“ Manufacturer: Ubisoft / Genre: Action & Adventure „
World War Zero is a military game for the Playstation II based on the premise that the world remained at war as World War One had never ended. So you take over, fifty years into the fighting, to try and defeat the enemy single-handedly. It's certainly an interesting plot line!
The aim is to get from the trenches through to fighting in local towns and in buildings. You start with just a normal gun to fight with, before working through the game to get bigger and more powerful weapons which you can use. The game features quite a large number of weapons such as guns, grenades, rifles and many others, all of which are enough to keep an interest in the game.
In terms of playability, I enjoyed this game and found the controls easy to pick up. The game is technically quite challenging however as there is always a lot going on, and it's sometimes difficult and confusing to be able to focus on exactly what you should be doing. However, I imagine that in a genuine war situation, this is exactly what happens, so I can't really fault the game for that.
It will likely take the majority of players some considerable time to complete this game, as it is quite large and each of the challenges can take some time to get through. In total, there are sixteen levels in the game to work through, with a sensible smooth increase in the difficulty of each one.
In terms of difficulty, I'm personally not that good a games player, so I didn't complete the game as I became frustrated at having to keep replaying some of the levels to be able to progress, but the difficulty level did appear to be set about right for more capable players than myself! Others might have a problem though similar to mine, that sometimes the game does become a bit repetitive, and there is sometimes a limited appeal in wanting to get further on in the game.
The graphics weren't too bad, although nothing special, but they did the job of adding some atmosphere to the game. I found that the sound effects were much better, especially the effects relating to the weapons, and these definitely did in my opinion add to the atmosphere in the game.
The game retailed at 19.99 pounds when it was first released, but is available new on Amazon at the time of writing for just 5.94 pounds. Second hand copies can be found cheaper on sites such as eBay and Amazon if you don't need a new copy. The game is rated 16+, so isn't really suitable for children.
Overall, it's not a bad game, although it's not the best war game that I've played. But if you're a fan of the genre, the fact it's currently just a few pounds on Amazon means that it's definitely worth considering. It's a big game, so there is a lot of gaming hours to go through to complete it, so worth a look.
One has to wonder if developers Rebellion are patiently lying in wait for the very end of the PlayStation 2 generation as we know it, so that when the eleventh hour does eventually arrive, they'll be ready to leap to the rescue with some much-needed new material - they seem to have been a bit quiet of late. Okay, it's not an especially likely theory I know, but it is nevertheless a tactic that served them well in the latter days of the original PlayStation. A slew of releases in 2002 such as Largo Winch; Delta Force and Rainbow Six: Lone Wolf may have proved a bit of mixed bag quality-wise, but their efforts at that late stage to provide the console with some exclusive software was highly commendable.
Rebellion's PS2 efforts have been rather less prolific or notable however. Their only success (and a minor one at that) was the solid first-person shoot 'em up Judge Dredd: Dredd Vs. Death, and in World War Zero: IronStorm, released in 2004, they have a similar first-person shoot 'em up that looks, feels and behaves rather like a PC game. And with good reason - it is a conversion of the slightly-shorter-named IronStorm which had been released for computers two years earlier, and though it's unlikely to impress those who want the most out of their console, it's a rather neat shooter that will appeal to connoisseurs of the genre.
IronStorm's selling point in many respects is its unusual narrative and setting. Set in an alternate reality, World War One is still being waged some fifty years after it started, with the game being set in 1964. And it isn't just the German's you're battling - it's a Russian/Mongolian super empire lead by a Baron Ugenberg. And if that doesn't sound vaguely intimidating, there's always the ominous news that its your turn to partake in the old one-many-army suicide mission of going behind enemy lines and assassinating their leader.
WWZ mixes and matches elements from a number of FPS games and mainly to good effect. You have a host of locations (trains, trenches, bunkers, deserted streets) that pay more than a passing homage to Medal Of Honor, whilst the copious amounts of shooting and weaponry at your disposal evoke memories of Quake. It even shares some traits with Half-Life; most prominently the leisurely character movement and interactive scenery that occasionally allows you to break open boxes, vents and so on. Due to some technical foibles and a general shortage of its own ideas, it doesn't distinguish itself to the degree that any of these aforementioned games managed, but it does feel comfortable in its own skin.
