There have been a number of recent first person shooters which go in for the retro feel and aesthetic, but invariably feel more like modern imitations than the genuine thing. However, Ion Fury captures the feel perfectly. In part, I think this has to be due to the fact that it runs off the Build Engine, and is the first commercial game to use this engine in 19 years. Also, it’s clearly made by people who love old games. References to DOOM are easy to spot littered throughout the levels, and the main villain is voiced by Jon St. John, the voice actor best known to PC gamers as the voice of Duke Nukem.
Players take on the role of bomb disposal expert Shelly ‘Bombshell’ Harrison, caught up in the middle of a take-over by the mad Dr Jadus Heskel and his army of cyborgs. In true retro style, that’s about it. Here’s a weapon, there’s the enemy, ‘nuff said. Interestingly enough, I think part of what gives it such an authentic feel are the limitations. The 2D sprites have fairly few animation frames, levels which it is all too easy to get lost in and exits which are hard to find (even when using the map), enemy AI which won’t detect a gunfight happening in the next room and will simply wait in place until you’re spotted, enemies which can sometimes be hard to make out from the environment (you really do have to use your ears to avoid taking a grenade in the face) and the way that foes will often spawn behind you in an area you’ve just cleared.
If you like old shooters, this should all be considered par-far-the-course. For newcomers, you’ve been warned.
However, just like the games it pays homage too, Ion Fury delivers a solid and enjoyable experience despite these limitations. Sure, it can get frustrating when you’re running around in circles trying to figure out just where on earth you’re supposed to go, or being ambushed by enemies that weren’t there before. But when it gets it right, it’s worth it. In fact, some of the best moments in the game are when it puts you in a large open space and chucks wave after wave of enemies at you. Unlike the indoor sections and corridors (which do make up a fair portion of the levels), these open spaces let you use your exceptional mobility to the full. Standing still means defeat, and to win you’ll have to fluidly dodge and weave your way through your opponents as you whittle away their numbers with your arsenal. At these moments, Ion Fury comfortably stands with some of the best in the genre.
Speaking of weapons, there’s also quite a variety. Along with standards like shotguns and miniguns, there’s also pistols which can lock-on to opponents for quick take-downs, a crossbow which launches electrified bolts and can be charged up, to unleash a flurry of projectiles (handy for clearing a room) and sub-machine guns which fire incendiary rounds, to name a few.
All in all, Ion Fury delivers a fun and authentically retro experience. If you like old FPS games, then Ion Fury is well worth a try. ■