Realism in shooters is something the computer game industry has both striven for and struggled with for some time. It's good to feel that what you're doing has some connection to the real thing, especially when historical settings are involved, but it isn't fun to spend half your game time field-stripping rifles and doing KP. A veneer of authenticity can make for a more emotionally charged experience, but to pull this off, a game needs to hide the inevitable lack of realism that's at the core of first-person shooter gameplay. It's a delicate balance, and one that Iron Front: Liberation 1944 utterly fails at. As fate would have it, Iron Front also fails at not crashing constantly, not looking like its graphics were drawn by a teenager, and at being any fun at all.
If standing around listening to random Nazis speak German draws you in, Iron Front has you covered. Also, get help.
Iron Front starts with a solid historical basis, at least: you play either as a German or a Soviet soldier in the middle of a campaign to win the Eastern Front in World War II. It's an enticing premise for those who have imagined the life of a foot soldier in the ranks of two of the world's most ruthless dictatorships. Gameplay lands somewhere between and . There's a thick coating of realism, alongside a kitchen sink full of possibilities. You start off as a simple soldier, but ultimately you can do everything from manning heavy weapons to commanding tanks to flying fighter aircraft. Sniping, stealth, huge frontal assaults: everything's included. Iron Front: Liberation 1944 is highly ambitious in scope, but ends up trying to do way too much. The ground portions do feel somewhat realistic (at least in the sense that you can die and kill instantly), but the opaque control system makes flying a plane cumbersome and inorganic.
To its credit, the game offers dialogue in both German and Russian (subtitled) or in horribly dubbed English, if reading isn't your bag. The thing is, regardless of the language you choose, you won't care what anyone is saying. Apart from the occasional stultifying cutscene in which you listen to a narrator read text that's already visible onscreen, most dialogue in the game is AI-generated radio babble that comes so fast and furious, and is so poorly tracked on your heads-up display, that it may as well be a TV left on in the background. Iron Front tries hard to give you a feeling of being one part of a much larger battle, but because the briefings interface is totally obtuse, and because the way information comes at you in missions is so confusing, the interface overwhelms both you and itself.
Before missions you'll get a tactical briefing, but it's not much use since the AI never does what it's supposed to.
In fact, the entire game overwhelms itself. During the review process, Iron Front received a large patch that fixed some (but by no means all) of its stability issues. Yet in spite of the patch, the game still crashes, just not as often. Other bugs have revealed themselves since: loading screens frequently hang, necessitating forced quits; controls stop responding mid-mission for no apparent reason; AI entities stand around doing absolutely nothing while receiving effective incoming fire; and sound suddenly cuts out or goes extremely quiet in the middle of critical briefings. AI pathfinding is also a huge issue, with non-player characters frequently getting lost or trapped on geometry, and enemies patrolling in endless circles, doing nothing of importance.