Players: | Release Date: 10/25/02 | Genre: First Person Shooter
Iron Storm begins with an opening monologue by the game's main character describing how World War I has continued for 50 years and how he desires to bring the struggle to an end. If you did the math, that would place the game in the mid-60s. All of this is continuing war is thanks to (try saying this name 10 times fast) Baron Nikolai Alekasandrovitch Ugenberg, and members of the western world that are profiting by the monetary prospects that the fighting creates. Instead of dwelling on which of the two opposing sides are really the bad guys here, I find myself thinking, "For the life of me, Second Lt. James Anderson sounds a lot like Charles Bronson which is fitting for a one-man army."
This game definitely has some things going for it. The opening scenes set up the alternate reality of "what if WWI never ended?" with an economical use of information; the player is given enough to know what's going on and a general sense of what is expected. The one thing that caused a distraction was the way that the character's mouths moved. For some reason, I kept waiting for them to pop out some massive vampire fangs from the odd way that their lips moved.
The ability to switch in and out of 1st and 3rd person perspectives at the touch of a button opened up a lot of options that you don't often find in a shooter. I found the 1st person perspective best suited for restricted areas like the trenches when engaging enemies, while the 3rd person view made it easier to look for anything that might be important and spotting enemies that would have been out of your field of vision in the other view. This latter view also offered a good look at what weapons you were currently carrying -- having a sniper rifle slung across your back looks pretty darn cool.
The way you carried your weapons was handled in a refreshing manner. You don't often get to see what weapons you currently have being worn on your character, but the 3rd person gives you just that ability. You are also limited to just 5 weapon types that you can carry at any one time. Sure, I know it is nice to be packing around the arsenal of a small country, but it's not very realistic. Iron Storm provides a more realistic approach to your armament.
The guns and some of the technology in general just didn't fit the proposed time period. Granted, the war has been going on for 50 years which can explain a lot of the advanced hardware through the continuous wartime development of new weapons, but a lot of it just has the look of something too futuristic for the time. The ultra-thin headset and some of the automatic rifles look more at home in the Alien movies than the 60s. It's within the realm of possibility that such things could have been developed then, but it just seems too improbable.
Maybe it was due to the sniper rifle slung across my back, but I kept thinking that I was playing out someone's take on the movie Enemy at the Gate. Straight out run-and-gun doesn't work very well in most situations; there just isn't enough health packs around for that type of gameplay, and the basic enemy troops are nearly as accurate as their snipers. You default in run mode, but that only means that it is the fastest way to run into a spray of bullets. Slow, methodical progress turned out to the most rewarding, especially when I was trying to snipe most of the enemies before they knew what hit them. The damage is location based meaning that a head shot is always fatal, which I learned numerous times from the wrong end of the bullet.
Multiplayer consists of four modes: deathmatch, team deathmatch, capture-the-flag, and isolation box. The first three modes are fairly standard for a FPS, but the last is adds a twist to multiplayer games. You have to take a reinforced box into the enemy base. The box is fairly heavy, so it slows your character down noticeably. If it happens to get blown up by explosives while you are hauling it, your team loses a point. One of those lose-lose situations. Sadly few games were listed on GameSpy when I was trying to test out the multiplay modes.
Overall, Iron Storm is a good game that falls just short of being great. It proves to be nearly frustrating at times, but it manages to move along at a decent clip for most of the game. A few things, like having to hold down the crouch or crawl buttons to remain in those positions and needing to hit the use button to climb up or down a ladder, detract from the gameplay, but there is still plenty of fun to be had. If you remember to save fairly frequently, keep your head down, and keep an eye out for enemy snipers, you shouldn't run into too many problems. Give it a play.