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Video Game / Iron Storm

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Welcome to a nice little Diesel Punk Dystopia...

"This delightful and cheery war started in July 1914. It is now February 1964, and believe it or not... it's still being waged..."
Lieutenant Anderson's Opening Narration

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 I never ended in 1918 and dragged on 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 or buy the game on

A Playstation 2 port of Iron Storm was released in 2004, named World War Zero. Made by Rebellion, it was a complete rebuild of the game from the ground-up in a new engine designed to run on console, with new weapon and character models, simplified levels, and much more forgiving combat. The changes were significant enough that it feels like an entirely different game, and it was ported back to PC in 2005 as a completely seperate game from Iron Storm, though only sold in the UK market (until 2019, when it became available on Steam).


Iron Storm Provides Examples Of:

  • All There in the Manual: The names and specs of the weapons and the short biographies of the main characters. The original manual that shipped with the game even had a few Fictional Documents to better explain the various details and tone of the setting.
  • 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 I (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.
  • Big Bad: Baron Ugenberg. This gets subverted in the Twist Ending, where you discover he's become just an old senile Punch-Clock Villain after years of gradual Villain Decay.
  • But Thou Must!:
    • 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 counteract by two invincible mooks.
    • Given the game's dodgy handling of stealth mechanics, there really isn't any way to escape from the Wolfenburg lab without murdering every single scientist you find. To make it up to you, there's one officer cowering in a bathroom in the next lever whose death is entirely optional.
  • 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.
  • Chef of Iron: On rare occasions you'll run into enemy chefs. They won't hesitate to charge you with their meat cleavers, and can actually soak a little more damage than basic enemy Mooks.
  • Cool Guns: Cool? Yes. Shiny? Never.
  • Cool Old Guy: Lieutenant Anderson is technically young (around 40), but he's already graying, and looks well into his 50s. He's a war-hardened Badass Normal veteran nonetheless.
  • Cool Train: Baron Ugenberg's fierce "Tsar Ivan" armored train, a hulking steel monstrosity. And you get to spend an entire mission aboard it, gradually fighting your way through it's entire length, from the tail car to the locomotive. It's a surprisingly awesome mission.
  • 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 which point you'll get mowed down by two regular mooks with scripted invincibility, including a Siberian brother. Basically, the whole sequence is an enforced Cutscene Incompetence scene which is technically not a cutscene.
  • Crapsack World / Dystopia: Where... to... begin... Let's 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 shooters. 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. It's the kind of thing you'll only get used to if you played Half-Life and never turned on the fast weapon switch option.
  • 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 I 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 perpetuating 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 oppressive 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 Black-and-White Morality, are actually not that 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.
  • Gas Mask Mooks: Many of Ugenberg's soldiers, in addition to their Putting on the Reich uniforms and Mongolian-style Nice Hats. Like this guy.
  • 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 indicate to try.
  • Gun Porn: If you're an enthusiast of Used Future style guns...
  • Gunship Rescue: Bulky dieselpunk helicopters constantly scout above the main front lines. You even see one of them get shot down and crash while running through a trench.
  • Heavily Armored Mook: The 3 Zakharov "Siberian Brothers", who appear as boss fights throughout the game. They wear heavy armor, are equipped with the same full-auto explosive rifles used by the Siberian troopers, and can soak a few dozen assault rifle rounds each before going down.
  • He Who Fights Monsters: Oddly, not the protagonist. It's implied that humanity as a whole has become completely accustomed to war and has turned into a race of militaristic Crazy Survivalists.
  • 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.
  • Humans Are Bastards / Gray-and-Gray Morality: At first, the conflict between the USWE and Ugenberg's Empire seems like a classic case of Good Republic, Evil Empire. This gets ruthlessly deconstructed as the game progresses. And then there's a Twist Ending, which... well, read it for yourself in one of the lower entries...
  • 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).
  • Idiosyncratic Difficulty Levels:
  • One Bullet Clips: Averted.
  • 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.
  • Red Shirt / Red Shirt Army: The only defining traits of the regular USWE soldiers seem to be ridiculous Genre Blindness and dying.
  • 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 I 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 Consortium wants 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...
  • Scenery Gorn: So much of it, that it goes into Serial Escalation. Eerie Ghost Towns bombed back to the Stone Age and abandoned for decades ? Mordor-esque frontlines? Creepy run-down industrial laboratories ? You name it.
  • Shout-Out: At least in the French subtitles, there is a random mook dialog referring to the famous Gargle Blaster scene 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".
  • Silent Protagonist: Besides the trailer and a few cut scenes, lieutenant Anderson apparently hasn't got much to say. But hey, can't blame him.
  • Sliding Scale of Alternate History Plausibility: A little mushy, especially considering the length of the war (Europe was already very exhausted by the conflict in 1918). The success of Ugenberg's early continent-spanning conquests is exaggerated for obvious dramatic reasons. Everything in the Backstory is definitely done on purpose to evoke an Orwellian-like atmosphere of a never ending industrial conflict. Other than that, the setting is quite realistic and features no alien or supernatural intervention. So, it's more or less a Type II.
    • 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.
  • Sliding Scale of Shiny Versus Gritty / Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism: Very cynical and very bleak in tone.
  • Sniper Rifle: The Dragunov Sniperskaya (seen on the page picture) is a really useful Cool Gun. You receive one already at the start of the first level, but it avoids being a Disc-One Nuke thanks to Crippling Overspecialization. It's really worthless for anything other than precision sniping at greater distances.
  • 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: Bet On Soldier, developed by the same team that worked on Iron Storm has much of the setting, plot, and weaponry that are not-so-loosely based on the latter.
  • Standard FPS Guns: But with a Diesel Punk flavor.
  • 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).
  • Stupid Jetpack Ugenberg: But this trope is present to only a minor degree...
  • The Computeris A Cheating Bastard: When escaping the lab, there is at least one section where taking a seemingly valid path where no one can see you will result in scientists becoming alerted even if no one saw you and you were sneaking and running to the alarm anyway unless you take a more obtuse path around the room and the alarm results in immortal guards who'll never give up trying to kill you showing up.
    • When you have to surrender, refusing to do so results in Immortal enemies you can't kill spawning in, same with setting off Alarms after getting captured.
  • 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.
  • Twist Ending / Anticlimax Boss: Handled really well. Beware, major spoilers ahead! When Anderson finally storms the Reichstag in Berlin and meets Ugenberg face-to-face, it turns out the old mad emperor is only a powerless figurehead now, a shadow of his former self. His empire is ruled more by various General Rippers, Corrupt Corporate Executives, Arms Dealers, ObstructiveBureaucrats and he himself wields little actual power. Anderson then makes it to the escape point and is picked-up by a USWE helicopter. His superior congratulates him for completing the mission, but as the camera looms away from the chopper, we hear a muffled You Have Outlived Your Usefulness announcement, then a gunshot and Anderson moaning in pain. It's implied that Anderson's superior killed him - in order to keep the truth about Ugenberg's declining power a secret and help perpetuate the Forever War. Makes you wonder if both of the superpowers aren't just Evil Versus Evil, competing in who can make a bigger profit off the war and be the most careless and evil...
    • 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.
  • 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 I: 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.
  • Your Mom: One of the voice files for alerted Russian soldiers features the angrily pronounced "Tvoyu matz !".

