Iron Storm (video game)
|Developer(s)||4X Studios (Original)
Reef Interactive (Remake)
World War Zero
|Release date(s)||Microsoft Windows
Iron Storm is a first-person shooter computer game first developed by 4X Studios and published by Wanadoo in Europe and DreamCatcher Interactive in North America. A remixed version of the game called World War Zero was later released for the PlayStation 2 and Microsoft Windows. Set in an alternate history in which World War I never ended, the game takes place in 1964, the 50th year of the war, and focuses on an Allied soldier's mission to stop the Russo-Mongolian Empire from developing nuclear weapons and his later efforts to end the war.
Iron Storm displays a mix between World War I siege tactics, such as trench warfare and the use of mustard gas, and some World War II-style weapons such as machine guns, mortars, tanks, and rocket launchers of that era, as well as more contemporary technology such as helicopters, wireless communication, spy satellites, anti-personnel mines, and unmanned turrets.
The player character cannot take much damage before dying, and there are many enemies equipped with powerful weapons such as sniper rifles or anti-tank rifles. Several in-game glitches and vague mission objectives could often force players to replay one level multiple times before finally succeeding. Enemies also behave erratically, as seen when several attempt to walk through walls, or when the player shoots a particular enemy multiple times and yet the enemy remains unscathed.
The game is set in an alternate year 1964, in which World War I never ended. The Baron Nikolai Alexsandrovich von Ugenberg seized Mongolia in 1921 in an uprising following the Russian Revolution, and later invaded Russia itself to crush the Bolsheviks. His plan was to establish a Russo-Mongolian Empire stretching from the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic. With the help of the United States, the Allied nations of Europe were reformed as the United States of Western Europe, or the Alliance, in 1933 to counter Ugenberg's plan.
Instead of the Great War ending in 1918, it was continued for almost half a century, with the battlelines drawn down Europe's center in 1929 shifting little for either side for the next several decades. As the USWE could no longer independently contribute to the war, the Alliance army was introduced into the American stock market, allowing private investors to speculate on the lives of the soldiers who carried on the war. The outcome of the war now depended almost entirely on the economy of the Alliance's member nations.
The player takes on the role as Lieutenant James Anderson, only 19 when he joined the Alliance in 1943, and now a legend among the soldiers in the field. Anderson is recruited for a possibly suicidal mission: to breach enemy defenses and stop the Russo-Mongolians from developing a deadly weapon that could devastate the world. Captain Cecile Newcastle of the British Royal Highlands Regiment is Anderson's immediate supervisor and is responsible for guiding him through his mission. Colonel Mitchell is the commander of the operation, but has an ulterior motive for wanting the mission to succeed.
The Russo-Mongolian Empire has its roots in the Russian October Revolution. After the Bolsheviks executed the Tsar and his family, the Baron Ugenburg, at the time already in control of Mongolia, took command of the White Russians and crushed the Bolsheviks with help from Kazakhstan. Within a few years, Ugenburg and his army stabilised Russia and absorbed the failing German Empire, bringing World War I to a standstill. Allied with Japan's Emperor Hirohito, Ugenburg also invaded China and allowed Japan to occupy Manchuria in 1941.
United States of Western Europe
The United States of Western Europe was formed in 1933 to combat the Russo-Mongolian Empire. Consisting of most western-European nations as well as parts of Germany and Austria-Hungary, the USWE was supported economically and militarily by the United States and Great Britain.
A classified mission was undertaken by USWE forces to assassinate the Russo-Mongolian Emperor Ugenburg and destroy a secret weapon being developed in the 1960s. The operation was a success, but did not end the war as a new emperor was installed by the Russo-Mongolian government shortly afterwards.
Players take the role of Lieutenant James Anderson, a jaded American special forces soldier born in 1924 to parents he never knew (he was a war orphan due to the continuous conflict). At the beginning of the game, Anderson is given orders to infiltrate the Russo-Mongolian lines and destroy a secret weapons research facility, in the town of Wolfenburg, where the Empire is developing their first nuclear weapon.
On his way to the facility, Anderson battles through the war-torn countryside, sniping hostiles, going hand-to-hand with others, assisting both wounded and battle-worthy USWE allies (some with severed legs), braving enemy machine guns and flooded trenches, and in the process killing the Empire's three best soldiers, the Siberian Zahkarov brothers. Anderson then arrives at Wolfenburg and fights his way through the town toward the Wolfenburg chemical factory, which is the disguise for the Empire's secret weapons research facility. Anderson meets with a USWE operative, who tells him to access the facility via the lift at the far end of the chemical factory.
Further into the town, Anderson links up with the German Resistance, fighting against the Russo-Mongol forces in the town. The Resistance escort him to the gates of the Chemical factory, and Anderson proceeds alone into the facility. He then makes his way through the factory floor, destroying any chemical containers he finds, since the contents are being used on captured USWE soldiers.
Anderson finds the lift, and drops into it via a hatch on the roof. However, the enemy have prepared for his arrival, and the lift fills with gas. Anderson is knocked out and is captured. He is then taken underneath the chemical factory to the weapons research facility, but manages to escape from confinement.
