Back in the 90s, a common practice for FPS games was to have map packs released months after the game was finished, the original DLC if you will. Making the most of modern technology and consumer habits, we have a new expansion pack in the form of DLC for Voidpoint’s 90s throwback shooter Ion Fury, with Ion Fury: Aftershock.
What Could Possibly Go Wrong?
Set after the events of Ion Fury, Shelly “Bombshell” Harrison, an officer for the Global Defence Force, is once again drowning her sorrows in the bar. The bar is attacked much like in the base game and once again Dr Heskel, tech genius slash cult leader, is behind the attack and is actively goading Shelly to come after him and stop his latest plan.
Along the way Shelly manages to get herself fired from the GDF by a parody of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and everything naturally gets tied up with a little bow. This genre isn’t known for in-depth storytelling, and Ion Fury: Aftershock is no exception. Heskel does appear on monitors throughout the stages to heckle and push the story a little, but the bulk of the storytelling is done through two brief cutscenes and a whole lot of environmental storytelling.
From very early on you’ll notice a volcano in the background of the stages, Ion Fury did this as well where the stages seamlessly show Shelly’s journey across the world, and here is no exception. As you progress in the stages you’ll notice that the volcano is getting closer and closer and would you know it, the evil cult leader with super villain mastermind vibes just happens to have a facility at this volcano! It’s an 80s action plot with tongue firmly bashed into cheek, and I for one am all for it.
As this is a review for DLC I won’t be going in-depth over what Ion Fury is and how it works, for that you can check out our fantastic review of the game here. Chances are though if you’re clicking this review you have some familiarity with Bombshell’s exploits, and I highly doubt that’s through playing “Bombshell” as I don’t remember seeing any of you at our last meeting!
Much like the main game, Ion Fury: Aftershock is a throwback “Boomer Shooter”, running on the infamous Build Engine that housed such iconic titles as Duke Nukem 3D, Shadow Warrior, and Blood also known as “The Big Three”. Every title I just mentioned has the following things in common: they are all movie parodies, much more interactive than you would expect from an FPS, with witty one-liners, and some of the best levels designed in a tough to use engine. Ion Fury: Aftershock is no exception.
Combat remains mostly unchanged from the core game except for the new weapon, a few new ammo types, and the vehicle section that takes up the middle of the content. First off, the new weapon is a homing rocket launcher, and the new ammo types allow you to deal even more damage, but in the grand scheme of things it doesn’t change too much. There are a few new enemies to fight, including the GDF members who put up a decent challenge, but if you are familiar with Ion Fury, and you should be at this point, the combat isn’t changed in any meaningful way.
The main exception is the hoverbike which, as mentioned, does take up quite a big portion of your time spent with the DLC. You’ll find yourself speeding across the city, through a water system, and eventually into more open-ended “hub” like areas. The hoverbike controls well, which is something I wasn’t expecting, not only for being an FPS but being an FPS using the Build Engine. Not only does it feel natural, but it is cool as all heck speeding across the rooftops with ease while firing an army’s worth of missiles at the popcorn mobs standing between your boot and Dr Heskel’s rear end.
Masterclass In Level Design
The levels in Ion Fury: Aftershock feature some of the best level design for the genre and, dare I say it, outdoes “The Big Three” at a lot of junctures. Whilst it never quite matches the sheer brilliance and insanity of “Heskel’s House of Horror”, which in my opinion was the strongest set of maps in Ion Fury, it comes darn close. The difficulty remains harsh but fair as it was in the base game. The only advantage is you know how to take everything on at this point, and the new enemies don’t add too much of a challenge outside of the first time you come across them.
The campaign starts very similarly to the original, in a bar with Shelly licking her wounds, only this time you’ll be fighting end-game foes within a matter of seconds and already have every weapon from the original game. Following that, you’ll be exploring the city until the mall level where you meet your true love, the Hoverbike. After that it’s a blistering sprint across the town with the volcano in sight. Sadly, the bike doesn’t survive and you enter a horror-inspired area which was my high point before you reach the inconspicuous “secret” lab within the volcano.
There is enough diversity once you leave the first two levels to differentiate it from what came before while feeling familiar, and the horror area has smatterings of Blood and the aforementioned “Heskel’s House of Horror”.
The Aftershock campaign lasts around 5 hours which is a fair bit of time for what is essentially a map pack, but once that is done you can also play the “Arrange” mode for the main campaign. What this does is add the extra enemies from Aftershock into the main game, along with the extra weapons, a few sneaky extras, and mirror maps, making it feel like a bizarrely familiar yet unique experience. This might not be for everyone but I jumped at the chance to play even more Ion Fury in a state that was familiar, but not overly familiar, to me, especially off of the back of the outstanding Aftershock campaign.
Teaching An Old Engine New Tricks
The stage designs are simply outstanding when you consider the witchcraft going on with this 27-year-old engine. Yes it relies on heavy use of sprites, but it manages to make it all look natural. The city looks dense and heavily inspired by Blade Runner, and the stages genuinely look like they could have been real locations. This is the Build Engine at its very best.
The music is a hefty mix of synth-wave and melodic, performing a fantastic juggling act so you know exactly when it’s time to pick up guns or when everything is calmer and you can explore a little more. Voice acting is hammy and over the top as always, Shelly doesn’t seem to have many new lines whereas Jon St John once again gives it his all as Dr Heskel and pulls double duty as the GDF General, truly a legend of voice acting.
If you’re a fan of Ion Fury, or just throwback shooters in general, you owe it to yourself to pick up Ion Fury: Aftershock. The DLC costs about half as much as the original and adds at the very least 5 hours of brand new content, then you factor in the arranged mode and you have a package that’s just too sweet to pass up. There is enough bang for your buck here to keep you engaged in the franchise until the sequel Phantom Fury releases sometime next year. It beats having to play Bombshell again!
ION FURY: AFTERSHOCK IS HIGHLY RECOMMENDED
Thanks to 3D Realms for providing a PC review code for Ion Fury: Aftershock.
Support High-Quality And Detailed Coverage
Want to support the cost of us bringing you these articles or just buy us a coffee for a job well done? Click the Ko-fi button below. You can even find some digital goodies in our shop~!
Pride of utopia & greatest thing ever, I found the One Piece, Collected the Dragon Balls & won the Mortal Kombat Tournament in one night, it was quiet for me that night! Follow me on Twitter @powahdunk