Tropes specific to World War Zero:

  • Adapted Out:
    • You no longer meet with Cecile and Mitchell in person at the beginning of the game, and your only interactions with them are over the radio.
    • The Zakharov Brothers and Consortium Officer bosses have been removed from the game, instead you have a much more grandiose Final Boss fight as well as a series of optional High Value Target assassination targets throughout the levels, who are only slightly tougher than regular troops, but often have an advantage such as a somewhat better weapon or a posse of suicide-bomber dogs.
  • Adaptational Wimp: Instead of being special Elite Mooks, Siberian Troopers are now used as regular troops for the last few missions. They're only slightly more durable than regular troops and now tend to carry regular weapons instead of their one-hit-kill semi-auto grenade rifles. However, Siberian Heavy Weapons troops in steel plate armor instead take their place as Elite Mooks in the last couple of missions.
  • Adaptational Villainy: In the original Iron Storm the cook in Mission 3 was just that, a cook, and only attacks you because you're an enemy soldier running around shooting everyone. In World War Zero he's one of the optional High Value Target assassination targets, and is described as a Russo-Mongolian torturer responsible for torturing captured Western troops.
  • Anti-Frustration Features: World War Zero removes most of the instant-deaths from the original game; snipers now do much less damage, enemy rockets are no longer an instant-kill, and instead of blowing you up landmines instead release hallucinogenic gas for a decent amount of itme and then explode, as well as no longer being an instant kill with the explosion.
  • Dark Action Girl: The enemy snipers are female in the first couple of levels, and you have female enemy officers in the later levels.
  • Difficulty by Region: World War Zero is a lot easier than the original Iron Storm and plays much more like a standard console FPS. Enemies deal much less damage and drop more ammo, healing items are much more common, you now have a Hyperspace Arsenal, levels are simpler, most of the forced stealth has been done away with, etc.
  • First-Person Ghost: Unlike the original Iron Storm, in World War Zero you have no rendered body and your character is only visible in cutscenes.
  • Gas Mask Mooks: Unlike the original Iron Storm, where only the Siberian Troopers really wore gas masks, here almost every enemy soldier wears a gas mask. Even the cooks wear respirators.
    • Goggles Do Nothing: Said gas masks don't actually protect anyone from either deadly or hallucinogenic gas grenades.
  • 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.
  • Heavily Armored Mook: The Zakharov Siberian Brother bosses don't appear in World War Zero, but in the later levels you encounter Siberian Heavy Weapons soldiers wearing metal plate armor who can soak almost twice as much damage as normal troops and tend to carry heavy weapons such as the Auto RPG or Consortium Gun.
  • Hyperspace Arsenal: Unlike the main game where you had a limited loadout (sidearm, shotgun, sniper rifle, and primary weapon), in World War Zero you can carry almost every weapon you can find at once; the only time you (automatically) discard a weapon for another one is when it's simply a straight upgrade, such as replacing the machine pistol with the assault rifle once you find one.
  • I Surrender, Suckers: Injured enemies drop their weapon and are usually out of the fight completely, but sometimes they'll pull out a grenade if you get too close and try a Taking You with Me.
  • Updated Re-release: World War Zero was a version of Iron Storm completely remade from the ground up by Rebellion for the Playstation 2 and PC. Published three years after the original, but sold only in the UK until it was released worldwide for Steam in December 2019. 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, much more forgiving gunplay) 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. The changes are significant enough that it feels like a completely different game, which is likely why it was ported back to the PC and sold seperately from the original Iron Storm.
  • Video Game Flamethrowers Suck: Averted; the flamethrower has an effective range of only about 15 feet or so, but one touch of flame is enough to set most enemies on fire, completely removing them as a threat.