Iron Storm


Review by Greg Wilcox

4x Studio


Graphics: 8

Sound: 8

Gameplay: 8

Overall: 8

From 4x Studio and publisher Dreamcatcher, Iron Storm is an excellent first-person shooter that more than holds its own against the best games in the genre. What makes the game so good is that it manages to combine tense shooting sequences with a well-written story set in a rather bleak alternate past where World War I has lasted 50 years. If I'm not mistaken, this is probably the only action-based game that touches on WWI (not counting flight sims like the Red Baron games), so it's definitely of interest to FPS fans who want a wildly different change of pace (and have played the Medal of Honor games to death).

While you're installing the game, there's a bit of humor to be found in the faux newspaper also in the box. There are some amusing classifieds, ads, a sports section, and an article describing an "infiltration simulator" called Iron Storm created by scientists. It's a nice touch, and a welcome break from the overall bleakness of the war zone you're about to jump into. The game also is something of a political science lesson in a way, what with all the talk of countries needing the war to continue in order to have a thriving economy through weapons manufacturing and whatnot. Still, stuff blows up real good, so if you're one of those who hate a bit of back story dipped in your action games, consider it a trade-off of sorts.

You play as 2nd Lt. James Anderson, a man who's spent 25 years of his life in and around the bloody trenches of Europe. It's 1964, and you're chosen to track down an atomic weapon and eliminate one Baron Ugenberg before he uses the bomb. As in any FPS, the whole one man army against thousands is totally farfetched, but in Iron Storm, the combination of this and the mixture of low tech/high tech weapons and gadgets makes for an excellent balancing act. Expect to see some variations of old WWI and WWII weapons mixing it up against newer technology (well, "newer", as in early 1960's). Everything has a nice, solid look and feel to it here, and there's a bit of realism added in the fact that James can only carry 5 weapons (1 each of a certain type) at a given time. You can toggle a third-person view at any point in the game (good for checking out your gear and some of the trickier sneaking and jumping sequences).

The game is six levels long (six rather huge levels, mind you) and as I played, I thought more of Half-Life than Medal of Honor as far as the way the story spools out. Like most post-HL shooters, much of the story happens around James, and you'll need to also seek out DRT's (sort of like a low-tech television) and ICT's (sort of like an oversized Palm Pilot) for other important info as you play. There are a few NPCs in the game, but other than your near constant communications from Capt. Cecile Newcastle, you won't really have much of a chance to get to know these guys. Let's just say the enemy AI is very, very deadly when it needs to be, and any friends you make won't be around too long. IS can be difficult at times, especially if you rush and don't pay attention. A couple of run-ins with mines or enemies armed with rocket launchers (or those damn grenade-toting Dobermans) will keep you on your toes, and the sniping mission and mine placement will have you on the edge of your seat gripping your mouse until it's about to snap into pieces.

You'll spend a lot of time early on in some deadly trenches, minefields and half destroyed sniper-filled towns, then move on to a train, prison, and a rather dangerous factory complex. Everything is dirty, dark and infused with a near complete sense of hopelessness. The visuals do a perfect job of conveying an atmosphere of a world gone to hell, and that little flashlight James has will get put to use, showing off some impressive lighting effects. The game goes for a muted color palette (like in Medal of Honor), that gives things an authentic "feel", if you will. Iron Storm uses 4x's new Phoenix 3D proprietary engine, and it runs quite well, with almost seamless transition between indoor and outdoor areas.

The only odd thing where the graphics are concerned is that the character models can look a tiny bit awkward on occasion, but as an illustrator, it's a common complaint I have with most game anatomy and movement. At least there's location specific hits and damage programmed into the game. Some of the tougher enemies in the game have body armor, so becoming skilled with the sniper rifle is a must. The sound and music here are very well done and the voice actors manage to emote without offending (in English? The overall presentation is quite good for a game of this type).

As far as any problematic issues, The only main one I can see some players getting lost in some levels where there are no messages from Cecile, and James is left to his own devices. Just keep a clear head and proceed with caution, and you'll make it through alive, I say. Whatever 4x is doing next, I sure hope they get to do at least one more game using this particular setting and engine. All in all, Iron Storm is worth an instant purchase for fans of FPS games and those looking for an action game with a solid, engaging story.


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Last updated: Wednesday, December 10, 2003 02:27 PM