Sometimes video games make me feel old.
Their mechanics can be unforgiving to my 30+ year old fingers, and I feel alienated and sad as I crawl my way towards ‘getting gud’.
So many bullets, so little time
Instead, Ion Fury ends up being one of the most exciting games I have played in 2019, because my long dormant shooter muscles recognise this kind of gameplay. It’s a classic shooter with one goal – to capture the essence of what made classic shooters fun. That frenetic gameplay where you click the mans and they die. It feels like a close relative to legendary games like Blood, Shadow Warrior and of course Duke Nukem 3D.
For the uninformed, Ion Fury was that game that apparently got sued for two million dollars by the band Iron Maiden – because it was originally named Ion Maiden. The more impressive point is the fact that it was developed using an offshoot of the original Duke Nukem 3D BUILD engine: EDuke32, meaning that a title released in 2019 is running on an engine that technically dates back to nearly 25 years ago.
This means that Ion Fury has a plethora of rudimentary 3D assets, 2D sprites and lo-fi sound design. I was genuinely shocked when I saw my Steam install base for the game wasn’t going to break 70 MB. I actually thought I was downloading a launcher, and the actual install proper would follow afterwards. But no, within seconds I had launched the full release of Ion Fury, and a few seconds later I was blasting baddies.
It fits so comfortably within the confines of its extremely focused scope that you can’t help but respect a job that has hit its mark
Ion Fury oozes old school charm, full of meaty gunshots and pixelated blood. Without much ceremony you step into the riot boots of Shelly “Bombshell” Harrison, blasting through a horde of cyborg douchebags on the streets of Neo D.C; the bad guys spilled her drink – she’s going to spill their blood. Shelly feels like she is sprinting at full speed around every corner, firing recoilless bullets at enemies that emerge from every dark alley, collecting key cards and dropping one-liners. This is a product that knew what niche it was destined to fill, and has been built to hit that goal perfectly. Narrative? Sure, we have one – but wouldn’t you rather be blasting bad guys?
Sound design is on point, stretching the technology to its limit. Bad guys creepily murmur so you definitely know they are lurking, guns have fantastic aural feedback and explosions have that crispy old-school edge. Music can err on the side of repetitive, but it’s classic drum and bass that harkens back to the simpler days of yore and feels difficult to criticise – in fact it feels deliberate. You only really notice the repetition in brief sections when you run out of enemies to shoot (rarely) as you backtrack for a secret you may have missed.
What you get is a game that feels almost heritage listed, built from the right materials to stand alongside its predecessors, but with the right amount of clout to still be taken seriously. It’s nothing to shake the foundations of classic shooters, but it fits so comfortably within the confines of its extremely focused scope that you can’t help but respect a job that has hit its mark.
Bar fights are more fun with laser crossbows
Ion Fury is a game that fully understands its mission – designed from the ground up to capture a particular experience and not stray from it with unnecessary innovation or interpretation. It would be easy to call the game unambitious, simply because it does not aim to destroy and reinvent your expectations – but it ends up doing something far more praiseworthy, it captures a feeling that many considered lost.
Reviewed on PC // Review code supplied by publisher