Iron Storm is a 2002 First-Person Shooter / Third-Person Shooter game, created by French developer 4x Studios and published by Dreamcatcher Interactive. The game is a fairly typical war FPS, but offers lots of good level design and a huge amount of intelligent opponents. What sets it apart from most games of the genre, is its very unique Alternate History setting and engaging atmosphere.In the game's backstory, World War One never ended in 1918 and dragged well into the 1960s. The reason behind this was a charismatic White Russian general, a certain Baron Ugenberg. He managed to unite lots of former Tsarist soldiers and warriors from Siberian and Mongolian tribes under his banner during the Russian Civil War. With the help of their constantly growing numbers, he succeeded in crushing the Bolshevik Revolution and reuniting former Tsarist Russia, grandiosely renaming it "the Russo-Mongolian Empire". But his conquest didn't end there, as he decided to build a mighty pan-Eurasian empire, having delusions of being a modern day successor of Genghis Khan. He succeeded in claiming the entire eastern half of Europe. The front lines between his newly founded empire and the remaining western democracies came to a halt in the late 1920s, cutting Germany in half. The game starts in early 1964, when the United States of Western Europe manage to discover information about a secret Doomsday Device being built by the baron's scientists. Enter you, lieutenant James Anderson, an aging Shell-Shocked Veteran, sent on a suicide mission behind enemy lines in order to locate and neutralize the secret weapon project.Sounds like a fairly straight-forward action and espionage story? Well then : Expect a few interesting twists on your way...You can find a Let's Play of it here.
Alternate History: One of its selling points, no less. It was arguably one of the first mainstream shooter games where AH was a deliberate part of the back story and plot. It's also one of the few games that are set in World War One (or inspired by it).
Artificial Brilliance: Though the game's budget wasn't big (it's nearly an indie game), the AI of the enemy soldiers is surprisingly high and cunning. You usually can't lure them to fall for an old trick learned in other FPS games. If nothing else, the AI makes the game really challenging. There are occasional moments of Artificial Stupidity, but thankfully, they're rare.
When entering in the underground part of Wolfenburg lab, Anderson is immediately arrested by two regular mooks and must drop all of his weapons. Shooting them both is easy but triggers a counterract by two invicible mooks.
Call a Rabbit a "Smeerp": Television (used mainly for newscasts and propaganda) is referred to as DRT, which stands for "Deutsche-Russische Tagesschau" ("German-Russian News(caster)"). As the in-game dialogue indicates, it was apparently invented first in Ugenberg's empire and only later smuggled to the USWE.
Controllable Helplessness: When you break into the lab, you are immediately captured. Rather than switching to a cutscene, the game will not allow you to proceed until you manually discard ALL of your weapons and toss them to the nearest officer mook. Now THAT's twisting the knife.
Well, technically you can just shoot the officer and run through the open door...at which point you'll get mowed down by two regular mooks with scripted invicibility, including a Siberian brother. Basically, the whole sequence is an enforced Cutscene Incompetence scene which is technically not a cutscene.
Lets just say that the game's setting isn't a nice place to live (or die) in.
Damn You, Muscle Memory: Selecting a weapon works a bit differently than in most FPS games. First, you select it with the appropriate keybind or the mouse wheel, and then you have to click the left mouse button so your character will unholster it and put it in his hands.
Diesel Punk: Oodles of it. The firearms are generally fairly bulky and boxy in shape, with a very Used Future look. Most of them (including the most common assault rifles) are a bizarre mix of early 20th century tech and more modern elements : Though some are equipped with state-of-the-art laser designators, they also have massive built-in coolers (a Shout-Out to old World War One heavy machine guns). Now that's some serious Schizo Tech...
Elite Mooks: The Russo-Mongolians have their Siberian troopers, armored Gas Mask Mooks with enhanced health and equipped with a full-auto rifle that fires explosive, one-shot-kill rounds.
In the final level, you encounter Consortium troopers, the soldiers of the American military-industrial complex that is secretly prepetuating the war. They have enhanced health and are armed with the best assault rifle in the game.
Fackler Scale of FPS Realism: The game isn't a true tactical shooter per se, but still requires you to take precise aim, choose your gear wisely and carefully fight your way through enemy territory. Do Not Run with a Gun is paramount not only for achieving victory, but for basic survival as well, in each of the six campaign missions. Sighted Guns Are Low Tech is carefully semi-averted (you can see them on every weapon, but can't really use them in-game and have to rely on traditional FPS reticules or a scope).
