Iron Storm Review

Iron Storm certainly has a novel background story.  The game is set in 1964 in a world in which World War I never ended.  Europe is still crossed with trench lines, but weapon technology has progressed during the fifty years of war.  Helicopters fly across the battlefield and soldiers carry automatic sub machineguns and rocket launchers.  The combatants have also changed somewhat, and now the United States of Western Europe is fighting a new German-Russian empire led by a brutal dictator.  You take on the role of Lieutenant Anderson, an elite soldier sent on a dangerous solo mission that will require you to cross no-manís land, infiltrate the enemyís trench network, and go deep behind enemy lines to sabotage a new secret weapons factory.  An interesting premise, although one which raises a few questions such as why are trenches still in use in an era of helicopter gunships, or why did the enemy build their new factory within a walkable distance of the frontlines when they command the vast hinterlands of Russia?  In a world of endless World War II and science fiction shooters itís nice to see a game in an original setting, and so we wonít overanalyze the holes in the story.


In the trenches.

The game opens in the USWEís trenches where you will receive your orders for the mission.  Youíll then need to make your way to the front of the trench network and into no manís land. A long the way, youíll see a convincing rendition of a working trench network such as cooks working in a kitchen, soldiers sleeping in their quarters, and nurses tending to the wounded in an infirmary.  There are also a few data terminals that can be used to watch news telecasts covering the war.  This all does a good job of creating atmosphere and establishing the setting for the gameís storyline.

Once you leave the relative safety of the trenches, the game really kicks into high gear.  Helicopter gunships circle overhead while artillery barrages pound the ground around you, shaking the ground with each impact and sending clods of earth (and the occasional body part) flying around you.  Youíll need to take out a few snipers that are keeping your men pinned down, take out the enemy soldiers between you and the enemy trenches, and fight your way into the trenches themselves.  Thereís some tense and exciting gameplay to be found in this opening level.

Unfortunately, this is the high point of the game.  Soon thereafter the levels lose the momentum generated by the opening sequence, and the gameís flaws become far too evident.  The first problem is that the enemy AI is terrible (except for the enemy snipers, but more on them later).  Enemies like to charge you until they take a few hits, at which point they turn and run away.  The game's box claims that the AI is advanced and will use cover and squad techniques, but in reality enemies seem to run around at random.  If there are multiple enemy soldiers, they will keep coming around a corner even though their comrades are dying right in front of them.  Furthermore, they donít seem to see walls, or even to understand the concept of walls.  Enemies will open fire on you before youíve even reached a corner, trying to shoot straight though the wall.  Sometimes, the AI does things that can only be described as bizarre.  When in the enemy trenches I witnessed two enemy soldiers trying to shoot each other through two walls forming a corner.  I walked around the corner and shot one of the soldiers and then returned to the first. He had stopped shooting, but was still staring at the wall. I just walked right up to him and shot him.