Man, remember when World War II games were really popular? It just seems like just 5 years ago when everybody was clamoring for shooters that involved shooting them Nazis. Then Call of Duty 4 happened and now it’s everybody clamoring for shooters that involve shooting them Insurgents. Or Koreans.

Let’s go back a few years. Even before Call of Duty was a thing and Medal of Honor was the only WWII shooter in town, developer 3LV Games and publisher ValuSoft graced us with this wonderful game: Elite Forces: WWII Iwo Jima. A sequel to Elite Forces: WWII Normandy, this is a first-person shooter that presumably takes us through the Pacific theater in WWII. What I get instead is probably the worst World War II shooter I’ve ever played. And I played Medal of Honor: Airborne.

I should back up a bit and give you a brief history of the developer and publisher. 3LV Games only made three games in their lifetime: The two Elite Forces: WWII games and Arthur’s Quest: Battle for the Kingdom, a game that GameSpot gave a 1.9 out of 10 to. So we’re looking at a developer that has made 3 games and all of them absolutely terrible. Publisher ValuSoft on the other hand was famous for being one of the platinum tier budget publisher. Most cheap PC games you saw at the budget rack at Wal-Mart came from ValuSoft’s “high quality” lineup. The company was snatched up by THQ in 2002 and presumably no longer exists. It’s an unfortunate loss in the budget gaming world, leaving PC budget racks everywhere with cheap copies of Ubisoft’s Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory and Far Cry 2 instead, which isn’t as cool.

I’ve stalled enough, let’s begin this edition of Budget Hell. So WWII Iwo Jima uses Monolith’s “Lithtech” engine, although not very well. Every single level is just various geometry mixed in with trees, sandbag bunkers and occasionally underground tunnels. I don’t think the mappers knew anything about making areas flat, and if they did make an area flat, it was riddled with unrealistic buildings everywhere. Even when it comes down to the models, they look worse than games like Quake II, which came out years before it. Your guns barely resemble their actual counterparts, and animations feel stiff and lifeless. Reloading weapons just lowers the gun down, plays a reloading sound, and pops it back up. The shotgun is just as bad as the rest, if not worse: shoot, lower gun, make “pump” sound, raise gun. I honestly wasn’t expecting much out of a budget title, but I was hoping the animations in-game would have evolved past the early 90s where using 3-4 frames of animation was common.

You have a myriad of weapons, such as a knife, a M1911, a Garand, a Shotgun, a Thompson, even a flamethrower and rocket launcher is at your dispersal right from the start. There are no checkpoints, weapon or health pickups (presumably because they didn’t know how to code stuff like that), thus making the game real hard on higher difficulties. The quick save button will be your best friend in this game, especially if you want to get past the first level. Enemies seem to vary from “rifle guys” to “shotgun guys” to “grenade guys,” including the occasional asshole with machine gun that usually killed me 90% of the time. They have zero AI patterns, and a good chunk of them died while they were standing like stiff mannequins, ready to plug bullets into. Without the ammo or health pickups that makes a shooter fun, the game becomes a long, tedious piece of shit. Don’t believe me? Here’s a clip of me playing the second level. It’s just that bad.

The entire game is like this. There is one mission where you start it solo, but every other mission gives you 1-3 additional squad members to give commands to. However, it uses the function keys to give commands, so I never used them. They love to juggle their weapons constantly, thinking it’s a great strategy to pick off dudes at a distance with the pistol. Every mission starts you out in a certain spot, you kill enemies to get to another point, and repeat. A few of them have the finish marker be in the same place as the starter marker, resulting in going around in one big-ass circle. Apparently the levels have something to do with actual locations in the Pacific theater, like Iwo Jima, but every level looked like the same awkward shitty geometry throughout. Even an “air base” still looked liked the beaches I was roaming around in earlier, with nary a plane in sight.

There is a silver lining to all this, though: The composer, Will Loconto, went on to do music for bigger and better games, such as KISS Psycho Circus, Anachronox, Bad Day L.A. and… Daikatana. Y’know what, I take that back, I hold no sympathy for anyone who was involved in this.

Honestly I came into this game with zero expectations. SomethingAwful covered WWII Normandy and said it was out and out terrible, and I believed them. Thus I had little expectations for WWII Iwo Jima. I didn’t even think WWII Iwo Jima would run on my Windows Vista machine, but sure enough it ran smoothly at 60 frames throughout. But this game is a disease that needs to be purged from my hard drive and my sanity. If you spot this in a local Goodwill like I did, avoid it at all costs.

Tune in next time in Budget Hell when we go through even more mediocre first-person shooters that your grandma buys you thinking you’ll like it…