Iron Storm is a piece of alternate reality fiction that covers a world
where WWI never ended. Allied forces have seized Germany and stopped
the primary Central Power but the Russians have regrouped under a new
emperor (my guess is: the Whites won in the battle against the Reds)
and is hell bent on continuing the war. Not much explanation is given
to why Russia, which started off the war on the Entente's side, is
suddenly the antagonist but one thing is for certain. Iron Storm is an
old school first person shooter.
Despite the fancy weapons, despite the emphasis on sniping, despite the
sneaking around and despite the scripted sequences, much of the game
will be you against the world. Very often, that'll take place in dank
and claustrophobic tunnels, trenches and closed off installations.
Taking on the role of James Anderson, an officer on the Allied side,
you're sent in with the sole objective of disrupting and disabling the
Russian weapons program. Things, of course, go awry and you're aided
via communiqué with headquarters but the missions will often take you to
POW camps and deep into enemy lines.
Iron Storm pilfers from past first person shooter titles, stirring but
not shaking the formula up. There are sequences, like being captured,
that appear lifted from something like Medal of Honor. You're let out
of the vehicle while some of your colleagues suggest you make a run for
it. It's cinematic like most of the Medal of Honor games. There are
other sequences, like the endless hordes that reside in enemy trenches
and underground tunnels, that appear lifted from more arcade like games.
This is where it's linear, going from one point to another, as you clear
out all obstacles in between. Helicopters periodically hover above and
some of the battle setups mirror the tension found in Half Life.
They're very artificial though. You might come upon troops pinned down
behind some cover while an enemy sniper fires gleefully away at them.
That's understandable but I also happened to see that setup from far
away. Only when I came closer did the action really start and people
started dying. That kind of setup is a bit artificial and while it
worked at the time for Half Life (and apparently, still continues to
work with Medal of Honor), it's too hammy for me.
As you move further into the game, you'll find yourself sabotaging
installations deep behind enemy lines. So deep, in fact, that all the
friendly AI soldiers you saw before disappear and the game descends into
a half sneaking genre. Unfortunately, this is where the game most often
breaks. Because of the uncertainty, and lack of guidance from the intel
officer at home, you're left groping at what you have to do. It's all
the more frustrating because Iron Storm uses very conventional devices.
Alarms you shouldn't trip. Guards you should avoid. It's a tough task
to complete if you don't know what you're doing or what you're looking
Iron Storm is playable in first person and third person mode. You can
change very easily between both and the latter is mostly used for
sneaking type titles. After trudging through the sneaker portions of
the game, my recommendation is: stick with the scripted battle scenes
and violence in first person.
The developers of Iron Storm do deserve enormous praise for going ahead
with such an interesting motif. If there were a category for set design
and creativity, this game would be one of the forerunners for most
creative of the year. The setting truly molds the weapons into what
they are. Every weapon you pick up, save the sniper rifle, is a hefty
gargantuan piece of steel, particularly the machine guns and automatic
weapons. They seem developed along the same style of medieval armor;
just pile more and more metal on until it becomes more deadly. The
mammoth sized tanks and vehicles reflect this mentality. On the other
hand, Anderson is also outfitted with an officer's sword. I guess he
expected to get on a horse and start swiping at people. Despite being
out of place with mortars, bombs and helicopters, it's an interesting
Note also how the helicopters don't deploy people, as they often do now
(especially after the Vietnam war). They're only deployed as mobile
machine gun nests. And one begs the question: If you have helicopters
that can transport people, why bother with the trenches in the first
place? The answer lies in the mentality of these people. They already
have a preconceived idea of how the war is fought. The opening
cinematic begins with an 'over-the-top' trench to trench charge. Why in
the world would you do that if you have helicopters in the first place?
But that's the charm of the game. Its characters and story convincingly
think that's the only way to go. That's crucial when you want to
present a piece of alternate history fiction.
The visuals are not top notch but they do serve their purpose. The
graphics are particularly good at portraying twisted metal wreckages and
general decay. The audio is also convincing with decent spatial
placement of explosions and gunfire. Unfortunately, when it comes to
voiceovers, there's not a lot besides your intel point of contact at
headquarters. Between her and Anderson, there's very little chemistry.
A good buddy-buddy relationship can often help infuse life and drama,
reducing loneliness vis-à-vis a you versus the world type of game.
That's not the case here.
Another afterthought is the multiplayer component. It has GameSpy
support and you get to use all the weapons and skins from the game.
None of it is too much of a novelty, though, since Anderson will have to
salvage and pillage the enemy stock just to keep going in the single
player. There's the usual CTF and Deathmatch with one CTF variant in
the game. While connecting is quick and easy, this game suffers from
some pretty atrocious lag. The game often reports a ping of 200 but
upon joining the game, it can soar up to 1000. Clearly, the ping
indicator is not very accurate and even at its best I could never get on
a server with a ping under three digits. In light of that, the campaign
mode is undeniably the raison d'etre for Iron Storm.
Playing through Iron Storm was like looking back in hindsight on a
historical event. What if they had done this? What if this was to
happen instead of that? There are specifics parts of Iron Storm that
are memorable; not only with the backdrop but also some of the scripted
sequences. However, some of the action pieces, particularly the preset
battles, are contrived, detracting from the overall allure of the title.
If you're willing to overlook some of the flaws and you don't mind
having a single player only experience, Iron Storm's premise makes the
rest of the game a satisfying trip to the front lines.