The Federation: The United States of Western Europe seems to be this, compared to Ugenberg's opressive empire. At first, that is. As you gradually progress through the game, you start becoming increasingly aware of the painful truth : Both regimes, despite their outer coating of White And Black Morality, are actually Not So Different.
First-Person Ghost: Averted. Arguably one of the first games where you could easily look down and see most of your legs and feet.
Forever War: 50 years of bloodshed and no end in sight. It gets all the more ridiculous when you learn it has turned into a literal War for Fun and Profit, with the arms industry and armies being an integral part of the international stock exchange. And the Twist Ending implies that the whole conflict has degenerated into nothing more than an Enforced Cold War.
Giant Mook: In the console remake, World War Zero, a more dramatic "Final Boss" battle is added in which you fight A Consortium suit of steampunk power armor equipped with a minigun and a chemical thrower. It's unclear if it's Colonel Mitchell in the suit, or just some random Mook. Having the final boss be Mitchell would completely change the tone of the ending, though.
Guide Dang It: The entry in underground Wolfenbourg lab. Right after leaving the lift, the player must stop in front of both officers without shooting them (while being attacked by two sentry guns), then drop each of his weapons as ordered. The problem is that both officers are as easily shot as any other regular enemy and most players probably killed them before letting them order Anderson to immediately stop. Also, the attacking sentry guns (they fortunately stop if Anderson doesn't attack the officers) doesn't incitate to try.
Hollywood Silencer: Averted. Though the silenced pistol still makes the obligatory "fwip" sound, it's also pretty loud and can be easily heard by enemy soldiers if fired at a close distance. The pistol has little use in most of the game though - except for an occasional Stealth-Based Mission or two.
Hyperspace Arsenal: An effectively done aversion of this trope (with a few minor hiccups though). You can only carry one weapon from each class at a time, and each of them not currently wielded (except grenades) can be seen on Anderson's back and legs in third-person view. This can get pretty tricky, especially with slot 4, which houses most of your heavier firearms (marksman rifles, assault rifles, portable machine guns and grenade launchers). This forces you to choose your load out carefully according to your current situation, since you can't carry both a marksman rifle and an assault rifle at the same time, etc. Sadly, it also gets a little ridiculous occasionally : You can't carry a simple silenced pistol and an SMG at the same time (as the tutorial is eager to inform you).
Mega Corp.: "The Consortium" of the USWE. They deal primarily in heavy industry and arms manufacturing.
Mirror Boss: The "final boss" (the Consortium officer) plays more like a multiplayer opponent than a standard enemy. He's equipped with multiple weapons (sniper rifle, assault rifle, machine pistol, and grenades) which he uses based on range, and constantly runs around the level instead of standing in one area.
More Dakka: Never enough in this game... Capturing an enemy's stationary machine gun and using it against them is particularly dakka-tacular...
No-Gear Level / Stealth-Based Mission: One of the missions starts with Anderson taken prisoner, with all of his weaponry confiscated. Luckily, you manage to acquire a melee weapon shortly after the start of the level and then carefully escape the prison and collect some new gear.
Obligatory War Crime Scene: Several. A particularly memorable one occurs early on in the first level, where you glimpse a USWE conscript gunning down a defenseless soldier of Ugenberg's empire, who's desperately pleading for mercy : "Lass mich leben ! Ich bitte dich..."
Putting on the Reich: Subverted. The uniforms of the Russo-Mongolian soldiers are mostly derived from the WWI uniforms of Imperial Germany and Tsarist Russia, with some early Soviet designs thrown into the mix. Due to the Eurasian nature of the empire, a lot of military clothing also has various central Asian and Mongolian-influenced elements (helmets with the outward appearance of a traditional Mongol nomad hat, etc.). Ironically, the uniforms of USWE officers show more signs of this trope, though the uniforms of the USWE grunts are just a mishmash of French, German, British and American uniforms of WWI and WWII.
Retro Universe / Schizo Tech / Anachronism Stew: To a degree. Soldiers have uniforms and weapons with elements that would fit well in not just World War One and World War II, but The Present Day as well. There are other wildly anachronistic elements too : Modern long-distance radio earpieces and small computers resembling those from the 1980s coexisting with 1930s-style television. Surprisingly primitive tanks right next to much more advanced gunships.
