App Reviewed on: iPhone 5
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Tanks. If a person enjoys modern (or even semi-modern) warfare, there's a good chance they have an interest in tanks. And why wouldn't they? Tanks are basically legless mechs, and everybody loves mechs. What was I talking about again? Or right, Iron Force; a free-to-play multiplayer tank shooter that's equal parts fun and frustrating.
Iron Force is inherently similar to a lot of online iOS shooters. Only instead of soldiers, robots, or robot soldiers, players use tanks. Cash, experience, and premium currency can be earned through regular play to be used for buying or upgrading. Higher player levels and ranks unlock more gear and levels. Play is tied to a fuel (i.e. stamina that recharges over time) system while upgrades are developed in real time and can be sped up using premium currency. It's a familiar framework, really. The matches themselves are a little different due to the not so nimble tanks and their rather slow firing speeds. Instead of being a hectic frag fest each bout is more of a battle over superior positioning.
I was completely turned off by Iron Force's gameplay at first, but after a few matches I finally "got" it. It's not about charging into the fray firing wildly, it's about approaching targets carefully and lining up shots for increased damage. It can be a risk to stop out in the open in order to aim properly, but when that single shot has the potential to knock off half of the target's health it's sort of worth it. There's also none of that endless waiting for a match business. Each game is populated by players and AI bots if enough aren't around to join, so there's always a full roster of combatants.
The other side of the matchmaking coin could use a bit more work, though. I've had several games where things were evenly matched, and several where there were one or two players using tanks bought with premium currency who had a distinct advantage. I'm all for giving players something to strive for like better vehicles and gear but when there's such a massive discrepancy between firing and movement speed, as well as damage and defense, it's hard not to get frustrated. I've been able to hold my own during a few of these mismatches, but I've also been totally steamrolled to the point that it almost feels like "pay-to-win."
Iron Force is definitely a fun game so long as players understand it's a bit more methodical and strategic than the average shooter. The problem is that sometimes they can be vastly outgunned to the point of absurdity. With enough patience it's still possible to have a reasonably good time with it, though.