What if the Great War that killed millions of people and decimated Europe never came to its decisive end back in the early 1900's? How would our world have changed in the face of 50 years of this unending conflict? That's the theme behind one of Dreamcatcher's latest releases for this Holiday Season, Iron Storm. Set in the year 1964, but in an alternate reality where World War I is still being waged, players assume the role of Lieutenant James Anderson, a battle hardened veteran of the massive conflict. As the Allied Forces best hope for peace, Anderson is recruited for a top secret mission that will take him deep into the territory of the Russo-Mongol Empire, where he is to eliminate the Khan of the Eastern Bloc: the evil and infamous Baron Ugenberg. In order to successfully complete his war-ending task, Anderson must take on the fanatical Mongol enemy forces, braving not only the conventional weapons of the past, but also the more modern and ominous creations of warfare that seem beyond their time. The fate of the world and the end of the longest modern battle known to history lies in the hands of one man and his ability to complete his important mission.
To be honest, Iron Storm isn't the best FPS game we've ever played. There are flaws in the games' production and execution, and sometimes the gameplay can be difficult and repetitive. What saves this game from a quick and painful leap from store shelves to the cheap bin is an exceptional theme, a well written storyline, and some remarkable visuals: all making this game stand out among similar titles in the genre. Wanadoo takes all of this and then effectively combines elements of World War I, World War II, and even those of our own modern day, leaving us with an above average FPS game when taken as a whole.
Some gamers might be disappointed in the fact that only 6 major levels are included in the single player version of Iron Storm. Again, each level in the game contains about 5 maps, and each one is extremely large and intricate. The vastness of each map should itself keep players from rushing through, forcing them instead to hunt around for objectives, correct routes for exit, and even powerups. Iron Storm also contains some of the most difficult gameplay attributes found in an FPS title, also preventing any speedy finishes. For example, the AI of the enemy combatants is by far one of the most difficult and comprehensive we've seen in a game this year. Enemy units actually duck out of the way when fired upon and when reloading, they hide themselves while giving chase, and even sneak up on you during the game. They also tend to have higher hit point levels, more ammo, and come in large packs (since you're advancing into their territory, as the games' storyline progresses).
Another example of the games inherent difficulty lies within the realm of powerup availability. Though they can be found in the game, health packs and ammo are far from plentiful. On more than one occasion, we found ourselves doubling back through a map in order to hunt down errant ammunition that we thought we wouldn't need, or health packs that we were saving up for later. Adding even more pain to the game, players are only allowed to carry a certain amount of weaponry on their person at any given time: a heavy weapon, a couple of medium ones, and a few light arms. The weapons that you'll get the most use out of in Iron Storm lies within the heavy class, and unfortunately you can only carry one at a time, like a machine gun or a grenade launcher. Although this setup does make the game more realistic, it definitely did not make things any easier.
The amalgam of World War's I and II with modern day warfare definitely gave Iron Storm a unique feel when it came down to the weapons found and used in the game. Though the majority of personal armaments found in this title consisted of World War I and II weapons like machine guns and sniper rifles, modern day technology would rear its ugly head at irregular intervals. For example, you'd be sneaking into an enemy research facility, only to find yourself head to head to an automated sentry gun attached to the ceiling. At other points in the game, nasty helicopters would also pop up out of the air at the most inopportune times, launching a barrage of missiles and high caliber rounds, quickly taking you back to reality of modern day warfare. Some of the elite Mongol forces could also be found carrying mini-projectile rifles that could flatten an Allied soldier in a heartbeat. Again, these are just a few examples of the nasty surprises that one wouldn't expect to find on the battlegrounds of the Great War, but that are readily accessible in Wanadoo's alternate reality.
The overall gameplay found in Iron Storm was adequate for the most part, though it did contain some serious flaws that hampered our enjoyment of the game. For starters, the tough enemy AI that mentioned earlier was almost too relentless at times, crossing the lines of believability on more than one occasion. For example, on the Train and Mansion levels, the enemy helicopter that was a predominant enemy presence would trace your steps even when inside buildings and other sight blocking obstacles, causing serious havoc as soon as you peaked your head out. On other levels, enemy soldiers would zero in on your location in a fraction of a second, hitting you with devastating kill shots before you even knew they were there. If getting by the enemy wasn't bad enough, we also had problems navigating the immense maps in order to complete the current set of objectives. On more than one occasion we found ourselves so completely lost that we had to do a little cheating with a walk-through in order to get back on track. Last, we had some issues when using the 3rd person mode of the game: it was not only amazingly difficult to manipulate objects, we also couldn't aim as effectively as when using the 1st person viewing mode.
After getting past the annoying aspects of the game, we eventually did have fun with Iron Storm. Not only was the action fast and furious, but the inventive storyline and highly detailed graphics really added depth and dimension to the gameplay. The maps on each level found in the game were well developed and extremely large in size, giving us hours of play as we explored the alternate reality created by Wanadoo. After finishing the single player campaigns, players can also opt to continue their gaming online with the multiplayer option of the game. Up to 16 players can join in a game at the same time via LAN or the Internet, and engage in the typical FPS online gaming modes (including Deathmatch, Capture the Flag, or Team Deathmatch). Though there isn't quite as much support for the multiplayer on the Internet as with other FPS titles released this year, but the fan base continues to grow surely but steadily promising some great upgrades for the game for the future.
Taken as a whole, Iron Storm proved itself to be a solid release for DreamCatcher Games. Though not the best FPS game we've played this year, its fast and furious gameplay and incredibly unique theme was enough to keep us occupied and entertained for hours on end. Fans of the FPS genre as well as those PC gamers looking for something a little different should definitely give Iron Storm a chance.