Fridge Brilliance: The tanks look surprisingly archaic compared to other military vehicles (in fact, like they're barely out of the 1920s) and are few and far between because the Consortiumwants to keep the war going - and it would likely wear out far sooner if trench warfare was avoided by using larger numbers of more advanced tanks. But that also makes it a bit of Fridge Logic, since the fairly modern attack helicopters we see over the front would have done the same job equally well...
Rule of Cool: It isn't a surreal dieselpunk dystopia for nothing...
Shout-Out: At least in the French subtitles, there is a random mook dialog refering to the famous Gargle Blasterscene from Les Tontons Flingueurs, quoting the lines "I knew a Polish girl who used to have this at breakfast" and "you have to admit though, it is a beverage for males".
More likely Type III the way the two sides fight would have resulted in each nation having little to no man-power by the 1920's, unless of course most of the war was cold with major flare ups ever so often.
Space-Filling Empire: Ugenberg's Russo-Mongolian Empire becomes this very fast and the USWE is forced to do the same, working as a counter-weight superpower. Little change in territorial borders happens since the late 1920s and the two political blocks are still locked in a firm Cold War with each other in the 60s.
Spiritual Successor: The Bet on a Soldier series of FPSes were developed by the same team that worked on Iron Storm. Much of their setting, plot, and weaponry are not-so-loosely based on the latter.
Sticks to the Back: Averted surprisingly well. You can clearly see the various firearms and weapons you're currently carrying - strapped to your backpack or put away in different holsters (which are attached not only to your belt, but your trousers as well).
Trojan Prisoner: Entering into Wolfenburg (in the final part of the second level) requires Anderson to drop all his weapons, sneak inside the enemy camp, then casually join a USWE prisoner group and be locked with them in a prisoner truck. Then, a convoy of said trucks is sent to Wolfenburg. This was part of the plan, as a USWE soldier managed to steal a key opening the truck doors.
Alternate Ending (also a Twist Ending): When Anderson storms the Reichstag, an assault by Consortium (the American company/companies that are supplying everything to the USWE) troops happens at the same time, forcing Anderson to defend himself against not only the Russo-Mongolian troops, but also against the Consortium. He eventually reaches a room with a CCTV screen connected to other point in the Reichstag, and Anderson sees how the Consortium man (Colonel Mitchell) that has been supporting him in the mission argues with Urgenberg: this discussion reveals that the Consortium has been supplying the Russo-Mongolian armies as well, that Urgenberg plans to stop the war in order to become a peacemaker after so many years of war and Urgenberg is assassinated by Mitchell, who flees. Anderson manages to defeat The Dragon and get on the helicopter where Mitchell is fleeing, but it's left ambiguous as to which one of them managed to kill the other... and in the end a TV report is shown saying that war will continue in Urgenberg's name.
Updated Re-release : As World War Zero for the Playstation 2 and PC. Published three years after the original, but sold only in the UK. It was basically a console port to the Playstation 2, with major alterations to adapt it to the platform (simplified levels, removal of the multiplayer component and many cutscenes) as well as some new additions such as 2 new weapons (a flamethrower and a minigun) as well as a new, more dramatic Final Boss fight.
War Is Hell: It doesn't get more hellish and crapsacky (at least visually) than in this game.
What the Hell, Player?: In the USWE trench in the beginning of the game, the briefing room is set above most of the trench, so going in the trench requires to go down a ladder. If Anderson jumps down in the trench instead of using the ladder, he will be chewed by the Mission Control. It is actually part of the short Forced Tutorial of the beginning of the game, as falling damages are one of the game's features (although this specific fall isn't high enough to damage the player character).
World War One: painted by a team-up of George Orwell and Hieronymus Bosch, apparently...
World War II: According to the newspaper that comes with the game, Eisenhower is still a General, and D-Day still happened, except a decade later, on June 6, 1954 - and on the Baltic coast, creating a pseudo-Eastern Front. Meanwhile, the Japanese are still engaged in fighting in China (which began in 1941), and face significant resistance from Manchurian partisans. The Atomic Bomb was invented by the Americans in 1945, but remains a secret.