Have you ever wondered what the 1960s would have been like had World War I never ended? Probably not. Yet here's Iron Storm, a first- and third-person shooter that attempts to answer the question no one asked. Its story doesn't make a whole lot of sense, and it's sometimes frustratingly difficult, but Iron Storm is a reasonably successful action game, which is what counts.
The graphics engine does a good job on large outdoor scenes.
The game takes place in Germany during 1964, which is apparently the 50th year of the ongoing first World War. And even if you're not interested in WWI, you'll feel right at home with the game, because the advanced technology and modern fantasy weapons available to you give the whole undertaking an atmosphere not too different from that of any other generic shooter. The only real references to the Great War are the occasional mustard gas grenade and the fact that about a third of the game's levels are set in trenches--somewhat improbably, since much of the equipment on display in the game (such as portable communication devices, modern tanks, and advanced artillery) are all technical innovations that made trench warfare obsolete. You might as well just pretend it's a slightly off-kilter World War II game or a bizarre version of the Vietnam War fought against Germans in Western Europe.
Iron Storm's gameplay is a cross between a straightforward shooter and an adventure game. Though there's a lot of gunplay, the game also has a fair number of puzzles to solve. In fact, the game's six levels are for the most part nonlinear, often requiring you to visit certain sections repeatedly and sometimes offering multiple ways for you to complete your objectives. The puzzles are generally environmental and often involve figuring out what needs to manipulated or blown up in order to proceed. Your goals--given to you via earpiece radio by an operative back at home base--are often a little too sketchy, though computer terminals scattered around the levels provide some useful hints. The puzzle elements aren't overwhelmingly difficult, but they do slow the game down for anyone expecting an uninterrupted shooting spree. We did encounter a specific scripting bug on one level in which a door that should have opened didn't, forcing us to reload a saved game from the previous level and replay a large section of the game. If you run into the same problem, you may even become uncertain about whether an obstacle is a puzzle or just a bug later in the game, so it's a good idea to save early and save often, rather than rely on the game's quick-save feature.
Occasionally, Iron Storm requires you to use stealth. Some of these episodes are frustrating mainly because the game doesn't really have a stealth interface. Unlike in most games that require some stealth, there isn't any real incremental feedback built into the system. You basically go prone, crawl around, and hope for the best. One section in which you have to sneak through a prison camp is a maddening exercise in trial and error.