Growing up as a young gamer, the first computer I had access to was an old Apple Macintosh (before they were called Macs of any kind). I still remember that bulky gray box and it’s floppy disc drive. Before my parents figured out what kind of content you would find in games like DOOM II and Duke Nukem 3D, I played these types of games like crazy. Their sudden education in gaming content meant I spent a few years without enjoying those titles again.
Recently we’ve had plenty of those classic shooters pop up on PS4 and I’ve been having a great time as a result. Now, Ion Fury comes to us running on the same engine that made Duke Nukem 3D, but instead of hailing to the king, we’re bowing down to a queen this time. Throw in some modern touches and this looks to be a sleek revival of a classic formula. Does it work in 2020? Let’s find out.
A Shooter Than Fits Well into 1995 or 2020
Ion Fury would have fit very comfortably into the games of the 1990s. Of course, back then things like alternate fire, graphical details, and HD resolutions that we take for granted would have been mind-blowing.
Using the Build engine, which powered classic shooters like Duke Nukem 3D back in the day, the game immediately exudes that classic look and feel. The graphics are sharp and surprisingly detailed, but they all keep their classic retro feel. The explosions especially look awesome.
You play as Shelly “Bomshell” Harrison who got that codename from defusing bombs for the Global Defense Force (GDF). When a mastermind by the name of Dr. Jadus Heskel (voiced by the same actor who did Duke Nukem) sends his cybernetic cult into the streets of Neo DC, you set out for some serious justice.
It’s a simple setup, and in classic 90s shooter fashion, the story doesn’t worry too much about getting in your way. Instead, Shelly will grace you with hilarious one-liners and the villain will use phrases taken directly from period-appropriate music. One early example is when he tells you that “despite all of your rage, you’re still just a rat in a cage,” referencing The Smashing Pumpkins song “Bullet With Butterfly Wings.”
It’s over-the-top, cheesy, and downright hilarious at times. The sheer amount of easter eggs is also impressive. I personally loved a poster for Mark’s relationship counseling service, featuring lines from the infamous cult classic “The Room” with Tommy Wiseau. It’s hilarious, and exactly the kind of humor I want to see in a game paying homage to Duke Nukem 3D and other 90s shooters.
Of course, gameplay is the key here, and I’m happy to report that Ion Fury does a great job of feeling modern without losing what made classic shooters great. The performance is incredibly smooth (barring a small issue I had that I’ll explain in a moment), the arsenal of weapons is varied and interesting, and the spread of difficulties makes it as easy or hard as you’d like.
The alternate fire on some of the weapons really opens up your strategy in Ion Fury, which is a modern touch I particularly enjoyed. Your basic revolver, for example, can paint targets and auto-fire with precise kill shots in a sort of “Dead Eye” mechanic.
Similarly, the shotgun can load grenades for you to launch, the amazing bowling grenade can hone in on targets, and the crossbow can fire a spread of arrows at once. All of these options give you flexibility, and you’re going to need it during some of the more intense firefights.
There are plenty of grunt enemies, but small cybernetic spiders, flying drones, and robotic centipedes are just some of the other types that will destroy you if you’re not careful. All of this is framed in large and varied levels with numerous paths and tons of secrets to uncover.
I especially liked how the secrets weren’t always just finding a hidden wall panel. In fact, some of them will require some serious platforming or sleuthing to seek out. Since this is a 3D shooter, you can expect some environmental platforming between the shooting and explosions.
Circling back to performance, there was minor issue I noticed during my time with Ion Fury. At almost random times, the game would slow down for just a couple seconds. It was odd because it didn’t feel like your typical frame rate drop. There’s no stuttering, but you notice a visual slowdown in specific situations. For me it was usually when I was running through an area or pressing up against a wall to check for a hidden switch. Given that the game moves so fast and smooth normally, this was a noticeable issue. It never seemed to happen during combat, but it was just odd that it would crop up while exploring.
On top of that, I felt like the sensitivity could have used some more options. Right now you can move in increments of 0.5 across the slider, but I would have liked the option to go at 0.1 intervals to really lock in the sensitivity you want. For me, one setting seemed too low and one too high, so something in between would have been perfect.
These are small issues in the grand scheme of things. Ultimately, Ion Fury really nails the look and feel of a classic shooter, without rooting itself so far in the past that it isn’t fun to play on a modern system as a modern gamer.
A Few Small Issues Can’t Stop This Bullet Train
The presentation in Ion Fury is one of the game’s strongest characteristics. The graphics are a perfect balance between a classic look and modern visual standards. The large and complex levels make for perfect playgrounds of destruction, and the secrets are superbly hidden.
Slight performance issues aside and sensitivity preferences aside, this is an excellent homage to the classics. With several difficulty options to choose from, it will also appeal to all levels of gamer skill. It doesn’t reinvent the wheel, but it doesn’t need to. All hail the queen!
Final Score: 8.5/10
A copy of Ion Fury was provided to PS4 Experts for review purposes.
Article by - Bradley Ramsey
Insert date - 5/14/2020