One of the better games for the Atari Jaguar, Iron Soldier was a first-person shooter that placed you in the huge metal shoes of a 42-foot tall mech, armed with a huge arsenal out to put a stop to the evil Iron Fist Corporation. The game did well enough to warrant an excellent sequel, Iron Soldier 2, but the system was already dead when it was released on cartridge and the Jaguar CD. The Playstation is the lucky recipient of the newest game in the series, Iron Soldier 3, and it's the best one yet. The Iron Fist Corporation is no more,
and Penta, a former rival of Iron Fist, is using force to take over the world. They plan to build an army of Iron Soldier mechs in order to crush anyone who stands in their way. It's up to you (and a friend, if you have an extra controller) to stop them before they have their way.
The game has 25 story-based missions as well as a separate arcade mode, as well as a two-player duel and co-op mode. You have three mechs to choose from, the stock Iron Soldier unit, an experimental CE Tech, and a speedy, nimble Satyr Walker. The game plays similar to Mechwarrior or Battletech, so fans of those particular games will be in heaven. The disc is packed with many, many fantastic CG movies, from the long opening cinema (check out the amazing grafitti on the walls and subway cars!), to the mission success/failure scenes. You'll actually want to die a few times to check out the movies. The in-game graphics are quite good as well, in fact, they're the best of any mech game for the PS, Armored Core included (sorry, AC fans!). Rain effects, lens flares, night vision, and some nice lighting are par for the course here. The levels have a certain life to them, enhanced somewhat by all the stomping and destroying you'll be doing. Every building you see can be riddled with assorted shells and eventually destroyed, sometimes taking out a few enemies (and yourself, if you're careless). There's a bit of strategy involved in the game, and going blindly into battle will result in a quick end to your mission. Fortunately, the control system is easy to pick up, and using the analog sticks for moving and looking about soon becomes second nature.
Weapon management is also crucial, and running out of grenades, missiles, or bullets in the middle of a tough mission is usually the result of being a bit too gun-happy and not enough searching. Using your fists and feet works for smaller enemies, or those mechs loaded down with long-range weapons, but swinging away at a helicopter while it's raining missiles down on you is not a really good idea. Ammo crates are hidden in certain buildings, usually well patrolled, of course. There are at least 15 weapons to fund and use during the game, and my personal favorites are the oil drum sized grenades, and the excellent cruise missile, complete with built-in camera! Some of the missions are search and destroy, a few have you protecting or escorting convoys and such. All to some really excellent music- sort of dramatic moody techno stuff. I liked the fact that the options screen in the lets you adjust everything you see or hear in the game.
Does the game have any drawbacks? Not very many that I can find. The framerate is smooth, but may seem a bit slow to those used to the faster paced corridor shooters. You'll get over it though- you're in a 42-foot tall steel can, strapped to the teeth with death-dealing devices. There's the usual split-screen confusion when things get frantic onscreen, and sometimes enemies will swarm around you from above and below, forcing you to think up clever ways to dispense of them (hint: a grenade does great damage to buildings…). Finally, where are all the people? It would actually be nice to see a good mech game with citizens running in terror or occasionally getting squashed in all the mayhem. I guess that we'll have to wait for the PS2 sequel to see that.
This has been a very good year for mecha fans- Front Mission 3, Armored Core: Master of Arena, and now IS3. In the end, Iron Soldier 3 is simply the best mech simulator out there for the system, and a worthy purchase for those looking for some challenging action.
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