When Activision originally released Mechwarrior it was the first pc game to give you a first-person perspective viewpoint from the cockpit of a Battle mech (which is a sort of large robot you sit inside and shoot people with). Activision has been working on a sequel for some time now but that won't arrive until June or July this year. In the meantime, however. Sierr; have released barthsiege, which has a spookily similar concept to MechWarrior, and now we find that Virgin are getting in on the act with Iron Assault.
The game is set 100 years in the future and stars you as a member of a resistance which has been set up to take on large corporations that are controlling the world. Throughout the game you are sent on various missions, and the more successful you are on each mission, the closer the resistance will be to ending the corporations' tyrannic rule.
Most of the missions involve jumping into your unit (this is Iron Assault's equivalent to a Battlemech) and taking out pre-designated enemy units and strategic military targets, such as weapon depots and generators. Other missions involve capturing enemy pilots oi rescuing some of your own. In later missions, providing you have been successful in the early ones, you get to take charge of your own soldiers and control their actions during the battles.
On the surface. Iron Assault looks like it offers an interesting blend of shoot 'em up action and strategy, but look a little deeper and you'll find that it never really gets off the ground for a number of reasons. Namely...
Iron Assault is one of those games that looks a bit dull when you first play it, but gives big hints that it's going to get much bettei later on. For instance, you start the game with only two units at your disposal (a fast one with puny weapons and a slow one with marginally better ones), but if you complete missions successfully you are rewarded with bigger and better units as the game goes on. The problem is that, although the better units are more effective in battle, they feel just the same to control as the weaker ones. You never get a new unit that makes you think "wow. this one is he business". They all lurch along at a painfully slow speed. They are all difficult to manoeuvre around corners. Admittedly, they all have different cockpits, but none of them have anything that you haven't seen in all the other ones. As far as the actual in-mission action is concerned, you might get a bit of a blast out of it for an hour or two (mostly to satisfy your curiosity as to whether it gets my better or not), but even with the varying mission types, you'll get bored stiff with the repetitive battles.
Basically, you can win most missions by using your weak missiles on the light enemy units, using your homing missiles on the med - um units, and moving out of the way of enemy missiles every now and again. That's the major problem with the game out of the way a game without much gameplay is a bit of a problem. I think you'll agree) but unfortunately, it gets even worse from here on. Problem number two...
The graphics in Iron Assault are annoying for two reasons. Firstly, they look pretty awful. The animation for the enemy units is pathetic - as they come walking towards you. they try and disorientate you by doing a peculiar Monty Python-esque walk to put you off. Also, as you go on various missions, you battle out with enemy units over different types of terrain, such as icy and desert scenarios etc., but they all look incredibly dull and uninspiring. The biggest problem with the graphics, however, is they actually get in the way of the gameplay. Although most of the missions take place outdoors, you sometimes have to go inside buildings to collect objects or people. The indoor graphics are so dark and fuzzy, it's sometimes impossible to see what it is you're supposed to be shooting at or picking up. So much for the visuals then, lets move on to problem number three...
If there's one thing that can do wonders for the atmosphere in a futuristic shoot 'em up it's over-the-top sound effects. The sounds of the explosions in Iron Assault when you blow up enemy units, however, are so twee, you sometimes wonder if you really are using state-of-t heart futuristic weaponry, or if, in fact, it's all a trick and you're actually using spaceage peashooters instead. This may sound like a minor point but if you care to check out the sound effects in games like Doom (and even Earthsiege for that matter) you'll see just how much difference decent sound effects can make to a game.
So what have we got so far? It gets boring after an hour or two. it looks awful and the sound effects are crap. Oh dear, there surely must be something complimentary I can say about the game. Now let me see...
...Nope, there isn't. I played it for ages but that was only because I thought the strategy element would spice the game up and make it more involving in the later stages. It didn't. Oh well. If you really fancy having a go at a game of this type, check out Earthsiege (reviewed last issue). If you don't like the look of that, wait for MechWarrior 2, which really did look smart ( previewed in August issue) and should be in the shops in June or July.
Download Iron Assault
- PC compatible
- Operating systems: Windows 10/Windows 8/Windows 7/2000/Vista/WinXP