If you loved the likes of Duke Nukem 3D, Blood, or Shadow Warrior back in the 90s, Ion Fury is going to tick PLENTY of boxes for you. Heck, it’s even built on the same in-game engine as those, with its old-school gunplay and maze-like levels bringing on plenty of nostalgia as players go on a 90s-inspired shooting romp. The game has just launched on consoles this past week, so what better time than now to dive into its action?
Ion Fury puts you in the shoes of Shelly ‘Bombshell’ Harrison, a member of the Global Defense Force who finds herself facing off against the cybernetic cult of the vicious Dr. Jadus when he unleashes his army on the neon-lit streets of Neo DC. You know what that means, right? Plenty of running, gunning, killing, and body-parts exploding as you embark on a dangerous adventure across each of the game’s missions.
It’s the sort of over-the-top tale you’d expect from an old-school shooter, though you probably won’t worry about it too much when you’re playing – whilst there are story details to be witnessed, the action is at the forefront. One thing you will definitely notice is the familiarity of the voice of game antagonist Dr. Jadus, who is voiced by none other than Duke Nukem himself (or Jon St. John if we’re going to be specific about it). Not only did this feel like a brilliant nod to one of the classic shooters that inspired Ion Fury, it also felt especially fitting given that 3D Realms are behind the game. Talk about a blast to the past…
On the gameplay front, Ion Fury keeps things simple: you’ll blast through an assortment of levels, kill a ton of bad guys, uncover secrets, and then shoot your way through boss battles to conclude each of the game’s chapters. If you played a shooter back in the 90s, you’re going to feel right at home.
Given the 90s style setup, you can expect very open exploration in Ion Fury with the levels often taking a maze-like approach where you’ll really have to scour your surroundings to figure out where you have to go next. Admittedly, this could prove a little frustrating at times, especially when you’re stuck looking for a key card across a large open area – there are no in-game objective markers either (this is an old-school game after all), so it’s not as if you’re pointed in the direction of where you need to go. Thankfully, the in-game map clearly shows areas that you’ve explored already, whilst those that are acclimatised with these kinds of old-school shooters will probably appreciate the need to explore anyway.
Shooting aficionados will be glad to see there’s a decent arsenal of weapons at your disposal in Ion Fury, with players able to use the likes of the Loverboy (a revolver), the Disperser (a shotgun), the Penetrator (a machine gun), the Bowling Bombs (grenades you can roll) and the Ion Bow, just to name a few. These are all pretty effective at killing enemies and they all have both primary and secondary functions, which gives players more diversity as far as their killing methods are concerned. It’s certainly a creative selection of weapons and you’ve got something that’s perfect for each different enemy or scenario you may face in the game.
Personally? I found the Disperser the most effective weapon and the one I kept coming back to, with its powerful shotty blasts and its secondary grenade launching functions making it the BEST way to take down your enemies. That being said, there’s no better satisfaction than lining up the perfect Bowling Bomb to take out a small group of foes…
It’s worth noting that Ion Fury is old-school in all aspects of its design, meaning your health isn’t going to recharge if you find yourself taking some damage. Of course, there are a decent supply of health pickups to be found across each level, so you’ll never feel like the odds are against you TOO much. Still, it does mean you’ve always got to be prepared, so heading into an encounter with minimal health may see you meeting a quick and grim end – especially with how tough the game can be. 90s shooters were never easy and that’s certainly the case with Ion Fury too.
It is these old-school elements that make Ion Fury so enjoyable to play though, with the addictive gunplay, the expansive and secret-filled levels, and the creative weaponry and enemies all coming together to make for a really fun shooting experience. It really does feel like it has come STRAIGHT from the 90s, but in the best possible way. I have plenty of fun memories playing the likes of Duke Nukem and Blood in my younger year, so playing something that captures the vibe of them so perfectly in the modern day felt especially satisfying.
I’ve got to give a shout out to the visuals too. Whilst they certainly don’t have the depth and detail seen in modern shooters (yes, enemies still look like walking cardboard cutouts), their vibrant design and the creative selection of environments you visit ensure that the world is full of nostalgic charm.
That’s not to say that there aren’t some flaws though, with the enemy AI proving to be pretty dumb at times. They’d stand around as easy targets and wouldn’t fire my way on occasions, whilst other times I’d notice them seemingly run into the wall or a nearby obstacle without reacting. Obviously, Ion Fury is a pretty tricky game so it isn’t a common issue, but there will be times when you’ll be left baffled at the actions of your enemies. The boss encounters could also be a bit underwhelming too, with the bigger battles just feeling a little dull in design. They all followed patterns that were easy to get to grips with and I felt like they tested my patience more than my shooting skills.
Ion Fury is a brilliant love letter to the shooters of the 90s thanks to its satisfying gunplay, old-school level design, and creatively brutal weaponry. It does have some imperfections here and there with the boss battles in particular standing out as one of its more underwhelming features, but overall there’s plenty here for nostalgia-loving shooting fans to enjoy as they blast through the game’s lengthy campaign.
Publisher: 1C Entertainment, 3D Realms
Platform(s): Nintendo Switch (Reviewed), PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC