Everyone remembers the first video game that they ever played. For some it was Super Mario Bros., while others grew up with Freddi Fish or Pajama Sam. But me, I grew up playing Duke Nukem 3D on our Windows 95 computer. It was Duke who got me into video games and turned me into the gamer that I am today. It was Duke Nukem that put 3D Realms in my mind for the rest of my life. I mean, if I really think about it, it was the game that set me down the long path of becoming a games journalist. It is because of 3D Realms that I have such an affinity for FPS games and why I will always keep my eye on them to see what they can do next. Through their highs and lows as a company I held out hope that one day they could return to form, be it as a developer or a publisher. That is why it is such a fantastic feeling to see that in 2019 they have published Voidpoint’s new retro FPS title, Ion Fury. Let me just say this up front, Ion Fury is one of the best FPS games I have ever played and is the most fun I have had with an FPS title since Doom (2016). Read my full review to find out why!
Publisher: 3D Realms
Platform: Windows PC (Reviewed), Linux
Release Date: August 15th, 2019
If you have played classic Doom or Duke Nukem 3D, you will understand the fundamentals of Ion Fury. It does not set out to revolutionize the classic FPS genre, rather it uses the classic Build Engine to buff out any dents and craft an experience that can appeal to both classic and modern fans alike.
The player runs around with a host of weapons in their arsenal, all of them awesome and unique twists on classic guns. The main objective of Ion Fury is to run around the map, killing enemies and finding colored keycards to open doors to make it to the exit.
Keeping with tradition, the maps of Ion Fury are filled to the brim with secrets for the player to find, and as the player moves into a new zone or level, the game will inform you how many secrets that were missed before they move on. This game is old school with new paint, and I love it.
As far as weapons go, there is a wide range of tools of destruction. Everything from a revolver, sub machine guns, shotguns, crossbow, grenades, landmines, chainguns, and more.
To ensure that the games do not feel the same as they do in other games, Voidpoint has gone out of their way them more unique. Instead of a submachine gun, why not a submachine gun that sets people on fire?
Instead of just a shotgun, how about a shotgun that transforms into a grenade launcher? These small touches are what make Ion Fury so cool in my opinion.
I mean, it took me three hours to realize that the revolver had an alternate fire mode that allows you to target multiple enemies and kill them by fanning the hammer. I felt like a proper cowboy in the Ol’ West cutting down my foes until I ran out of ammo before swapping to something else.
The story of Ion Fury is practically non-existent, which is actually a benefit rather than a detriment. Why bog down your fast-paced action game with a complex narrative when all you really need to know is that there are bad guys and they need to be shot in the face?
The gist of the story from what I was able to gather is that an evil cult leader has release an army of cyborgs to take over the Neo D.C. and our protagonist Shelly “Bombshell” Harrison has to fight her way to him to stop him once and for all. Ion Fury is actually a prequel to the game, Bombshell, which I have not yet played of writing this review.
After the cyborgs attacked the city, Bombshell uses her large arsenal of weapons to shoot, maim, and mangle anyone who stands in her path. That is really it, there is nothing more to the point. There is no heart-wrenching father and daughter post-apocalyptic storyline.
The is no revelation that you are the villain all along. The game does not bother you with philosophical questions about modern-day politics or the military industrial complex. Ion Fury is the kind of game that wants you to just sit back and enjoy the fun, something that more games should strive to do.
Perhaps the most appealing aspect of Ion Fury to me is the graphics. The game is a classic pixel art game. It is not more complex than 2D sprites on a 3D plane, but even though the game is classically designed, it is still absolutely beautiful to look at.
Voidpoint and its guest artists have done a great job at pushing the Build Engine to its limit to create a game that awesome to look at. The graphics, animations and personality of Ion Fury are amazing.
From the neon lights and grimy city streets to the blood and gore that splashes across the pavement, Ion Fury just pulls it off so well. In fact, it might be the best example of this kind of pixel graphics game.
The sound quality of Ion Fury is also good. Unlike the graphics, they have chosen to go down a cleaner more modern route for the audio, which was the right decision.The gunshots, enemies, voice lines, and music all do a great job at rounding out this goofy throwback title.
Before I move into my final thoughts with Ion Fury, I feel like I would be remiss if I did not at least touch upon the controversy that has somewhat marred Ion Fury’s launch. Now, if you are a member of the Niche Gamer Discord (you should be) and took part in the conversation I had about the game, you might know how I feel about the controversy in a nutshell, but if you were not there, let me reiterate. There are two things that were brought up that created this situation, one was within the game, the other in an out-of-bounds area that you can only get to by cheating.
In my opinion, the out-of-bounds area should not have happened, it seems stupid and short-sighted, as though the developers have not learned anything about the current culture and climate surrounding video games as a whole. To conflate that with the soap bottle in the game is, to me, comparing apples to oranges. While I do believe that Voidpoint should not have put in that out-of-bounds message, I am also of the belief that, at this point, there is no reason to remove it from the game. I am happy that they reversed their decision about the content’s removal.
At this point, what is done is done, and the people who are the most upset, were never going to buy the game in the first place, I am glad they acknowledged this and have moved on. So while I do not agree with the message, I do think that they have handled this situation in the best way they possibly could. Besides, if you focus more on that out of bounds message and a soap bottle than all the awesome stuff that Ion Fury has to offer, you are not the target audience that they should be trying to appeal to.
If I had to describe Ion Fury in a single word, that word would be: awesome. Everything that Voidpoint set out to do they achieved and surpassed. While I was excited to get my hands on Ion Fury, part of me was afraid that it would rely too heavily on nostalgia while not offering me anything else after the feel had passed. Luckily, they did not rest on their laurels and instead pushed the game to its limit. They set out to polish up a classic game formula to make sure that people know that in 2019 these kinds of games are still awesome.
Ion Fury will sit on my list of potential Games of the Year and once this review is done, I am going to keep going back to play it some more. This is the perfect game to sit back, crack open a drink and just enjoy yourself with. It is filled to the brim with fun, charm, secrets, and content. I hope to see player generated content soon as well, custom maps will ensure that the fun never ends.
From its graphics to the gameplay, Ion Fury is everything I wanted and more in a bite sized 90mb download. Ion Fury does not rely on nostalgia alone and instead takes the charm of classic FPS games and pushes the boundaries of what can be done, creating a new standard for retro games going forward.
Ion Fury was reviewed on Windows PC using a review copy provided by 3D Realms. You can find additional information about Niche Gamer’s review/ethics policy here.