EA SCOUT the last line of defense for buying on Steam's Early Access
by Matt Porter
previewed on PC
A twisted love child
Imagine if Trials and Twisted Metal got together in Nazi Germany, had a few too many to drink, got abducted by aliens, and ended up having a child together. That’s what Ironkraft - Road to Hell, a “2.5D side-scrolling car-brawler,” is trying to simulate. It sounds like a great idea, but this Early Access title has a long way to go before reaching its dream.
Rule number one of creating a game with a car in it is to have the driving feel good. Currently in Ironkraft, the car, which is weighed down with many tons of armour and weaponry, feels light as a feather. It has boosters underneath the chassis allowing you to tilt backwards and forwards, which is where my Trials comparison comes in, but it lacks any sort of precision, and the physics just feel... off. A car of that size and weight shouldn’t be able to pirouette through the air without any sort of momentum.
One nice touch is the ability to turn your car around and start driving the other way. At present, though, the map design doesn’t really give you a reason to do this. Sometimes you might want to go back and kill a few enemies you missed because your car drifted over them like a plastic bag caught in the wind, but you’ll only need to do that if you’re particularly interested in completionism.
In fact, the map design is currently uninspiring at best. At one point I decided to try and see if I could make it through a level by only holding down the accelerate button. After two attempts where the game straight up crashed on me, it turned out that I could. I didn’t even need to fire any of my weaponry since nearly all of the enemies die by simply running over them, and the others pose such little threat that they usually just fly along behind you like a dog chasing a car.
Thankfully, a recent patch seems to have fixed a lot of the constant crashing I was experiencing early on, although the frame rate is still a little spotty in places. The graphical quality, nor the amount of action on screen should be enough to warrant any drop in performance, though. It looks fine as it is, but it should really run better. From an audio standpoint, there wasn’t any for the first two levels that I played. When it eventually kicked in during the third level it seemed like there were missing sound effects.
Proof of concept
As for the story, my opening paragraph about Nazi Germany and aliens should tell you that it’s not particularly deep or original. At present you have a short cutscene told in a comic book style that doesn’t fill you in on a great deal. The tutorial is very minimal at the moment too, although there’s not much nuance to be found in the controls anyway. As for the method of gameplay, it looks like you’ll be choosing various routes across Europe, performing missions, collecting credits and upgrading your car as you go, though it’s not particularly well explained yet.
The car customisation could be the most interesting part of Ironkraft, with various bodies, bumpers and weapons to choose from. In the early levels that are available right now, nothing you change seems to make much difference, but I imagine higher difficulty in later stages will necessitate clever spending of your resources.
At the moment, Ironkraft - Road to Hell seems more of a proof of concept than a game. The concept itself is one that could appeal to many, and if executed on it could become quite popular. However, this is not a game that you should be spending money on at the moment.
It pains us to say this, but we don't see how this game will mesh. At the current stage of development the game should be much farther ahead than it is.