Developer: 3D Realms Entertainment Voidpoint
Publisher: 1C Entertainment
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Version Reviewed: Digital Version
Category: First-Person, Action, Shooter
No. of Players: 1 player
Release Date: May 14th, 2020 (Worldwide)
Price: $24.99 USD
In 2016, Interceptor Entertainment and 3D Realms released Bombshell for Microsoft Windows. The Top-down Shooter was originally meant to be a Duke Nukem game but after a legal dispute with Gearbox Software, the game that would have been titled Duke Nukem Mass Destruction, was given a change in name and protagonist. The game became Bombshell and was named after its leading lady, Shelly ‘Bombshell’ Harrison. It was received mixed reviews by critics that were mostly negative but it didn’t stop the developers with trying again with Ion Fury.
Ion Fury is Shelly Harrison’s second outing and this time as a full-on, first-person shooter. Yet again, the development of this game was not exactly plain sailing. The games were going to be called Ion Maiden but after another legal dispute, this time with the legendary heavy metal band Iron Maiden, or rather their holding company. The dispute was brought on due to the familiar font used in the game’s title name and the possible confusion in the brand that consumers may mistake the game as having something to do with the famous British band.
The game then had its title changed to Ion Fury and was finally released to the world on PC and Linux on August 15th, 2019. The game received much more positive reviews than its predecessor only to have controversy about some unhappy members of the development team and censorship. Ion Fury coming to consoles is a second chance for the game after the debacle of its initial release.
Ion Fury is set in a futuristic dystopian world, in the city of Neo DC. It takes place before the events of the first game Bombshell and follows Shelly “Bombshell” Harrison, a bomb disposal expert who works for the Global Defense Force. Shelly was sitting around in her local boozer nursing her drink when all of a sudden mayhem ensues.
An army of cybernetically-enhanced soldiers and monsters led by the maniacal Transhumanist Cult Leader Dr. Jadus Heskel rampage through Neo D.C, destroying everything in their wake. Seriously narked that her drink was spilled among the chaos, Shelly takes up arms to fight against the abominations and stop Dr. Heskel.
Ion Fury is a first-person shooter cut from the same cloth as Duke Nukem and Blood. You have to navigate your way around vast open spaces and through mazes of corridors to find the exit. Enemies lie in wait to obliterate you at the first chance they get. Armed with your trusty revolver and any other weapon you can find, you must obliterate everything that has the misfortune to find itself in your path.
Each level has multiple obstacles to overcome like finding the appropriate switch to find key cards or re-establish power to open locked doors. They are many secret passageways and areas to find as well that can provide much needed resources like health and weapons or a means to ambush enemies from behind.
Some levels are broken up into several parts and have autosave checkpoints at certain intervals. Should you die, you can respawn at the last autosave. Towards the end of each level, there is a boss fight waiting for you. Depending on the level of difficultly you chose before starting the story campaign, Boss fights can be particularly tough and will exhaust your munitions and health if you are careless. Upon success though, you will restore health but you will still need to find more ammo for your weapons.
All weapons in the game have a default fire option and an alternate that is accessible by pressing the ZL button. The shotgun for example, can use both normal and explosive rounds. The Crossbow can fire a single shot or up to five shots in multiple directions. It is handy to experiment and learn when is best to use a particular weapon that is best suited for the situation.
CONTENT & FEATURES:
Aside from the main campaign, there isn’t much else in the way of content. That said, trying to find every secret is a challenge in itself and will certainly keep hardcore fans entertained a lot longer than casual players. The option to save and load from multiple save slots will allow players to come back and replay levels to ‘improve’ their score on the level.
Due to the expansiveness of the levels, it can be confusing to find your way around. There are two maps you can bring up of the area by pressing the – button that has two variants. They both have benefits and downsides as they are displayed in real-time, meaning the game is not paused while you are looking at the maps. One Map is transparent so you can see what is the world in front of you, yet difficult to see the map itself. The other is an opaque map that you can see easily but obscures your vision to see what could be in front of you.
A most welcome feature is the use of motion controls. It makes aiming at enemies that much easier, allowing for more precise shots without wasting ammo. HD Rumble is another feature that is used to full effect and can vibrate ferociously as explosions erupt on screen.
When it comes to enemies, there are many different types with their own manner of attacks. Some enemies are robed humanoids that fire weapons at you and can sometimes drop ammunition. Other enemies include the likes of spider-like creatures with skulls, a row of bug-like machines that attack together by spewing acid at you, flying drones, and other abominations.
The soundtrack of Ion Fury features energetic, fast-paced electronic music that wouldn’t be remiss in a Matrix film. It might not hold a candle to the soundtrack of the likes of DOOM; it still does a good job in setting the tone of the game.
While there is the option to have a silent protagonist in the audio settings, Shelly Harrison is a fully voiced character with a mouth as blue as a cloudless sky. The talented Valerie Arem who has voiced many characters including Naoto Shirogane from the Persona Series, reprises her role as the voice of Shelly.
The legendary voice of Duke Nukem, Jon St. John takes the role of the villain Dr. Jadus Weskel. It is an interesting twist with St. John usually voicing the anti-hero with a bad attitude. This time around, Valerie takes the role and certainly gives as good as she gets.
VISUALS & PERFORMANCE:
Ion Fury pays homage to the visuals of ‘90s first-person shooters with their blocky textures and by being developed with a modified version of the Build Engine. Each level is made of 3D environments with both 3D models and 2D sprites. The enemies themselves are also 2D sprites that are made up of several images, depending on which direction you are looking at them in relation to which direction they are facing. If you have ever played games like the original DOOM (not the 2016 reboot), Duke Nukem, or Quake, you are pretty much in for the same thing here
Performance is reasonably solid with the exception of a few issues. Transitions between stages is not always fluid and can be very jarring. There have also been some moments where I was facing an enemy to fight him, only to somehow be facing the complete opposite direction. It is a strange bug for the game to have that will be irksome for those playing on higher difficulties.
I have been following the development of Ion Fury for quite some time since it was announced to come to Switch. I loved my classic retro shooters and did wonder how they would fare today against the more modern shooters of today. Ion Fury does extremely well of replicating the experience of retro shooters. It also has a way of feeling fresh and unique as all other games of a similar genre are too busy trying to copy each other.
I found that it is best played for moderate periods of time, neither in short bursts or long sessions. The gameplay is addictive but after time the visuals can be strenuous on the eyes. Fortunately, the ability to save whenever you like and load up from directly means that after a short break you can get right back into the action.
Ion Fury is an immersive first-person shooter with a strong female protagonist that would make Duke Nukem himself blush. A return to form for classic shooters that is as nostalgic as it is fun.
THE VERDICT: 8/10
*A download key was provided by the publisher for the purposes of this review
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This post was written by Mike Scorpio