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Isonzo

Isonzo

Following the release of Verdun and Tannenberg, Blackmill Games is back with the third instalment into its WW1 shooter series.

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The shooter genre is no stranger to games based on the World Wars. Call of Duty has been there (as recently as with Vanguard and Warzone Caldera) and Battlefield has done so as well, with Battlefield 1 and Battlefield V as of late. Then, there's also a host of other games that, while less well-known, fit the bill, including the likes of Enlisted, Hell Let Loose, and even more narrative heavy adventures like Sniper Elite. The point is, the First and Second World War have been glorified in game format countless times before, and making something that really stands out in this scene is a challenge.

Blackmill Games has been embracing that challenge over the past few years however, by creating a series of WW1 shooters based on specific parts of the global conflict. 2015's Verdun explored the Western Front and was named after the Battle of Verdun in 1916, and then in 2019, Tannenberg arrived and focused on the Eastern Front, specifically the titular battle that took place in 1914. Jump to the present and the third instalment into the series has arrived and with it brought a game tailored to the Italian Front of the Great War. Welcome to Isonzo.

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I don't feel like I really need to dive into the finer details of what makes a multiplayer shooter game tick to explain how Isonzo operates, because quite frankly it's very similar across these fronts. You, as part of a massive team of players, have to defend or capture strategic points across a wide map in order to achieve victory. The main difference between this title and the likes of a Call of Duty or Battlefield game is that Isonzo has a strong focal point on infantry warfare and also prides itself on its realism. What I mean is that you won't be getting annihilated by some untouchable ace pilot in a plane miles above the battlefield, and likewise, won't be sprinting around like some jacked-up super soldier that never feels the tiring embrace of lactic acid pouring through their veins. No, you're slower, have to take your time, will pretty much always die when you are shot once, and will have to manage all of this while navigating the steep rocky mountains of the Italian wilderness.

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From my experience with Isonzo, this style of gameplay adds a nice degree of importance to every move you make. It feels more serious, more real, more alive than a lot of shooters on the market, but at the same time the tight focus means that there isn't a huge amount of depth to what's on offer. Sure, the shooting system is top-notch, responsive and accurate, but there's only so many hours you can stand in a trench firing bullets downrange at charging hostiles before you wish you had a landtank or a horse to zip around on and cause some havoc with. This is a game that is built and designed for people who want a more realistic take on warfare. There's no denying that.

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So, when looking simply at the gameplay and how Isonzo performs, there's not much more to add. If you're part of the audience for this style of shooter, which is somewhere between the more ridiculous Battlefield 1 and the almost overwhelmingly realistic Hell Let Loose, then this is a game for you. If not, I'd suggest keeping with the tried and true classics. But, it isn't as cut and dry as this unfortunately, as there are some elements of Isonzo that leave me a little frustrated right now.

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And this mainly revolves around the progression, which seems to be very demanding on a player's time. There are six playable classes that each do incrementally unique things, such as Officers who can call in deadly support packages like mustard gas and bombing runs, or Assault units that are designed to rush in and claim objectives without much regard for their lives. Each class has a specific set of weapons and gear that it can use, and you only unlock new items by levelling up each class, which seems to take a very, very long time to do. If you only had to progress a rank or two to get new gear, there would be less of an issue, but to get the final weapon for each class, you will need to get all the way to rank 20, and you'll likely only get one or two new weapons along the way to that point. Essentially, there's not much deviation in the customisation, which is a little bit disappointing considering how much of a focal point it seems to have been.

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That being said, the battlefields are pretty varied and the team at Blackmill has done a mighty effort on making them as real as possible, matching real world locations up with what can be seen in the game. It's also quite a pretty game as well, which is fantastic since Italy has some very striking vistas and set pieces that Isonzo brings to life well.

But generally speaking, I can't go out on a whim and tell you that Isonzo is some huge improvement or unique take on the shooter genre, because it just isn't. It's not a bad shooter experience at all, but it does feel rather barebones at times and a little exhausting from a progression perspective. It is a fine game, but is it going to be contesting for the crown of the shooter genre, not likely.

07 Gamereactor UK
7 / 10
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Brilliant shooter physics and gameplay. Map design is great. Visually-striking. Infantry focus has its strengths.
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Progression becomes tiring quickly. Feels a little barebones in places. Feels very typical for a shooter.
overall score
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REVIEW. Written by Ben Lyons

Following the release of Verdun and Tannenberg, Blackmill Games is back with the third instalment into its WW1 shooter series.



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