13 May 2020 (released)
14 May 2020
Paying homage to the classic build engine games of the 90’s such as Duke Nukem and Shadow Warrior, Ion Fury managed to explode onto the gaming scene last year. Critics and fans were delighted with what Void Point brought us and Shelly Bombshell is set to be a gaming icon at this rate. Thankfully she managed to survive a less than impressive top-down shooter and this FPS venture for the foul mouth chick, has finally arrived onto consoles.
Now we do love seeing games on as many platforms as possible and it’s fairly commonplace to see PC games on consoles after a few weeks/months. But even in 2020, PC ports onto consoles can either be just as good, with the same level or near enough the refinement of the PC version. Or they can be just a massive pain and feel “off” (i.e Daymare’s console port). But come on, this a build engine game so everything should be fine right?
What the hell is Ion Fury?
Ion Fury could be the ultimate homage to the era of shooters which defined the genre. The ultimate recreation of those classic games made with the infamous “Build Engine”, the same engine used to make Duke Nukem 3D (arguably one of the best FPS titles ever). Players will take control of the foul mouth, quick-witted and devilish Shelly Bombshell as she battles deadly, cyber-enhanced cultists in the far future with a range of explosives guns and one-liners.
These deranged extremists are led by a mad scientist voiced by none other than Duke Nukem own John St John. Their goal? Pretty much world domination and extreme violence across the board and Shelly is on the top of their hit list.
While the plot is enough special and keeps it all relevantly simple in tone and execution, Void Point do focus their efforts on the action, pacing, and everything else you’d expect from a solid and engaging build engine game.
In many ways, Shelly / Ion Fury is meant to be the modern-day equivalent of Duke Nukem and in many ways, she doesn’t fail. But Shelly is also something a little more confident and not just a soulless reskin such as the 2016 Ghostbusters reboot. She’s badass, witty, and pretty damn confident behind a gun. She just doesn’t flirt with semi-naked men is all, but does drink and gets pissed when deranged cultists try to kill her.
Presentation and execution
The Build engine is used to great effect, with environments looking pretty damn spectacular, especially when you consider the engine is a three decades old now! There’s a great sense of design as the world around you is highly detailed, featuring small but neat touches with the lighting, use of color, and level of detail to make the world feel substantial. The world of Ion Fury also has a great sense of depth and exploration is fully fleshed out. Those who played the likes of Duke 3D will know a Build engine game will always have a few secrets to find, and Void Point doesn’t disappoint. So of course, your gamer OCD kicks in and you have to go find them, especially when at the end of each level, you’re told how many you didn’t find.
So the environments look great and the soundtrack and voice work is really awesome as well.
The only thing with Ion Fury is that some of the larger environments make combat a little unbalanced. Now on PC, this is not so much a problem but on consoles, it can be a little bit more painful and this is mainly due to how aiming works on consoles. Now a game like Duke 3D used a form of hitscan, where a player can aim their gun and so long as it’s in a general direction of an enemy, they’ll hit the target. This is the same for enemy AIs as they’ll usually have hitscan as well. But it’s a level playing field.
Ion Fury gives enemy AIs hitscan but not you and Shelly, will have to aim with pinpoint precision in order to land a hit. Thankfully most enemies don’t take much in terms of damage and weapons like the revolver have the lock-on and fire feature. But when the fights are a little more frantic or if you make a couple of wrong moves, you’ll be dying, a lot.
I also found from time to time that the PS4 port had a weird lag when rotating the camera either right or left. It feels like a split second is missing and can be a little jarring. But thankfully this was infrequent and it seems like no damage is taken when this happens.
But this reminds me why Build engine games never had big open arenas and in general most FPS titles such as Half-Life (which also uses hitscan in enemy AIs) were often in closed and confined areas/levels. Although at the end of the day Void Point has done a pretty good job regardless and overall the shooting/balancing is solid.
Now speaking of guns!
Guns and blammo!
Ion Fury’s gunplay and action is solid and brutal! There’s a good variety of enemies ranging from cultists, mutants, bigger cultists and ungodly body horror-inspired freaks to sink your bullets into. There are even those smaller, really annoying enemies which take a huge amount of ammo to kill, because they’re too damn fast!
Level design is pretty good too with a nice line-up of locations, filled with secrets, set pieces, and even alternative paths to take allowing a tactical advantage here and there. Voidpoint did a great job at expanding and refining what Duke Nukem 3D did 25 years ago and allows more player choice and freedom when it comes to exploration and attacking. Bosses are pretty sweet and feel like a massive and explosive main attraction!
I will admit the line-up of guns was a little underwhelming but fine for the job. The standouts were the incendiary SMG, Mini-gun, and grenades but overall, it doesn’t feel as inventive as prior build engine games. Shelly does have her revolver as a signature weapon but it’s not that grand or immense as say the Napalm Launcher (Blood), the BFG (Doom) or the LaserKraftWerk (Wolfenstein: The new order). Hell Duke has the Devastator, the Ice-Ray, the shrink ray, the expand ray, and his boot! Sadly Shelly has no signature weapon and while the rolling grenades are pretty cool, they can either work or just fail on the spot.
Overall Ion Fury is pretty awesome and a great reminder of how 90’s shooter can be timeless when made right. More importantly, we need more shooters which don’t over complicate things and just stick to being fun and fluent. Games like Doom Eternal are good but feel bloated and a chore at times. Shelly’s adventure is a refined, smooth, and engaging adventure with plenty of action and despite some small problem, is a total blast from the past.
+ Looks, sounds and plays awesomely
+ Fun filled campaign with plenty of action
+ Good level design and solid gunplay
- Gun selection is slightly lacklustre in the grand scheme of things
- Some arenas layouts make the combat a little unbalanced
A PS4 review key was provided by the publisher for the purpose of this review.