An atmospheric beginning sees you battling your way out of a maze of trenches, as you witness the deaths of comrades, signs of destruction and bombs going off all around. From a technical standpoint, these sections aren't completely convincing because of some lower production values and limited use of sound, yet a good tempo is established as you dart around corners, blasting the odd foe and being given occasional though all-too-fleeting support from your brothers in arms. The war-torn landscapes are littered with the remnants of buildings that make for useful cover spots, and pave the way for some enjoyable sniper battles. It's just as effective when things move in-doors; research labs and trains will stir memories of Medal Of Honor, and though the weapons aren't as lovingly intricate in their design, some of IronStorm's best moments involve close-quarter battles.
Indeed, IronStorm's weapon set is very healthy. So many weapons are there in fact, that it can become a problem trying to shift between them all. Fortunately, you can set two primary ones to be on hand immediately, and swap between them with at a tap of the L2 button; an efficient way around the problem for a console shoot 'em up. Impressively, circumstances in the game mean that the assault rifles; rocket launchers; shotguns, sniper rifles and grenades all make for genuinely viable options at one point or another - you certainly won't just be sticking to one or two guns.
There's the odd touch that makes good use of the games theme and setting - mid-mission save points are given a novel spin in the form of small media/propaganda units, which allow you to see what spin the Russian's are putting on your 'achievements', as well as some humorous mock-headlines concerning major figures and events of the time ("Nobel Peace Prize cancelled for the fiftieth year in a row" being one such example). It's a shame that the storyline is so untidy; sections with strange laboratory experiments are entirely brushed over, making them fit uncomfortably around the rest of the game, and though the open-ended conclusion is understandable, it could have been dealt with a lot better; the last boss feels ludicrously out of place.
There are occasions when you get to fight alongside friendly-forces - in this case a resistance movement. The brief time they do aid you reveals some very suspect tactics on their part, but also a fair bit of a potential. Rebellion essentially cut their losses and knew their limits, and though it's nice to play an FPS without any of those god-forsaken tank-driving bits, it's slightly disappointing that you have to play the entire second half of the game as a lone fighter.
Visually it is pretty dated. Noting the positives; the skies/sunrise effects are beautiful and there is a generally high concentration of scenery and detail adding distinction to the environments. Not so good however is the fogging that clouds horizons in some of the more open areas and the odd touch of slow-down isn't great either. The NPC animation is also very bad, as are the second-rate cut-scenes, and the levels themselves lack the clarity and grit of Killzone.
It has 16 decent-sized levels to play through, and though the plot has lost itself by the latter stages, the variety of settings and enjoyment factor will see most through to the end. There are three difficulty levels to tackle; it's best to avoid the easiest as the sheer quantity of ammo and health you are provided with means it isn't much of a challenge. Also to be avoided is the auto-aim feature; it locks on to enemies making them easy targets but also removes the fun of targeting and getting headshots.
The lifespan is extended a touch by the range of secondary objectives you can attempt during missions. These range from assassinating specific enemy officers; shooting down helicopters with rockets; destroying ammunition supplies and the like. They are welcome additions, but there's little real incentive to go back and tackle them given that you aren't given any goodies for completing them, just points towards a level score, which as far as I know, doesn't do anything. There is also an okay multiplayer mode, but it's fair to say it's hardly a TimeSplitters-beater. Still, just in terms of simple once-through completion time, it fares relatively well against the competition.
Not a world-beater by any stretch of the imagination, but what World War Zero: IronStorm does, it tends to do pretty well. It doesn't excel in any department and its dated appearance won't impress fans of modern shoot 'em ups, but there's enough interest in the levels and enough fun in the shooting to make it a valid purchase for those after a decent one-player campaign.