From developers Deep Silver comes the newest addition to Bohemia Interactive’s lineup of military sims (milsims), Iron Front: Liberation 1944. Players are given the freedom throughout an entire open world to conquer the opposing forces by any means necessary.
The game casts players into the heat of the second world war and gives them the option to play through two completely separate campaigns. With the choice to play through both Nazi and Red Army campaigns, players are exposed to various missions with an extremely diverse supply of historically-correct weaponry and vehicles at their disposal.
The plots for both forces are very straightforward with the Nazis at the defense of a Red Army advance. Each campaign can take approximately 8 hours to complete, but this can change depending on the player’s style of gameplay and how they choose to execute a mission.
At the beginning of each campaign, players have the option to choose as to whether they want to hear the game through the native German or Russian languages, or if they would rather hear it in English. The dialogues that were done in the English language are poorly written and lack a strong cast for the voice acting. The speech seemed quite stoic with emotions that were poorly replicated and unconvincing. I often found it difficult to stay attentive to the dialogues simply because they were painfully long and carried too far with irrelevant remarks and suffering attempts at humor. I imagine the other two dialects are a bit more believable for those who can understand them.
It is obvious that the developers sought to make a campaign that was more focused on gameplay rather than story. Players will control an average soldier with nothing really unique about him or his prior military experience, and the plot will not feature anything out of the ordinary and is far from compelling. I guess I can’t always expect my character to be some tactically-precise war hero, and there were no exceptions here. Though I wasn’t anticipating a plot that is worthy of a best-selling novel, but I have to admit the one here was a bit stale. But then again, what more can be expected from a milsim.
The maps in Iron Front: Liberation 1944 are practically endless and give players all the room they need to conduct a full-fledged war. From the vegetation-dense environments, to the fully modeled buildings that can be explored throughout, vantage spots can be found anywhere.
Player freedom was definitely an important aspect of development while creating the game, granting players complete control over how they will approach and take an objective. There were some missions where I played more of a “commander” role, where I sat back and ordered in the infantry that I had under my command. All I had to do was set up a plan of action and watch as my troops converged on objective with the paths that I had set out for them. On the contrary, there were missions where I had to sneak in myself and take the enemy by surprise. From the expansive maps to the various modes of attack, players can truly take the battlefield from all angles.
It didn’t take long for me to realize the importance of each button for 80% of the buttons on my keyboard all presented a crucial function to either the vehicles or environmental interactions. Created with the same engine as Arma 2 and the expansions, Iron Front: Liberation 1944 may seem familiar to fans of the Bohemia Interactive library, but for others, there may be quite a learning curve. The game features a multitude of buttons and environmental interactions that can be a bit overwhelming at first, but players will quickly pick up on the basics and learn the rest as they tread across the battlefield.
The multiplayer aspect of the game is one of it’s greatest assets. There are a variety of game modes that range from “Capture the Flag” to a greatly extensive mode called “Blitzkrieg”. In “Blitzkrieg”, players of both factions will be placed an a massive map with a variety of control points spread throughout. One team defends as the other fights to capture these control points and claim it for their own faction. Once taken, players of the particular faction that is currently holding the objective can spawn in that location.
Each mission has a set amount of tanks, aircraft, and other vehicles that can be brought into the battle. I often found myself gazing into the sky to find that the aerial battles that were taking place above were often just as exciting as the ones down below. With heavy amount of tank battles, dogfights, and infantry-driven assaults, the fight was constantly evolving to the events taking place.
Considering that most matches housed around 100 online players, I didn’t have to travel far to find myself in the heat of the action. What impressed me the most about the online aspect of the game was the cooperation and organization of the teams and how they coordinated with one another. With constant communication and teamwork, I was always up-to-date with all vital information and was never alone when taking the fight to the opposition force. A lack of teamwork in this game can quickly prove to be punishing to those who prefer to work alone.
The map editor allows players to create their own missions and set their units and objectives as they please. Once completed, users can play their creations solo or link up with friends online. Unfortunately, mods for the game can only be released upon approval by the developer and will then release as DLC. Games like Arma II were repeatedly revived by user-created mods such as Day Z and Project Reality. With the potential addition to mods such as these, the value of Iron Front Liberation 1944 can be greatly increased.
With a game of such magnitude as this, there are always going to be quite a few glitches and bugs that need to be worked out. I often found my view to be obstructed by faulty weapons that are equipped on my character’s back, or a character that transforms into a backpack with legs and moonwalks across the battlefield. Although it is understandable for a content-rich game such as this to have bugs and glitches, it can become quite a nuisance when I cannot operate my equipment properly.
Milsims are commonly confused and misinterpreted with AAA games such as the Call Of Duty series or the Battlefield series, which strive to appeal to a mass audience. What needs to be understood is that while playing a milsim game, everything that takes place during a session is meant to simulate (as accurately as possible) the actions and affects of a battle and the logistics that go into the successful planning and execution of an objective. While playing a game such as this, extremely cinematic action and explosions will be practically void from existence due to the fact that most occurrences such as these are over exaggerated and only exist to appeal to a more mainstream audience. This is why games such as Iron Front: Liberation 1944 may not be so exciting to a less “hardcore gamer”.
Most milsims (including Iron Front: Liberation 1944) are extremely slow-paced and require a substantial amount of patience and planning on the player’s account. Success in games such as these can’t be achieved by blasting one’s way into a city with guns blazing, annihilating everything in sight. I have often found myself in a position that required me to remain undetected and crawl for 15 minutes before I could even survey the trials that await.
Video games will never be capable of capturing the reality of war, in fact will never come close to it. But what the people over at Bohemia Interactive strive to do is create a fairly accurate representation of military campaigns that through simulation can give greater insight to the various perspectives of the armed forces around the world.
I found Iron Front: Liberation 1944 to be a pleasing experience, but I am confident when I say that not everyone will share the same opinions about the game as I do. Many gamers will be turned away by the learning curve the game presents, others will be frustrated by the fact that their character isn’t up to speed with tactics used by The Terminator or John Rambo. For those who enjoy a game that requires players to consider all outcomes and think before they act, pull up a seat for this just may be the milsim game for you.