The days of 90’s action icons have been and gone, making way for the modern, more thoughtful action hero of now. However, with the return of the Boomer Shooter, so have the iconic, larger-than-life, one-line touting, arsenal-wielding action stars. Duke Nukem made a comeback in 2011 that didn’t go all that well. But with this failure, came about the rise of a side character who got a chance in her own video game, Shelly Bombshell. Her first main game was not so great either, but then in 2019 developer Voidpoint brought us the magnificent and action-packed ION Fury. It was pretty darn excellent and even better, we’ve just been given an expansion has been brought out to tide us over until the sequel Phantom Fury comes out.
So, how is ION Fury: Aftershock? Read on.What is ION Fury: Aftershock?
Aftershock is the explosive continuation of the base game of ION Fury, taking place a short time after and has Shelly return to active duty in a bid to finally stop her arch-nemesis Professor Jadus Heskel. Expect plenty of action, murderous cultists, explosive weapons and an immense amount of pop culture references and one-liners to make Arnold blush!
With the sequel Phantom Fury currently in the works, Voidpoint thought it would be best to give us another shrapnel-filled venture of carnage, with a few new mechanics and gameplay treats to tide us over. And it’s always very interesting to see what developers can push in an expansion for a game, including a means to right any wrongs, add in mechanics and gameplay features they couldn’t before, and best of all, try out possible elements for the upcoming sequel.
What we get is pretty much the same great Shelly Bombshell action-packed thrill ride, with a few neat additions, including a drivable vehicle. But what else have Voidpoint done to improve an already excellent shooter such as ION Fury?From the Build-Engine with love!
From looking at ION Fury and Aftershock, you would feel they were ripped straight out of 1997, having been made in the legendary Build-Engine, the same used to make the masterpiece Duke Nukem 3D.
We have everything graphically from that era of gaming, including blocky architecture, simplicity in mission structures, and pixel animation gifs for weapons. But games made with this engine were done so with plenty of love and creativity, and this is no different for Aftershock. I’ve always been a massive lover of retro-looking games, as they tend to push the most impressive art styles, use of lighting and colour, and are just brimming with visceral creativity, where anything goes.
The world of ION Fury is still a beautifully detailed one, filled with immense lighting, massive advertisements, and varied environments and nails the dystopian cyberpunk setting, even with simple graphics. It all looks great, and environments are created with vast complexity, feeling true to something in real life.
Older Build-Engine games often crafted realistic environments, with places you would see every day, like Duke venturing through a cinema, prison and so forth, but also managed to pull off in designing more fantastical locations as well. ION Fury and Aftershock do a great job at building a fantastical, yet believable futuristic world, filled with neon-lit bars, and clubs, swanky office complexes, gritty slums and even some neat gothic locations.
It all looks, and sounds amazing, especially with all the in jokes and pop culture references dotted around the place. I will say that Build-Engine games normally didn’t go for a larger scaled environment, and stuck to tightly woven, locations to make the shooting more intense and personal. ION Fury and now Aftershock push the envelope with massive multi-layered arenas and levels that feel like you're traversing an entire world. And a lot of the time it’s good, but in other cases it can feel a little tedious, especially when you venturing back and forth, backtracking the same semi-open area pulling levers and finding keys.
The good thing is that there is always something going on, with new enemies popping in and breaking the boredom. Yet the large environments do again present a problem, as enemies can blend into the background, being hard to register and always having perfect aiming at you. I can get a little annoying especially when you come across enemies in a higher position than you, and the mix of quick-flying enemies, small creeping ones, and long-ranged shooters in an arena that’s quite complex does bring about some frustration.
However, Aftershock just like the base game is visually stunning, and impressively detailed from an engine that’s nearly as old as me! While certain arenas can be a pain, the level design is usually very strong, with clever uses of ambushes, and tight corridors for epic shoot-outs, and is just filled with a staggering amount of charm and character, that the world feels like it has a soul. Be it a dirty one. One-liners, bombs, bullets and bad guys in bits!
And just like any great game made in the Build-Engine, you must have plenty of action, brutality, cool weapons and a tough attitude that will kick your teeth in.
Aftershock does all that ION Fury did, with engaging gunplay, confident level designs that hosted plenty of action and secrets, and above all great pacing that was relentless. But then pushes it just a little further with a couple of new tricks.
The plot of Aftershock is about Shelly being on the run essentially, as her nemesis Professor Jadus Heskel is left off the hook for the crimes he committed, and Shelly is disgraced in the process. As she drowns her sorrows at a local neon-lit bar, heavily armoured troops burst in and a massive lineup of ridiculously brutal and explosive shootouts begin. And right from the get-go Aftershock delivers in the action front, with environments being insanely detailed and highly destructible, making them feel highly organic, but something that feels akin to a John Woo film.
