Developed by Voidpoint, LLC Published by 3D Realms Reviewed on PC
Hype is not in short supply for retro gaming. Ion Fury scratches that 90’s, first person shooter (FPS) itch with its nostalgic Build engine game play. Players will recognize the Build engine from older games like 3D Realms’ Duke Nukem 3D. While Ion Fury uses an updated version of Build, Duke Nukem 3D and FPS fans willfeel right at home playing as Shelly “Bombshell” Harrison. Shelly’s goal is to hunt down and take out cult leader Dr. Jadus Heskel. Heskel’s cult, cybernetic beings, and other non-human creatures have overrun the city. Players will have to navigate and blast through levels to achieve victory.
Ion Fury‘s gameplay is awesome: push all the buttons and shoot down baddies. The whole opening story line fits nicely in the “Read Me” page in the menu along with some helpful tips. The lack of story is not an issue as the focus is on navigating through levels and offing bad guys. Pacing is fast: shoot, shoot more, and move on. There is no auto health regeneration, no modern UI aids, and no checkpoints. Healing and armor rely solely on drops and remembering to use those med kits. This is a good and part of the challenge that made older shooters fun.
Controls are ideal for keyboard and/or keyboard and mouse. Using Steam does offer partial controller support. Controls can also be customized via the menu, but most gamers will be comfortable with the default WASD layout. Weapons can be easily swapped by scrolling the mouse wheel or using the keyboard numbers. The weapon collection in the game has good variety. Shelly has her classic Lover Boy revolver and bowling bombs. Rocket launchers, machine guns, and bows can be found as well and many have secondary options. There are some duel wielding options. There’s a lot for players to experiment with for ideal destruction.
Enemies vary and have several types. Learning their attacks and weapon types will help yet not guarantee a successful victory. Many look like generic color coded cultists or steroid armored zombies. If seen, there is no hesitation, they will attack. Sometimes the sheer number of baddies creates a challenge that gets the adrenaline pumping. High fives are in order for survival. Other times missing hidden enemies or being snuck upon from behind is more worrisome. Like the aggressive, mutant skull bearing spiders. They are a thing, an annoying death inducing thing. Channel Shelly’s rage to mow them down without remorse. Be prepared to die a lot. Thankfully, quick save allows players to reload try again.
The fast pace of play and carnage filled fights are broken up with a smidge of exploration. The levels are well done with tons of hidden secrets abound. Some secrets are an integral part of the game such as finding weapons and key cards to advance, and so forth. This includes finding an air vent to crawl through or maybe picking up some extra full body armor. Or setting up to aim for a headshot not otherwise available. Half the fun is exploring, though clearing the area first is ideal when possible. The game does tell you how many secrets are left when leaving an area. Why not try to hit them all? Look for those easter eggs and have fun with it.
Queen of the Hill mode gives players a break from the main game. As the name implies, the goal is to be the last woman standing. Shelly is provided an machine gun with infinite ammo to fight against timed waves of enemies. Bombardier Trial is in the same vein. It is a run using nothing but bowling bombs. It can be both a Trial as implied or just good practice for blowing stuff up.
Style wise, levels have a sparse retro design aspect but are filled with visual details. Recruiting posters for Heskel and the concerning amount of what appears to be whiskey on desks are just a few examples. Difficulty names throwback to Doom with options like Blood and Gore and Ultra Viscera. This version of Build also allows Ion Fury to use more colors. The improved color palette still pays homage to the nineties style, but is less harsh on the eye. The details on weapons are fairly clear, with small but nice touches rounding out looks. The in game music has a nice beat. It flows with that faster gaming pace. The limited voice acting is decent. However, it can be repetitive. The game menus allow the sound to be adjusted if they are too annoying.
This game isn’t for everyone. It has gore and violence, so it’s not recommended for young children. If story is critical for you, maybe give this game a pass. If looking for fast action, more challenging FPS game play, and a strong female lead, then Ion Fury is a great add. There is no shame in starting on an easier difficulty, the death screen can be as traumatic as the dreaded blue screen of death. The game’s secrets and speed running will challenge battle royale addicted players to something different and adds replayability. While it’s currently PC only, there are plans for future console releases.