Review:  Isonzo Is the Best WWI Shooter I’ve Played

I’ve been playing a lot of World War 1 shooters lately, and they’ve mostly been what I expected. You play as soldiers with World War 1 era weaponry, fighting battles that more closely resemble Call of Duty or Battlefield matches than actual World War I battles. Isonzo is the first World War I shooter that convinced me that the Great War can actually be made into a fun video game.

Isonzo is a first person shooter multiplayer game. In it, you play as either Austrian or Italian soldiers as they fight a brutal war against the beautiful backdrop of the Alps. Each of the battles of Isonzo were made by the developers to be as close to historically accurate as possible.  It’s a game that manages to mix historical accuracy with some genuinely fun gameplay—and it’s gameplay that comes closer than any other game to recreating World War I battlegrounds. That’s probably because Isonzo is actually the third game in a series of World War 1 shooters, developed by the same team that made Verdun and Tannenberg.

Screenshot: Isonzo

While Isonzo looks and plays like a lot of other competitive multiplayer shooters, it does a few things to stand out. First of all, weaponry (save for a few machine gun emplacements) is mostly semi-automatic. There’s no running into trenches with SMGs, spraying bullets. Each shot needs to be aimed well, or you’re left in the open for a considerable amount of time. And second, and my favorite part, is that as an attacker or defender you’re required to line up, recreating the sense of a front line over the course of the map. When an area is captured, attackers don’t just pour haphazardly into the new area, but are lined up and ordered to go “over the top” in a wave.

Despite its historical accuracy, Isonzo is not a mil-sim. In fact, it tends to be a little more arcade-like than other shooters I’ve played. I think the fact it isn’t mil-sim helps with the fun. Maps are well made, and they make battles feel fun and well-paced. Most historical and/or mil-sim shooters normally have you run for a minute or more just to get shot by an unseen foe. While that’s possible here, Isonzo’s emphasis on “the front” and going over the top resets the match several times from the “normal” sporadic attack and defend you get into other games into concentrated assaults.  Isonzo is the first game in which I’ve actually benefited from staying in a firing line, shooting down attacks as they try to advance on my defensive position.

Screenshot: Isonzo

Enemy and friendly detection is done for you in Isonzo, too. While others might prefer the realism of having to identify friend vs. foe, Isonzo gives you the option of having enemies and allies designated by a marker.

One of the biggest letdowns of Isonzo is its scope. I really wish there were more game modes, but you’re stuck with the single mode—which plays a bit like Battlefield’s conquest mode, just without the vehicles. There are still mountable machinegun emplacements, and gas or artillery that can be called in—but for the most part Isonzo’s battles are infantry  versus infantry. And while I personally prefer that, it doesn’t take the place of games like Battlefield 1 and their air, land, and sea warfare.

Screenshot: Isonzo

Isonzo is class-based, though each of the six classes have very similar gameplay with a few differences. Which class you have not only determines what weaponry you’ll have access to, but also what you can do to help on the battlefield.  Be a commander, hang back and snipe, or engineer defenseive shooting positions to hold off that next assault. Similarly, as an assaulter you can tear down enemy emplacements, and even cut through their barbed wire to open up a gap for your fellows to flow through.Each of the classes in Isonzo has a progression of abilities and weapons, though it can definitely feel a bit grindy, especially with the single game mode.

Isonzo is a great game. It has a limited scope, however, since it just focuses on the Sixth battle of the Isonzo. But there’s no prettier place to fight than the alps, and Isonzo does a great job recreating that World War 1 battlefield while also recreating the horrors of war. Right now, it’s the closest you can get to World War 1 action without having to spend months in a trench.

Isonzo is available now for PC via Steam.

A Steam key was provided to us for this review.  

Antal Bokor
Antal Bokor

Antal is video game advocate, retro game collector, and video game historian.
He is also a small streamer, occasional podcast guest, and writer.

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