In war we tend to become localised in our perspective of who was fighting. When we think of the Great War we instantly think of France and Belgium and the horrific trench warfare between the British and the Germans. But it was a world war with different countries joining the fight, battles raging across Europe and into other continents. Isonzo – the WW1 multiplayer shooter from the team that brought you Verdun and Tannenberg – concentrates on the battles between the Italians and the Austro-Hungarian armies. It features realistic historical settings and gives us an insight into what happened in those terrible moments of warfare. But how does it play in a crowded FPS market of shooters?
I think the big problem with games like Isonzo is the overarching shadow of Battlefield and Call of Duty. That is no more true as this is a much more focused story rather than the sprawling epic narrative of something like Battlefield 1? Will this put off newcomers to the world? Oh and Isonzo doesn’t feature any single-player campaign, just focusing on multiplayer warfare or offline gameplay against bots. The latest Battlefield game didn’t do so well when they took out the single-player campaign element so what does Isonzo offer?
The story in Isonzo is found in the locations and the actual historical battles that took place over a two-year period. The place was in the country of what is now Slovenia and the twelve battles shown here are set around the river of Isonzo. As each map loads up you get a real-life picture and a detailed description of the actual battle that took place in that location. After that, the stories are your own to recreate on the battlefield themselves.
Isonzo is a game that I feel must be played with others; in your team and against. Single players or those going up against bots will find that things don’t quite feel right and more often than not they’ll just stand there waiting to be shot or end up stuck in walls or staring into space. The frantic nature of the battle is best played with a squad of humans against humans, doing the unpredictable things that humans do. That’s when the game truly comes alive.
As you load up Isonzo gives you a choice, picking the Italian side or the Austro-Hungarian army. Each side will be placed on either the offensive or defensive side of the battle. The offensive attacking will be found moving forwards across the huge map, taking down checkpoints and encampments or blowing up guns and supplies as they progress. The defenders are left to try and stop them, using machine guns, mustard gas, or just good old-fashioned teamwork.
There are six classes to choose from before you jump in. Riflemen are the basic soldiers found on the front line. Offices can whistle and call in attacks. Engineers can build placements. Marksmen are there for that one shot kill glory, whilst mountaineers are almost like spies, alerting where the enemy is located. Lastly we have the assault troopers with their big guns. Gameplay is strong, long and each game can take a good forty-five minutes to play through. You will die a lot, mostly thanks to the one shot kills and long reloads whilst mustard gas will destroy you at every turn. You can build up your outposts though, dropping in guns to defend, and fire off mortars. If you are okay with a normal first person war shooter then the controls will feel like second nature. Just expect to get thrown out of the game a few times, at least until a patch comes along.
There’s the chance to take in some little bits of customisation with your soldiers whilst the actual maps have a sense of the epicness about them, showing the horrors of war with debris, corpses, and animals strewn on the battlefield. It all works well without being a barnstormer on the graphics front. There are some little visual bugs, especially in the single-player mode where there is some clipping and soldiers get stuck. The audio treatment is good though, powered by realistic gunfire and explosions. There are some terrible screams that come from downed soldiers that will haunt your nightmares, but the score which overlays is majestic.
As much as you can when you find yourself replaying the Great War, Isonzo can be enjoyable. The realistic and authentic attention to detail and area focus is something to be admired, yet it is much harder than any other shooter, as you try to come to terms with tactics and the careful nature of war. But I worry that there isn’t enough content and interest available in order to keep the Isonzo servers full, the bots just don’t seem to be good enough and there are many bugs which need sorting out.
While commendable as a project, Isonzo doesn’t have enough elements to ensure it stands out from the crowd.
Isonzo is on the Xbox Store
- An authentic part of WW1
- Big maps
- No proper campaign
- Quite hard
- Massive thanks for the free copy of the game go to - BlackMill
- Formats - Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, PC, PS4, PS5
- Version reviewed - Xbox Series X
- Release date - 13 September 2022
- Launch price from - £24.99