Wanadoo – IronStorm review

World War in the 1960s
Photo of Wanadoo – IronStorm
£34.99

You know that lone Japanese guy, discovered on some remote Pacific island in the sixties (or thereabouts), who was convinced that the war was still going on? Well, Wanadoo reckons he was right. In fact, the First World War was still in full flood, according to IronStorm’s novel plot for this game. A slight historical liberty, certainly, but an interesting one.

The year is 1964 and Europe is still divided by a network of trenches, with a powerful Russian nation rising up to challenge the allies for Western world supremacy. Technology has still moved on, however, with the invention of helicopter gunships and laser triggered landmines. It must be said that it seems rather improbable that trench warfare would still be in vogue, given such advances. A little suspension of disbelief is necessary, though the truly novel plot is worth it on balance.

IronStorm is a first-person shooter – no prizes for guessing that – in which you play the part of a special-ops type guy, tasked with infiltrating behind enemy lines and generally messing up the Russkies’ plans. It boasts a good amount of shooting action, of course, although there’s a solid emphasis on a running plot and plenty of puzzles thrown in too.

It’s rather like Jedi Knight II in this respect, which also contained many a puzzle as well as your straightforward blasting elements. But as with JK2, frustratingly IronStorm does leave you stuck at times, roaming around bits of the level wondering what on earth you’re supposed to be doing.

Even so, the game does have to be commended for the diversity of its gameplay. This certainly isn’t a shooter you’re going to breeze through either – in fact even FPS veterans will find it tricky. Unfortunately, this isn’t due to some clever advanced AI or behaviour enemy troops exhibit; they’re just punishingly accurate (particularly the snipers, who are difficult to spot as well).

Often the enemy seems downright stupid. Soldiers can be stood around in a circle having a smoke, and while you snipe them off, the others don’t react at all. It’s rather surreal at times; or perhaps there’s more than just tobacco in those ciggies!

In other ways, IronStorm is a much more realistic game. When you run, for example, it’s much more difficult to aim, as it would be in real life. Dropping prone gives a more steady shot. A gripping war atmosphere is nicely evoked too, with booming explosions and excellent sound effects all round, backed up with some fairly tasty visuals. IronStorm is rounded off with a decent set of multiplayer options, including standard deathmatch and ‘capture the flag’ modes.

Company: Wanadoo


Verdict
The novel plot pretty much works, although some of it seems rather incongruous, and IronStorm makes the grade as a decent FPS effort. It's not particularly stunning, however, and some of the flawed enemy AI, along with frustrating puzzles, takes the experience down a notch or two. It's still well worth considering, though, particularly for "virtual war veterans" who fancy a real challenge.