A Great, but Difficult, War

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So close, yet they missed the mark. Hopefully the review that follows will make this statement clear.

Iron Storm begins in March of 1964 and World War I (yep that is not a typo) is still in full swing. You play the part of Second Lieutenant James Anderson, who has grown up with this war being all he knows, and he knows it VERY WELL.

Anderson is called on to undertake a series of missions that will stop the leader of the opposition from unleashing a terrible weapon on the good guys. And YOU are responsible to make sure he lives to complete the mission.

So far so good. Then you start the game.

If you are like me, you install it and then jump into it with a view to the tutorial and/or the game manual answering any game play questions that arise during your initial game play. It is then that you find that there is no tutorial. You are given a gun and a mission and told "Good luck." What? How do I move around? How do I pick up things? How do I interact with my surroundings? How do I fire this silly gun?

I guess the game is geared towards folk who already know the answer to all these questions because I sure got my butt shot up a ton of times before I was able to hold my own. This is where they fell short. The experience ramp up is a nasty thing and without a tutorial and with a manual that also has gaping holes in it 4x Studios has not made that journey any easier.

Before you get into the trenches to find the church that is mentioned as your first goal you will need to stumble around and find that you need to run over things to pick them up. Now this may be standard fare for first person shooters but I did not know that and tried every key combination could think of to pick up the med packs in the Hospital before going out to do battle. As information here, you need to note the location of med packs you find and come back to them when you need healing.

Also, you find what looks like a cool new weapon and your mentor tells you that you can only have one heavy weapon so drop what you have to pick up the new one. Umm, which one of these weapons is the heavy weapon? After further trial and error I decided to drop everything I had and pick up the new weapon then run over the ones I dropped to pick up all but the one weapon I no longer had space for.

Ok, finally I make my way out to the door to the trenches, and get an annoying message that some new weapon is waiting for me back in the dormitory, and the doors do not open until you go back and pick this up. It turns out to be a sniper rifle.

Now you are in the trenches and a soldier tells you to follow him. You run after him dodging the incoming artillery and mortar shells and soon he stops and yells something about two snipers you need to kill. I look around and see nothing. I look a little closer and see what may be an enemy uniform so fire on it. Two enemy soldiers get up and you blast them as they try and run off. Next you follow him to what seems to be an exit from the trenches and are told that they cannot advance until you have cleared the snipers out.

Figuring there must be a way to activate the sniper sight, after all most sniper rifles have a sniper sight, I again try all the keys, the ‘F’ keys and the numeric key pad. Nothing. So I muddle through the best I can. Next day at work I decide to see what the Web has to say about the game and lo and behold I find that a mere right click on the mouse will bring up the sniper sight and then the zoom in and zoom out function keys will do just what they say. I had found the zoom in and zoom out keys but they do nothing until you activate the sight. So I find out some more goodies from the Web and head back into battle.

Now finally, it is a bit of fun to play. Still, it’s not an easy game to master but definitely fun to play. The graphics are good and depict a dreary trench-filled world very well. It would be nice if the enemy and friendly uniforms were slightly less similar as several times I ended up shooting my own friends, which is not a nice thing to do. The game controls are smooth and moving around is not really a problem. You can play in first or third person, though in third person you can see around the landscape a lot better.

You get into the habit of saving quite often as death can come quickly and in unfamiliar forms. Like when I first ran into the guard dogs, not just regular dogs here but exploding dogs that run quite fast and never follow a straight line, making them quite difficult to hit with your bullets. No problem, thinks I, I will just take out the trusty sword and cut them down when they get close. BIG mistake. This is when I found that they exploded. "Loading please wait."

Or when I ran into my first Helicopter. I was getting the hang of the game by now and was really having quite a good time. Found a rocket launcher and went through the drop all weapons and pick it up then gather up what I can from the ground routine, but knew there would be something coming by soon that required this weapon. I pat myself on the back as I hear the sound of an incoming helicopter, aim the weapon – the same right click works on this sight too – and fire off the missile. Huh? The silly thing was hit but is still firing at me. Guess this helicopter does not know how fragile he is supposed to be! Ok aim and fire again. Again a hit, but no explosion. They are bad shots it seems and I got off a third shot which did indeed take it down – right on top of me "Loading please wait" It seems that I had fallen into the chasm that the downed helicopter serves as the bridge across.

But by now I knew the game pretty well and had a ball.

I headed out to the Web to try the online options and very quickly remember why I do not normally go online with first person shooters. I can never remember which way to run for that cool weapon I found last time, not so for the person or persons I am running against. "Loading please wait." But still this would be fun with a group of people you know – it’s always more fun to die to a friend than a 12 year old that knows the game inside and out.

So here is my dilemma. Once I figured out how to play the game it was a ton of fun and the night after finding the secret of gun sights (a simple statement in the manual that guns sights are considered alternate functions of guns and activated by the right mouse button would have sufficed) I was on into the wee hours of the morning (well at least far after the 10:00 PM bed time I need to maintain in order to get up at 4:00 AM to start the process of getting ready for work – with a built in 30 – 45 minutes for my morning game fix.). Definitely a fun game to play. However I always strive to give the readers a rating based on the game as a whole.

Multiplayer is also a lot of fun. The graphics are even better than Medal of Honor, and the way they have the player models set up, you won’t get killed right away. It takes quite a few shots to bring someone down, so its actually an okay strategy to retreat a bit (run away) if you are totally overwhelmed, find a better angle of attack and some health, and return. There are four excellent maps for multiplayer deathmatch games, and a few more for team play, though they are all based on the same base maps. If Dreamcatcher really wants to continue to support the vibrant online player community, the best thing they can do is to release new maps quickly, or the editing tools so players can make their own. The provided maps are great, but gamers will quickly tire of them if they are not refreshed with new content.

So it is with a bit of reluctance that I give this game a three and a half GiN Gem rating. Had there been a real tutorial or had the game manual been sufficient to get you up and running quickly, it would have easily garnered a four and a half gem rating. But the ramp up as released is way too much to not get mentioned in this review.

I would have to say that it is probably worth the effort to figure out how to play, but visit the Web first and read up on this game before trying your first mission.

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