Anderson then discovers why he was sent in the first place. At this facility, the Empire are attempting to make the first nuclear weapon, using heavy water. Killing the nuclear scientists, Anderson manages to put a halt to the research, for a while, and steals the arming device for the first two and only nuclear-capable missiles produced by the facility.
Sabotaging the facility, Anderson escapes on an armored train, the Tsar Ivan which is headed to the Empire's headquarters, the Reichstag in Berlin. Through intelligence directed to him via Captain Newcastle, he learns that the first ever batch of heavy water created by the Wolfenburg Weapons Research Facility is also on the train. In an isolation case.
Making his way through the armoured train, Anderson manages to secure the isolation case. The case will implode, along with its contents, should it be forced open. A magnetic key is required to open the case, and this key is in the Reichstag, in the possession of the leader of the Russo-Mongol Empire, Baron Ugenberg.
The train arrives at the subterranean station of the Reichstag, where Anderson is ordered to steal the magnetic key. As a secondary objective, he should attempt to assassinate Emperor Ugenberg and hopefully bring about the end of the war. Before he can accomplish his objective, however, the Reichstag is stormed by American Black Ops soldiers led by Colonel Mitchell, who attempt to kill everyone they can find, including Lt. Anderson. Anderson eavesdrops on a conversation between Ugenberg and Mitchell over the Reichstag's security system, and learns the entire truth behind the war.
It turns out that an American organization of businessmen and military leaders known as the Consortium has been secretly funding the Empire's war effort in order to prolong the conflict and profit from Europe's steady demand for American war material and support. Mitchell sent Anderson to sabotage Ugenberg's nuclear weapons research because the Consortium had no desire for the creation of nuclear weapons that would tip the balance extremely in favour of the Empire. Thus threatening a victory, which would mean the end of the war, and thus their investments and financial gain.
Feeling betrayed by the Consortium, Ugenberg declares that he will make peace with the USWE, so that he will leave behind a legacy as a peacemaker rather than a conqueror. Mitchell then kills Ugenberg, since peace would jeopardize the Consortium's continued profits.
Anderson follows Mitchell, then breaks into Ugenberg's private quarters and kills Mitchell's second-in-command as they try to make their escape in a helicopter. After Anderson boards the helicopter in pursuit of Mitchell, the helicopter takes off and flies into the horizon just as a scream is heard from someone on board. It is left ambiguous as to whether Anderson has overpowered Mitchell and taken over the helicopter, or if Mitchell has killed Anderson, although the relatively downbeat tone to the ending seems to suggest Anderson's death.
The game ends with a televised Russian news report telling the Russian public that Ugenberg has been killed by Allied soldiers, and that the war will continue in memory of his name. An advertisement for a new type of machine gun that is expected to raise the stock market then airs. A quotation follows this ending scene: "There is no greater naivety than the belief in the patriotism of capital. A capitalist may be a patriot, capital is not."
World War Zero
Iron Storm was re-released in 2004 in the UK market for the PlayStation 2 console under the name World War Zero: Iron Storm. While few things were added to the actual gameplay, the graphics were updated and many bugs from the PC version were fixed, and some new weapons were introduced such as the flamethrower and the minigun. The PlayStation 2 version of Iron Storm was then ported back to the PC in 2005 as World War Zero and published by Reef Entertainment. Like the PlayStation 2 version, this version of the game was released only in the UK. The additions in this third version consisted of support for anti-aliasing and anisotropic filtering, new save points, support for widescreen displays, and bloom lighting. Multiplayer modes were completely cut out along with the majority of the cutscenes, the quick-save feature, and third-person mode. Support for the native resolution of 17" and 19" TFT screens (1280x1024) was also dropped. The levels were reworked and simplified, and character models were also improved.
The first-person shooter Bet on Soldier has been described as a spiritual sequel to Iron Storm by the game's developers. Many of the people who worked on Bet on Soldier had previously worked on Iron Storm. Although it is never explicitly stated that the two games take place in the same fictional universe, they share many of the same themes and plot elements, and even similar character and weapon designs. Also Bet on Soldier takes place in the '90's making it an Alternative History and it is never described how the world of Bet on Soldier came about in the game except that the world had been at war for eighty years.
Concept art from 2003 indicates that Iron Storm 2 was originally planned to be released. It depicts four levels; Big Bertha - a super railway gun next to a military train station, a European stock exchange hub, a broken tanker in Alaska next to a base, and a heavily guarded Alaskan oil pipeline.
Iron Storm was first released in 2002 for the PC, but was not well received due to bugs and instabilities within the game, relatively dated graphics, and the lack of special effects. It was not uncommon for users to discover that even with the presence of the installation discs, the game would refuse to install; or in some cases partially install, and then require special programs to fully uninstall it. Work arounds were created for this, with the most common involving copying (ripping) the discs to the user's hard drive and then installing from there. However this did not always work, leaving many users to hope for future patches to correct the issue. While patches for the game were released, they did little to improve many of the game's issues and the sound problems were never fixed.
IGN gave Iron Storm an 8.0 out of 10, citing impressive overall gameplay and a unique storyline, but criticized the game's many glitches, overly-linear levels, and lackluster multiplayer mode. Aggregating review website GameRankings gave the game an overall score of 70.76%.