Ion Fury Review – What A Bombshell
I didn’t grow up on games like DOOM and Duke Nukem 3D. I’m pretty sure my first ever actual hands-on experience with a game like that was DOOM 3, and that wasn’t really a DOOM game, just a horror one. However, I still do look back upon the genre of early FPS games fondly, as it is what led us to such a wonderful assortment of good shooters… and bad ones, but let’s not dwell on the past! Now, with the aesthetic of retro shooters returning with a vengeance thanks to games like DUSK and STRAFE, there are plenty opportunities to bring back the old look of DOOM and Duke. And Ion Fury seems to be that game.
Ion Fury is a first-person shooter developed by Voidpoint and published by 3D Realms. Looking to be a throwback to the shooter games of old, Ion Fury takes on a more retro aesthetic, even going so far as to use the same engine as Duke Nukem 3D and Blood, the Build Engine.
More Than A Pretty Face
The story takes place in the future city of Neo D.C. You play as Shelly ‘Bombshell’ Harrison, a former bomb defuser-turned-leader of the Global Defense Force. One late night, while trying to enjoy a drink, the city becomes invaded by a transhumanist cult led by one Dr. Jadus Heskel. Armed with a baton and her trusty Lover Boy revolver, Shelly takes it upon herself to rid the city of this threat.
There isn’t much to say towards the writing. Ion Fury’s story is fine, I guess. It does what it needs to do; comes and goes like a weak breeze, faint and altogether unimportant. Shelly is a decent first person shooter protagonist, delivering stupid jokes and one liners with confidence. Other than that, it’s nothing more than your average stupid 90’s shooter plot. Let’s move on to the game.
Reminiscent of the Past
Ion Fury feels like any other first person shooter from the ‘90s. It’s pretty simple: you run fast and you shoot, and the game doesn’t try to do anything new with that. You run around, shoot, explore, find secrets, get the colored keys, etc. It knows what it is. Though I did find the default sensitivity to be a little high, I was able to turn it down a little bit to make it my cup of tea. Oh, and since my version is on the Switch, there are motion controls if you prefer a little chaos in your life.
So you start off in the center of the conflict, Neo D.C., fending for yourself in some trashy bar, even though it was a good looking trashy bar. With what they were given, Voidpoint was able to make Ion Fury look great. Though it borrows the look of older games, it manages to do more with it, making the 2D and 3D aspects compliment each other well once again. The sprite work is well done, not to mention the animations of said sprites, nearly reaching that smooth look.
Neon Lights and Blood
Cyberpunk is a rather favored genre of mine, and there was plenty to look at. The environment design, at least within the city areas, was exquisite. If you’re a fan of cyberpunk, the first half or so of this game won’t disappoint. Ion Fury is actually pretty in some areas, and visually enticing in others. There will always be something to look at, easter eggs to find, and, like any first person shooter worth its mettle, secrets to discover.
Once you get to about the halfway point, however, the environments kinda begin to drop off. Not to say they look bad, quite the opposite, but I just found myself missing the city areas. All the latter half of Ion Fury had to give me was one level that actually interested me, then nothing more.
Synth To Sate Blood Thirst
What doesn’t begin to drop is the music. Every first person shooter needs to have a killer soundtrack to match the pace of violence, and Ion Fury delivers. Each stage has its own track that matches the speed of gameplay, playing nothing but the best that only pushed you further as you rain terror upon your foes.
The extent of that terror is no less wide. The weapons you collect throughout Ion Fury all serve a purpose, and not one of them feels out of place, from the electric baton to the incendiary SMGs. Even in the late game, I always found a need for the revolver you start off with, as its secondary allows me to lock onto flying targets and take them down quick. There isn’t a weapon that particularly feels bad to use, and the results are always devastating. Plenty of gibs to go around.
Much of the satisfying feel of the guns is attributed to the sound design, of which Ion Fury has in spades. Due to the fact that there seems to be no vibration, the sound has to pick up the slack, making sure each pull of the trigger gives you that feeling of holding true firepower in your hands. In addition, you’ll never not know what’s around you, due to the wide variety of enemy sounds you can always figure out what’s waiting around the corner.
Time To Kick Ass
Ion Fury has no shortage of enemy variety. Though you start off in the first area with the basic machine gun toting cult member, gradually things begin to ramp up, adding many different foes to shoot to pieces. Later in the game, they’ll basically just start throwing mini bosses your way, which, although they are visually interesting, are mechanically bothersome.
Due to this, the game never gets easy, only harder, even if its version of making things harder is just throwing more enemies at you, some of which will get stuck on geometry because their AI is only telling them to kill you and nothing more.
Now, while fighting the enemies can be fun and engaging, the next step up doesn’t do much for me.
Ion Fury has horrible bosses. They aren’t fun, just annoying. They don’t provide much of a challenge, just testing how good you are at running in circles, shooting, and saving. As their health whittles down, they won’t change phases like a normal boss does to make things different or interesting. No, they’ll just spawn more enemies to annoy you as you’re trying to focus on the big guy. In fact, there’s one boss that you fight on an elevator, and later on there’s a “mega” version of it, where being “mega” means just having additional enemies to fight. It just felt like busy work.
That’s a fairly easy way to describe some parts of the later game of Ion Fury. Busy work. Many a time you’ll have to go on another colored key hunt, get surprised by enemies, kill them, and move on. Again and again, with very little to differentiate besides the enemies and weapons. The guns are fun, the enemies are mostly fun, but once the environments start to downgrade, so does the fun factor, because they’ll just keep throwing more at you. It gets stale once you reach the late game. I was hoping I would reach the end soon a little after the halfway point.
It’s also at the late game, specifically on the Switch, that you’ll begin to see some problems. Ion Fury is pretty polished, there aren’t too many issues that I could notice. At least, until the performance began to drop.
Holy hell, that performance. It can get pretty bad, and it mostly happened during boss fights where I needed those frames the most. Suffice to say, the performance was actually ruining the experience at times, getting me frustrated because I died due to some poor optimization. The last boss fight was actually nothing but poor performance, something I had to fight through with gritted teeth.
When it was all over, I was relieved, because I was hoping for Ion Fury to end. It’s a fun game, and if you’re a die-hard retro shooter fan, you’ll probably have a ball with it. Maybe I am just too young to feel nostalgic, but my interest waned. The only reason I beat it was so I could feel credible talking about it in this review.
While Voidpoint did a fantastic job bringing us back to the 90’s with Ion Fury, with visuals and mechanics to match those of the past, I just found myself wanting it to end. It felt like it dragged and should’ve ended sooner, yet it kept going. I enjoyed my time with the first half, enjoyment which dropped once the halfway point hit. I hope they can improve upon what was built here.
Not Quite There
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Game reviewed by Freelance7 on the Nintendo Switch. Game provided by 1C Entertainment and 3D Realms.