In the past several years there has been a huge amount of retro-inspired or throwback games, that are in some way inspired by the old 80s or 90s games. Ion Fury is not only a game inspired by old FPS games, but it also feels like a missing game from that era.
Ion Fury was developed by VoidPoint, a mainly a group of modders for Duke Nukem 3D and published by 3D Realms. What separates the game from the rest of the retro-inspired game, is the fact that it uses an original Build Engine (the same engine used in Duke Nukem 3D). Technically it uses a port of the engine called EDuke 32, which is a vastly improved of the Build Engine with added features and support for modern operating systems.
The game had a bit of troubling development history, most of them near the end of its development. Since 3D Realms lost the rights for Duke Nukem franchise, they instead based the game on a proposed character for Duke Nukem Forever. Ion Fury also had to change the name from its original title “Ion Maiden”, due to the 3D Realms being sued by the heavy metal band, Iron Maiden. A month before the game’s release the name was officially changed to Ion Fury, and the whole thing was settled.
Ion Fury is a prequel to a previous 3D Realms game, a top-down shooter “Bombshell”.
You play as Shelly “Bombshell” Harrison, a bomb disposal expert working for the Global Defense Force (GDF). A transhumanist leader Dr. Jadus Heskel has released his army of cyber-enhanced soldiers on Neo D.C. and killing Shelly’s colleagues. After a long shift, she goes for a drink in her favorite bar, when she is suddenly attacked by Heskel’s forces. With her drink and night ruined, she sets out to defeat Dr. Heskel and his cyborg army.
Following the suit of the older FPS games, the story is basically non-existent, and it serves as an excuse to start shooting, and it does this brilliantly. The gameplay is fast and smooth, like many old Build Engine games, and it follows the same design philosophies. The arsenal of weapons at your disposal is big and each weapon is equipped with an alternative fire mode. At your disposal you have: Electrifryer (a stun batton, that can also be used to power up certain objects), Loverboy (an 18-barrel revolver, which can also lock-on enemies), Disperser (a shotgun that doubles as a grenade launcher), Penetrator (an SMG, which can also be dual-wield and uses incendiary ammo), Chaingun (your standard minigun), Ion Bow (a devastating weapon, which a devastating alternative mode), Clusterpuck (a mine, which can be used as a trip mine) and a Bowling Bomb (a seeking grenade, which can also be used as a normal grenade).
Overall, a good variety of weapons that are also unique in its design, but this is also one of the rare games that don’t have a rocket launcher or a BFG type of weapon. The weapons are great to use, but they are more practical than, in a lack of a better word original. You won’t see any of the unique weapons you may find in, for example, Shadow Warrior or Blood.
The game is divided into 28 levels, which are divided into seven episodes, here called “zones”. Each level is full of details, references and of course secrets, of which there are many. After the end of each level, you will be shown a number of the secrets that you have found, and as a bonus, there are so-called “mega secrets”. These secrets are will require that you pay attention to details in the level and usually require that you solve a minor puzzle. Also, the game is full of references and Easter eggs, everything from TV shows and movies (old and new), various memes and even developer messages. After completing the level, you will immediately start the next one, without a traditional intermission screen. All of the levels feel like they are connected, which creates a nice sense of flow and continuity.
Most of the levels consist of the industrial and city areas, but the game also throws in a Blood like level, a train level, mine level, etc. There is enough variety to keep the game from getting repetitive.
There are four levels of difficulty and a good variety of enemies. Raging from the simple hit scanning enemies, Ion Bow wielding enemies (which act like snipers), leaping melee enemies, and flying enemies. The most annoying enemy in the game is a small Spiderhead enemy (similar to the headcrabs from Half-Life), and they are all over the place. It’s best to use the Loverboy against them, as it can lock-on targets. However, you must pay attention, because the enemies use the same weapons as you do, and they are equally deadly. It’s quite easy to die on medium and harder difficulty, and they will provide you with a good challenge.
The graphics are great, considering the game uses a port of the Build Engine. Due to this being an improved version of the engine, the game uses voxels, instead of sprites for certain objects (which would certainly destroy a PC from the 90s), and amazing use of effects and lighting. In the game options, you can even choose to set graphics to software mode, for that nostalgic feel.
Ion Fury only has two voice actors: Valerie Arem (Bombshell), and the legendary Jon St. John (Dr. Heskel). They do an amazing job, and Bombshell, much in the same way as the other Build Engine protagonist, uses one-liners. This is a hit or miss, and many of the one-liners are references to TV shows and movies, old jokes, etc. It can get repetitive at times, but at least it tries to make you laugh and Jon St. John does an amazing job as Dr. Heskel. The soundtrack in the game is amazing, composed by Jarkko Rotsten and it uses a nice mix of synthwave and techno. None of the tracks get repetitive, and it will keep you immersed and pumped for more action.
However, this being a Build Engine game, Ion Fury has a problem of overlapping sound effects, but this isn’t a big issue.
Ion Fury is a huge success for both VoidPoint and 3D Realms, and the game already supports mods and level editors, which can ensure it’s replayability and longevity. Soon after its release, the game was struck by an irrelevant controversy, but fortunately, VoidPoint managed to come out on top.
In conclusion, if you are looking for a good FPS or a retro-inspired game, give Ion Fury a try. It feels and plays like a lost game from the 90s, and you will certainly not be disappointed.