You know, I’d always wondered what ArmA was like – hyper-realistic simulations have always fascinated me, but I’ve never really had the chance to delve into them properly – having spent some time playing Iron Front: Liberation 1944 however, I need wonder no longer. If you think of Red Orchestra 2’s more realistic approach to World War 2 combat (specifically), and then throw in ArmA’s large sweeping chunks of country side, and you have yourselves the basis for a very hardcore and pretty unforgiving game. Seriously, after accidentally killing an unfriendly NPC with a grenade, I was treated by a ‘Mission Failed’ notification, and THEN a cutscene of my guy getting shot by a firing squad... I mean really, who does that?
But this attention to detail is something that screams out throughout the entire game – it’s in everything, permeates everything… from adjusting the range of your target on your rifle, to movement and vision, to inventory management and combat mechanics. If you’ve played an ArmA game then you can probably stop reading here, as you’ll know what you’re getting into, but if you haven’t then I’ll do my best to prepare you. The game features a fully fleshed out single-player campaign, two in fact, one for the German side and one of the Russian. Being 1944, both campaigns pretty much deal with the Germans already on the back foot, so the might of the Reich isn’t so mighty at this point. Makes a change. The game runs on the same tech as the ArmA games, which is of no surprise considering Bohemia Interactive’s involvement, but to say this game looked good would be an understatement. I mean, really, this game looks good… I’m surprised my PC hasn’t melted yet or something.
Tank Combat is cooperative and relies on you having other people in the tank with you to handle the various tasks, although you can tell the AI what to do
Still, it’s very rough around the edges at the moment. Controls can be incredibly fiddly, even when using the mouse to try and speed things along, and there are a lot of controls to remember. The tutorials, whilst giving you the framework that every FPS gives new players, is a little bit lacking when it comes to delving into the more advanced features and it does take longer than it should to get into the hang of things. The ‘action menu’ does help a bit, especially when you have to choose one interaction out of several choices for one object, but again it takes some getting used to, and using a mouse would be simpler and preferable… except that the mouse contextual icons and hit boxes for those context triggers is, well, a bit clunky.
On top of that, content is a bit limited too – there’s the two single-player campaigns (available in English and German), which we honestly can’t tell you how long they’ll take as it depends whether you get stuck on stupid little details like we did. In addition to that, there are (at the time of writing) a couple of single-player ‘scenarios’ you can try out, but on all honesty they weren’t that interesting. There is of course the level editor, which is as comprehensive and extensive as the main game is realistic. That said though, this is the kind of tool that is really only going to be useful in the hands of the modding community so again, at the time of writing, nothing much interesting on that front either. Hell, we’re surely not going to be able to do much with it.
Multiplayer is where this game is doing to thrive, much like ArmA. The game isn’t really designed to depict a single-player story with as much flair or emotion as other first-person shooters are capable of (although it does give a damn good try), and that’s not a bad thing, it’s just a fact of what it is. This means though that the telling of the story in single-player can seem a bit dry and clunky, and sometimes there’s little incentive to actually play it through which – barring the other offline modes – leaves you with multiplayer.
Each mission or Scenario comes with a map and a planner that you can use to help keep track of everything
There are many traditional game types available, from Deathmatch to Capture The Flag, with more unique modes that tailor towards particular preferences. There’s a ‘Tank-only’ mode, which given the map sizes you deal with turn out to be a real treat provided you have enough people, and 'Blitzkrieg' set-up where one team defending a stronghold, while the other try to capture specific spawn points. The only issue at the moment is numbers, and server availability. Games like this really thrive on massive engagements, but we’ve seen servers as low as 6 a side, and as high as 32v32. Sadly, the larger servers are rarely that well populated at the moment, but once that gets going this area of the game should really shine. Provided your internet can handle it.
This one’s going to be a bit of a slow burner we imagine – needs more content, more tweaking, and obviously the community needs building upon too. But it’s got good tech and good support from Bohemia behind it, and we’d be surprised if this didn’t do as well as the realities of this niche allow it to do. Hell, if Farming Tractor Simulator 2012 can do it, so can Iron Front. Make no mistake though; this is not a game for the light hearted. Seriously... read the manual or something at least. IT really depends how attached you are to the era, and to ArmA’s particular brand of gameplay. Red Orchestra does the era just as well, and with a free-to-play SKU of ArmA II available, you’ve got that angle covered as well. Still, a well put together and engaging game and we look forward to seeing what’s next.
IRON FRONT - LIBERATION 1944 VERDICT
This one’s going to be a bit of a slow burner we imagine – needs more content, more tweaking, and obviously the community needs building upon too. But it’s got good tech and good support from Bohemia behind it, and we’d be surprised if this didn’t do as well as the realities of this niche allow it to do. Hell, if Farming Tractor Simulator 2012 can do it, so can Iron Front. Make no mistake though; this is not a game for the light hearted. Seriously… read the manual or something at least. IT really depends how attached you are to the era, and to ArmA’s particular brand of gameplay. Red Orchestra does the era just as well, and with a free-to-play SKU of ArmA II available, you’ve got that angle covered as well. Still, a well put together and engaging game and we look forward to seeing what’s next.
TOP GAME MOMENT
Once you get into the hang of the controls, doing all those little things by yourself, like hitching up a cannon, moving it, un hitching, then moving into place really give you a subtle thrill. Simulation at its best.