There are two methods to play a neo-retro shooter like Ion Fury. One: embrace its zippy motion such as you’re speedrunning a ’90s motion film, twitching and snapshotting your manner by way of corridors. Two: meticulously run your eyes and arms alongside each pixelated floor till you have combed all the map for secrets and techniques.
2019 is tiny renaissance for brand new FPSes impressed by outdated FPSes. The place Amid Evil and Nightfall conjured the spirit of Quake and Heretic, Ion Fury is made by the precise studio that created Duke Nukem 3D, in a retrofitted model of the unique Construct Engine. It is the gaming equal of a band reuniting for a brand new album 20 years later.
Ion Fury does recreate lots of the issues that made Duke Nukem 3D nice. An motion hero’s arsenal. Tacky one-liners. Brilliant, expansive environments are dense with enemies and hard-to-spot secret passages. At one level I needed to stun an enemy with my electrified baton, crouch-jump onto their cranium, and leap to a ledge with the intention to attain a hidden space.
However because it doubles down on the previous, Ion Fury retains a few of that period’s limitations, too: dead-simple boss habits, paper-thin storytelling, and a modest feeling of repetition towards the tip of its 10-hour marketing campaign. Nonetheless, it is potent nostalgia for anybody with affection for or curiosity about ’90s FPSes.
VIDEO: A pattern of Ion Fury’s speedy fight movement, capped off by a minor Easter Egg.
Regardless of its deep connection to Duke Nukem, Ion Fury’s tone is surprisingly totally different. Supercop heroine Shelly Hamilton (initially written as Duke’s sidekick in Duke Nukem Eternally) is not the crass, over-the-top parody that her crew-cutted cousin is. She drops catchphrases, however they don’t seem to be crude. The enemies she shoots are equally severe, a military of cloaked troopers and some spooky man-machine hybrids which are miles away from pig cops in a strip membership.
Ion Fury feels a little bit extra like RoboCop Doom—self-aware, however not actually foolish—than it does Duke Nukem, then. And whereas I believe that the sport’s setting is definitely one in all its greatest features, there have been occasions that I missed the outright stupidity of Duke, notably in Ion Fury’s comparatively vanilla weapon set.
You have shot most of those weapons earlier than. Typically 3D Realms’ strategy is to take the style staples that’ve sat alongside your keyboard’s quantity keys for years and plug in little variations on the alt fireplace button. You possibly can dual-wield the SMGs, which ignite enemies with incendiary ammo. You possibly can spin the chaingun with out firing it, like Crew Fortress 2’s Heavy. You possibly can load the shotgun with shells or pipe grenades, which does not a lot really feel like an thrilling alt-fire mode because it does a manner of merging two typical weapons.
The weapons are a little bit too acquainted. Given its mad scientist villain and near-future setting, I needed Ion Fury to place one thing ridiculous in my arms. The closest the sport involves a bona fide BFG are explosive discs that erupt right into a fats cloud of cluster bombs. And there is the Bowling Bomb, a rolling grenade that homes-in on enemies if you cost it up—playful, however a little bit too fire-and-forget for my liking. It feels good to crack open a door and detonate a whole room with one in all these throwables, however you’ll find weirder weapons in Duke Nukem fan mod Alien Armageddon, which presents rolling turret bots, an ice cannon, and an RPG that lobs miniature nukes. Is it flawed to count on a retro shooter to ship one thing new?
Different gripes: I do not love how efficient the shotgun is at longer ranges as a result of it means I not often put it down. Auto-aim kicks in often and cannot be disabled, a specific annoyance on single-shot weapons just like the vitality crossbow.
The weapons individually underwhelm, however they work effectively sufficient as a crew. Like most nice ’90s FPSes, Ion Fury feels greatest if you dash into hazard after which improvise your manner out of it, biking between 5 – 6 weapons as you crouch-dodge, circle-strafe, run out of ammo, and lunge for a well being package. Headshots are a welcome trendy element, and the sensation of melting Ion Fury’s primary enemy with a single revolver flick would not get outdated. Runner-up: rebounding a pipe grenade off a door body to frag the cultist ready inside.
Ion Fury’s hand-placed enemies are sometimes ready to ambush you round corners, and so they put up a superb battle. Cyborg skulls with spider legs dangle on the ceiling prepared to leap on you when you do not lookup. Legless jetpack monstrosities fling strains of micro rockets at you, filling corridors with splash harm. My favorites had been the cellular minibosses which emerge midway by way of the sport and at last compelled me to backpedal. It is essential to select a problem degree that challenges you, as you may’t change this setting mid-campaign (though Ion Fury’s seven chapters may be launched individually).
However Ion Fury’s chapter bosses are much less dependable. They definitely examine the nostalgia field with their easy scripting and exploitability. At their greatest, you are leaping round an enormous room at full pace with the intention to beat them, emptying each gun you are carrying. At their worst, you are standing nonetheless and unloading eight uninterrupted grenades right into a cybernetic tank man who’s been outsmarted by stairs. 3D Realms’ reluctance to carry an excessive amount of of the current into Ion Fury hurts the sport right here.
In the event that they Construct it, we’ll come
Nonetheless, 3D Realms’ love of the style is tangible inside Ion Fury’s ranges. I like the sport’s shade palette, the coat of blue-grey textures and sprites that stick with you as you shoot your manner by way of slightly-futuristic cities and underground labs, partitions which are coated with variously easy-to-spot references to Doom, Duke, Half-Life, and different video games of the period. The entire world appears like its been marinating in its personal juices since 1996, and virtually each nook feels hand-crafted. At one level I stumbled right into a Hogan’s Alley police coaching course combined with paper targets and enemies. Behind a bar, I threw Bowling Bombs down a literal bowling alley crawling with cyborg spiders. A few dank, muddy sections are the one exception.
True to its retro inspiration, Ion Fury depends virtually solely on coloured safety keycards to gate progress by way of these ranges. And even more true to these Nukem roots, the opposite manner that Ion Fury opens doorways is with explosions (these are so frequent that Shelly ultimately remarks in exasperation that each time she touches a button, one thing blows up). These paths are laid out elegantly. Each degree builds in an quantity of enjoyable backtracking, and delicate signposting implies that you’re feeling good if you make your manner by way of the maze.
It is value noting that Ion Fury’s Construct Engine spine would not current any technical points. The sport helps widescreen resolutions and an FOV vary of 70-120, and an fps cap of 240—Ion Fury is likely one of the uncommon video games that you’re going to most likely be capable to hit that ceiling when you’re working a variable refresh show. Quicksave and quickload are proper there on F6 and F9, however you may restrict the variety of saves or disable checkpoints for a extra spartan expertise.
Even alongside different current, glorious retro FPSes, Ion Fury reminds us of how a lot this era of PC gaming has to supply. It is absolutely the very best factor that is ever occurred within the Construct Engine, and though limitations of enemy and weapon design reveal themselves over time, the swift motion and glossy maps make Ion Fury a worthy indulgence up to now.