I feel like I spend a lot of time lately revisiting my youth, playing games that either originated in that era or pay homage to it. Ion Fury blends both of those worlds together in that it pays homage no doubt, but is also built upon a (modernised) version of the exact tech that was used back then. Modern players might bemoan its older feel to the gameplay then, but for my money it’s an excellent throwback title that revels in its simplicity.
There’s no level grinding, no loot boxes or daily quests here. Ion Fury brings the FPS back to a time when the genre was still trying to find its feet, and focused on the sheer exhilaration of pegging it around a level blasting fools away with over the top weaponry.
Being built on the Build engine, the same engine that powered genre classics such as Duke Nukem 3D and Powerslave, it immediately feels as I remember those older titles, though I must admit, it took a few minutes to acclimatise myself (it has been a few years, after all). Pressing the stick at full tilt sees our character flying about the place at breakneck speed, enemies swarming from all angles. Don’t even think about seeking out a chest high wall as cover; if you’re not on the attack almost constantly you’re going to get done in pretty quickly. Hell, even if you are on the attack constantly you’re probably going to end up dead pretty quick until you get the hang of its rhythm.
There’s some fairly cool weaponry to waste the robotic army we’re up against away with. Bowling bombs explode on contact and can be charged up to home in on the nearest enemy. A crossbow fires out electrified bolts, but holding the right bumper long enough sees it almost uncontrollably rapid fire multiple arrows at once in a wide ark, decimating anything in the way. My favourite were the Uzi’s that fired flame rounds; seeing enemies burst into flames while trying to fight back never got old, though sadly ammo for it is in short supply and it really flies out of the gun in the blink of an eye.
All this weaponry and more gives a truly hectic feel to combat, and relentless enemies mean that until they’re all dead, we’re not safe. While their AI is somewhat basic, they do have a habit of popping up out of hidden walls or high ledges behind us as we proceed. It was a fairly cheap tactic back in the day to keep us on our toes and it does feel similarly here, though frequent auto saves and an unlimited manual save take some of the sting of getting caught out off.
They don’t come out in small numbers either. You can guarantee that just when you think you’re safe, out comes a ton more to prevent you from catching a breath. Movement is key, and we need to be both on the attack and retreating pretty much simultaneously. Even with full shields and health it’s easy to get caught off guard and be taken down pretty quickly. Add in tough to hit flying foes (with homing rockets, no less) and even veteran players will have a fight on their hands.
A generous auto aim helps hit some of the fast moving bastards (those spider crab things managed to give me goose bumps every damn time), but we still need to have a pretty high degree of accuracy. Unlike when I played Duke Nukem 3D on the Sega Saturn full analogue control is in play here – and we can even look up! (At present, there’s no invert Y option in game, though it should be coming in a patch shortly after launch.)
There are plenty of hidden rooms and collectables to find, in keeping with the retro styling. This involves running along walls and hammering the action button (as it should do) but even taking great pains to search I hardly found many at all. Often these just offer super shields or extra ammo, but they’re worth hunting out. Every little helps, after all.
We play as Shelly “Bombshell” Harrison, renowned for her bomb defusal skills for the Global Defence Force. After transhumanist scientist Dr. Jadus Heskel sets his cybernetic cult loose onto Neo DC, she turns her defusal skills around and starts blowing shit up! I enjoyed her quippy one liners (“Dance, fucker, dance” she says, as an enemy hops around on fire), and while she’s not much more than them, it was still cool to play as a woman who could likely stand toe to toe with Duke himself. To be honest the story fell into the background for me though, it’s intermittent exposition short and being the only thing that ever brought a pause to the action.
Old gits like me will no doubt get a nostalgia rush out of Ion Fury, as for all intents and purposes it is a ‘90s game. It’s certainly a lot simpler and to the point than most modern shooters, and perhaps modern payers might not quite jive with it, but the core gameplay is fast, fun and easy to get into. Hard to beat, but easy to get into.
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version. Game provided by the publisher.Want to keep up to date with the latest Xt reviews, Xt opinions and Xt content? Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.