First Person Shooters have been a lucrative genre since inception, mostly down to the overwhelming, and continued success of the DOOM franchise. The ’90s were where it was at. The dawn of a new age. The coming of death, blood, monsters, and more importantly – puns. It was a glorious time. A rampageous time. But then it all faded into obscurity. Once the nineties had gone, the shooters of old ceased to be relevant (for the most part). Thankfully we nineties kids aren’t dead yet, so some dedicated, crazy, and likely rad developers have decided to kick ass and chew bubblegum – one last time. This is Ion Mai- I mean Ion Fury…yeah…Fury…
You play as Shelly “Bombshell” Harrison – a streetwise, slightly murderous, gutter mouthed cop who patrols the chaotic streets of Neo DC. A neon metropolis under constant, eternal, violently upheld martial law. Like any cop in such a horrific future, she has quite the thirst for a tasty cup of watered-down potato piss, which is where everything goes wrong. A bomb goes off, she drops her drink and now she’s pissed beyond all belief. Off you toddle on a murderous rampage to avenge your fallen beverage and put a stop to the nefarious Dr. Heskel.
The story is simple, to the point, and has it’s tongue so far in its cheek, it may have actually burrowed out of its face and began gently caressing you. The game wants you to sit down, pick up your revolver, and go killing within 10 seconds – it succeeds. Which is great, because the combat on offer here is absolutely top-notch. You begin with one of the greatest pistols of all time – a disgustingly powerful revolver. This bad boy can take down fodder in one, maybe two shots without any problem at all. But that’s not all, Shelly has access to a chunky, crunchy, body popping shotgun(that doubles as a fricken grenade launcher), homing grenades (which are as awesome as they sound) and SMGs that fire incendiary rounds – just to name a few. The arsenal is rather cast by today’s standards, and every weapon is viable. There is no fluff here, that’s for sure. Each weapon even comes with an alt-fire, which adds even more variety to your wanton carnage.
What truly makes this a classic, “Old-School” FPS however, is the speed at which Shelly moves. It often feels like our wonderful protagonist has rocket-powered, nuclear-fuelled, rollerblades attached to her heels. In under a second, she will take off at max speed, breaking the sound barrier, showing Shadowfax the true meaning of haste. This speed allows Shelly to dodge bullets with ease, and with the eyes of a hawk, you can combine this with your pew-pewing to effortlessly (ok, maybe some effort is required) take out whatever hapless cultist happens to be in your way. Somewhat hilariously, Ion Fury also comes with a “walk” button, so if you want to go at a slower pace, then you can enjoy the flipped trope.
Enemy variety is a little bit lacking unfortunately, with many of the early game enemies being simply robed dudes packing various armaments with the occasional shotgunner who is desperate to ruin your day. Things do get spicier as the game goes on, but it would have been nice if they’d given us a tad more variety. That being said, Ion Fury is not a pushover and these enemies will rip you to shreds if you lose concentration for a second – even on Normal mode. It is not uncommon for you to take a face full of buckshot, or a torso full of crossbow bolts, only to come to the stark realization you are either dead or so close to death that you panic and die shortly afterward. This is not an easy game by any stretch of the imagination, and newcomers to this style of shooter should absolutely consider playing on Easy, which essentially gives you power armor in comparison…and power armor is for pussies.
When you’re not maiming, burning, or killing, you will be exploring the varied locales on your journey to retribution. Each level is large, somewhat sprawling, and most certainly maze-like. An unfortunate affliction brought on by the ’90s, like N-sync and the Spice Girls. I found myself looking for keycards to open doors a few too many times for my liking, and the general lack of direction is a bit of a hassle at times. Luckily you are equipped with a pretty fantastic map, but I do wish they had done more to smooth out this dated design choice.
Graphics and Sound
You absolutely cannot talk about Ion Fury without mentioning its mind-blowingly beautiful graphics. Unreal Engine 5 can take a running jump because this revamped Build Engine looks amazing. Big, chunky voxels, pixels gloriously on display all bathed in neon, blood, and corpses. It is a sight to behold. Being pretty is one thing, but Ion Fury goes one step further and brings the Build Engine’s interactive capabilities to the table. Practically everything can be interacted with, or destroyed. Do you want to shoot each individual wine glass off of a bar? Do it. Wreck some vending machines for some healing sugar water? Be my guest. Pixel art gets old, but the build engine is timeless. Of course, if you’re a stickler for realism, then this probably won’t appeal to you, but everyone else is in for a treat.
All of this is backed up by a fantastic soundtrack that is, as is to be expected at this point, draped in the nineties…everything. It gets the blood pumping, the adrenaline flowing. You want to get out there and kill literally everything, at all times. As you’re doing it, Shelly will be throwing out some of the cringiest one-liners ever uttered. It is great stuff, made even better by the brilliant John St. John, better known as the voice of Duke Nukem.
Despite all of the unbridled joy I have for this title, I must now address the elephant in the room: Performance. Ion Fury on the Nintendo Switch is locked at 30FPS and does an admiral job of at least attempting to keep it steady. Frames do drop however and 30FPS does little to assist you in killing things, at high speeds, with precision. Controls become too clunky, you begin to waste too much ammo and the game just becomes less fun. Heck, I even got headaches at times. 30FPS is mostly fine, for most games. But a combination of jet boots, visuals, and sluggish aiming hurt me in ways I can’t adequately explain.
Ion Fury is one of the best games I have played this year. It is a fantastic throwback to a time before military shooters were a thing. It is the lovechild of all things nineties and deserves to be played by everyone…on a different system if at all possible. If you buy this on Switch with any other platform available to you, then you will feel like you’ve eaten some cake you probably should have avoided – like a regretful diabetic.
ION FURY IS RECOMMENDED
Unless you’re playing on Nintendo Switch – Then it’s just kinda recommended.
Ion Fury can be purchased digitally for PC on Steam or Humble Bundle. It can be bought digitally for Nintendo Switch, PlayStation or XBox store via the respective consoles.
Many thanks to 3DRealms for the review copy.
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Forged in the rainy wilds of northern England, I carved a path of mediocrity through generations and genres. My play style is often described as: “optimistically awful”.