15 August 2019 (released)
21 August 2019
It’s finally here, the ultimate homage to the era of shooters which defined the genre. The ultimate recreation of a game made by the “Build Engine” the same engine used on the likes of Duke Nukem 3D and Shadow Warrior. The one, the only Ion Fury! Renamed after a famous metal band decided the original name for Ion Fury was too close to the name of their band. But the name is still pretty catchy. Was it worth the long wait for this blast from the past?
History time! Shelly Bombshell was meant to be a character introduced into Duke Nukem, but sadly never came to be until 2016 with Bombshell. Shelly was meant to be the female equivalent to Duke Nukem and in many ways, she doesn’t fail. She’s bad ass, witty and pretty damn confident. She just doesn’t flirt with semi naked men is all, but does drink and gets pissed when deranged cultists try to kill her.
And that neatly leads on to the review. Ion Fury sees Shelly take on an invading army of extremist cultists. They’re hell-bent on destroying the world and led by a mad scientist voiced by none other than John st John (Duke Nukem). Shelly’s drink has been spilt and now she wants blood. And that’s it. There’s no real sense of story with these old build engine games and it shouldn’t be any different here. Shelly is here to kick ass and kick some more ass.
Now Voidpoint (the team behind this neat blast from the past) know a thing or two about Build Engine games (they should as some of them were the original teams behind the most popular ones). The environments are pretty damn spectacular for a game with an engine nearly as old as me! There’s a great sense of design as the world is highly details, featuring great dynamic lighting, and nice use of colouring and of course it has its fair share of secrets to find. These secrets did bug the hell out of me (in a good way) as you told before a level ends how many you missed. So of course, your gamer OCD kicks in and you have to go find them. Well the environments do look great and the soundtrack and voice work is really awesome as well.
The only thing with Ion Fury is that, some of the larger environments make combat a little unbalanced.
Wide open areas often resort to enemies being able to take you out from whiles away and always having an advantage over you. Build engine games were never open, they were corridor shooters and cram packed in enemies but also a decent amount of cover. Some levels just feel like a slaughter house and you being the poor lamb going through. Otherwise other areas and more compact environments are more balanced and feature a nice mix of brutal and satisfying gunplay.
Now speaking of guns! There’s solid gunplay here with a nice variation of enemies ranging from standard cultists, to bigger cultist and a great design to most arena (just not so much the massive open areas). Guns have a tremendous impact as you can blast, burn or zap your way through the hoards. I found that most environments allowed you to take the fight head on with a number of different approaches. Often the most straight forward path is not always the quickest or smartest. I loved how Voidpoint have taken a great design choice from Duke Nukem 3D and expanded it, having multiple paths through many of the levels and allowing lots of freedom to plan and attack. There are enough set pieces and boss battles to keep the 10 hour campaign filled with nostalgic action that’s gripping and hilarious at times (don’t judge me).
I will say I was a little disappointed with the line-up of weapons. They are fine and do pact a bunch, such as Shelly’s revolver, the assault shotgun and incendiary SMG. They’re all good but sadly there was a signature weapon missing, like all build engine games, hell all great FPS shooters …. Hell most games have some signature weapons. Like a really great one. Doom has the BFG, Duke has the Deverstator, the ice ray, the shrink ray, the expand ray and his boot! Sadly Shelly has no signature weapon and while the rolling grenades are cool, they can either works extremely well or just fail on the spot.
Still the guns here are fine and it’s a lot of fun shooting enemies with them. But imagine say like a specialised rocket launcher, mortar launcher or something bombshell related for Shelly would’ve worked regardless. Even a gun firing those massive bomb shells from Mario would be fine!
Overall Ion Fury is pretty darn awesome and an amazing reminder of how 90’s shooter or more importantly Build engine shooters are timeless (for the most part) and helped shaped the genre into what it is and what it can be. Despite some minor issues, this is definitely worth checking out for old gamers like me or newbies who are tired of Call of Duty.
++ Classic elements of 90’s shooters refined and updated
+ Looks, sounds and plays pretty good
+ Awesome campaign with plenty of action
- Gun selection is slightly lacklustre in the grand scheme of things
- Some arenas layouts make the combat a little unbalanced
A Steam review key was provided by the publisher for the purpose of this review.