Imagine if World War one had continued past 1918. It's a terrible thought I know, but in the world of Ironstorm the war is still raging and the year is 1964. As you can imagine the whole atmosphere is one of despair, the real thing only lasted four years and it devastated the world so much that by the onset of World War II, it still had not recovered. In the fictitious world of Ironstorm the enemy is not the Kaiser but a 'latter-day Genghis Khan' called Baron Nikolai Aleksandrovitch Ugenberg who is the leader of the Russo-Mongolions. You play James Anderson and seeing as you were born in 1924 you have only known a world at war.
Obviously with Medal of Honour getting a lot of plaudits earlier this year when it hit the PC it was obvious that anything resembling a war based FPS was going to be compared to it. In fact in doing just that Ironstorm stands up quite well indeed and only in terms of graphics could it truly be claimed to be inferior to Medal of Honour. The action and atmosphere of the game is truly absorbing and although the story is fictitious it does actually feel like you are in a war.
One thing you will notice about Ironstorm is that it is not for wimps. A lot of FPS games of late have allowed you to breeze your way through the game on all but the hardest of the difficulty levels. Ironstorm is a meaty challenge, on any of the three difficulty settings. Thank goodness there's a quicksave feature included because you're going to need it, a lot. Even as early as the first mission you'll be shot at by a group of snipers whose aim is actually very good. Cautious movement is definitely recommended to avoid getting peppered with bullets by the enemy. The AI of the enemy is excellent and this is what adds to the game's challenge.
Whilst the game may not be as visually pleasing as Medal of Honour, although to be fair the terrain and explosion effects have been wonderfully realised, the framerate is a whole lot better. Even with all the explosions and with quite a few enemies onscreen at any one time, I didn't notice any slowdown at all. If there's one area where the graphics disappoint it has to be in the character faces, they just don't look right. Character animations are perhaps not the best around. You can chose to play the game from a third person perspective if you wish which will please those who prefer it, personally I don't, but I know a lot who do.
One very pleasing aspect of Ironstorm is that it's subtitled. The cutscenes, the in-game dialogue and all messages are all given in subtitles, which is pretty excellent. Thank you 4X Studios. All messages can even be recalled from the menu that you get when you press the Esc key. Only the first line is shown but if you click this first line and click 'listen' the message will not only be played back verbally but also shown as text. Of course the nature of a FPS and in particular one that has such excellent AI enemy snipers, will make the game difficult for a deaf gamer because a hearing gamer will hear the subtle noises of a bullet whizzing past and a visual notification of this is not given to aid the deaf gamer. However, it is still pleasing to see the game subtitled and along with a quicksave feature it means that at least it can be enjoyable for a deaf gamer if not completely accessible.
All in all Ironstorm is a superb effort that will please FPS fans, especially those who like a challenge and have felt slightly peeved at the challenges in recent FPS titles. It has it's problems such as a rather bland multiplayer side to the game and a rather dodgy default keyboard setup (you can redefine the keys though) but it's really worth it for the great single player game and that's something you don't get to say too often these days.
Overall Game Rating: 8.3/10 At last we have a FPS game that's challenging on all levels and is subtitled too.
Deaf Gamers comment: Very nice to see the game is subtitled and that messages can be recalled.