And from level to level, Shelly will be doing all manner of destruction, criminal damage and murdering in the name of capturing and bringing Heskel to justice. There’s even a cool nod to Duke Nukem 3D, where Shelly will arm herself with a wrecking ball to smash down a series of buildings just to clear a path. It’s overkill, and I love it.
Shelly will be able to arm herself with a few weapons, including her classic Lover Boy revolver that holders 18 rounds, and looks like a chunky boy on screen. To having a shotgun, grenade launcher, sub-machine guns, and her iconic Cluster Puck grenade, all dealing massive collateral damage. Each weapon I always found to have an important use, be it for close encounters, crowd control, long distance or even with Shelly’s base revolver being able to target multiple enemies in one sitting. Very useful as the base game’s most annoying enemy makes a return.
For those who may not remember or know, the cybernetic head spiders make a return and in plentiful amounts just like before. So that revolver and the submachine guns come in super handy for them!
All the weapons pack a punch, and I never get tired of seeing retro gaming violence, especially when a crowd of bad guys splatter across the room from a well-placed grenade. But even better is the inclusion of alternative rounds, including gas grenades and explosive pellets which are insanely fun to use. But the enemies also have a few new inclusions of their own, spicing things up and creating a couple of surprising tactics that will end you if you’re not careful. It’s good to see the inclusion of new ammo types and see old enemies packing new tricks to keep you moving and on your toes.
There is only one new weapon which you get halfway through the game, and while it’s a shame there aren’t any more, I will admit that the new weapon, known as the Home Wrecker, is again insanely fun to use, and useful due to its home missile. But while there’s only one new weapon, we do get the different ammo types, and some new power-ups, including a throwable trap that sucks in enemies and sets them on fire.
Again, it’s fricking awesome! Say, that’s a nice hoverbike!
Now the biggest addition for Aftershock is the new Hover Bike, and this does add a whole new layer to level design and the general pacing. Shelly will get the bike early in the game, and be driving it through several locations, blasting her way through blockades and foot soldiers, making frequent stops for loot and items to progress. It reminded me of the driving levels from Half-Life 2, where you could drive around, stop and explore these larger areas, before using the bike to reach the next new area and blast a gather of enemies in spectacular fashion.
The level of destruction when on the bike is ridiculously eye melting, and driving the bike itself is a pure blast due to its speed and the level design causing frantic manoeuvres and plenty of near-death escapes. The bike is an epic addition to the formula and does add in some variety to the combat, and level design. Sadly, you will lose the bike just over halfway in the campaign, which was kind of odd, as it could have been used much more, especially in the endgame as the game does feel somewhat empty without it.
For the last section of the game, there isn’t anything to replace the bike, and the environment you’re in which is an active volcano, could have benefited from the Hover Bike for a cool set piece or two. Instead, we get a rather humdrum and rather abrupt climax that feels as though the developers didn’t have the time or resources to flesh out, before moving on to making Phantom Fury.
It’s not bad per se, as there is still a great moment or two. But the Hover Bike immensely stood out in the expansion and could have been better utilised for the endgame. And there’s not much of an ending per se, just a cut to black after the final boss and seeing Shelly ride off into the sunset as the credit roll. It’s a bit lacklustre and it would have been cool to add a teaser for Phantom Fury maybe.Overall?
ION Fury: Aftershock is a great comeback for Shelly, proving she is one of the next big action heroes in gaming. But this explosive expansion also shows Voidpoint are excellent creators with the Build-Engine, and experts are creating high-octane action epics. The upcoming Phantom Fury has a lot to prove, but I’m sure the final release whenever it may arrive will be the same high-quality action and thrills as the 2.5 games do.
Aftershock’s new mechanics, including the epic Hover Bike sections, are a ton of fun, and only make the already compelling elements such as the great gunplay, highly detailed environments, and world-building even better. There’s still that same level of charm, character, intensity and challenge that made us love ION Fury. I will admit the endgame, ending and a few rough elements brought over from the base game do hold back Aftershock from being this year’s best expansion. Yet it’s still one of the best shooters this year, and I can highly recommend it to fans and newcomers to the adventures of Shelly Bombshell.
++ Enthralling, and brutal action set pieces, gunplay, and detailed destructible environments.
++ Looks and sounds amazing.
++ New mechanics and ammo types are great.
++ The Hover Bike is super cool!
-- Needs more Hover Bike
- Endgame and ending are lacking
- Needs more Hover Bike
A review copy of ION Fury and its expansion were kindly provided by the publisher for this review.