids, crashes, bells and horns, the latter two controlled by the players) and simple controls (one steering wheel per player, with an acceleration pedal for the cab driver), Fire Truck appealed to all age groups, offering challenges to both novices and experts. While it didn’t ignite the arcade fires like that year’s Space Invaders, Fire Truck helped pioneer the cooperative gameplay that would pop up in later classics like 4-Player Football and Double Dragon.