Another proof of how timeless ’90s shooters truly are.
Genre: FPS, Action
Developer: Voidpoint, LLC
Publisher: 3D Realms
Release Date: 15 Aug, 2019
Ion Fury (previously known as Ion Maiden) deserves little to no introduction: it’s a fantastic return to the old-school Build Engine awesomeness we know and love since Duke 3D, Shadow Warrior and Blood. It is probably my new favorite Build Engine game, thanks to a clearly more ambitious use of the engine, the addition of some (well thought out) modern mechanics and a new yet nostalgic main character.
It’s an absolute must-buy for any FPS fan, especially those fond of old-school mechanics in their shooters.
GRAPHICS AND ENGINE USAGE
Great looking game overall. The art style and the quality of the sprites and the detail in the levels is frankly astonishing. The Build Engine does not look like your traditional AAA title but the interactivity with the levels, the amount of different sprites and objects, the render distance and the level transitions are phenomenal and quite rare these days. You can turn on light switches, break walls, eat food and drinks (that you can get by interacting with vending machines) for health and even step in the blood of your dead enemies and bloody footsteps will be marked on the floor you just walked by. It’s a very welcome attention to detail we often don’t see in modern video games.
Ion Fury has huge levels, easily the largest any Build Engine game ever made; they are also well designed, with a lot of secrets (which are surprisingly hard to find) and a lot of routes and shortcuts to other parts of the level, new or previously visited.
A very interesting (and the best) feature of the game is the level transitions – unlike its older peers, Ion Fury doesn’t have a button or door to cross to finish the level, present you a performance screen and drop you into the following level upon clicking “Continue”; instead, it loads the next level immediately after you reach the end without any loading screens or pauses. It makes the whole chapter feel huge, dynamic and less linear. My jaw literally dropped as I found this my first time playing.
The options menu also deserves praise, an FOV slider is present and a surprising amount of options to tweak are present.
Not everything is perfect and Ion Fury is, by far, the worst optimized game that uses this engine – FPS drops are quite frequent and boss fights in particular had me dip to 40-50 FPS from the usual 110-120 I get. There is a lot of perfecting needed performance wise with this game as combat scenarios such as the boss sections, which are hard and demand a beautiful blend of speed, accuracy and resource management, runs too inconsistently to make the fight fair and simply not fun. Another gripe (albeit quite minor) is the absence of a full 3D view as a few Build Engine remasters have recently added – it’s an old-school rendering method I really don’t miss.
This is pure Build Engine gameplay with plenty of guns, which you can carry at all times. The guns are varied and serve their own role in combat, making them all useful and interesting in their own ways: from the grenade launching shotgun to the electricity charged crossbow, with a few classics like the pistol or the chain gun being pretty classic in both feel and handling. The variety is simply great and it’s a pretty unique arsenal that I’d like to see inspire future shooters.
The break-neck pace of classic shooters is back, strafe-jumping and key-card collecting to open locked doors also make a return and it’s all a beautiful nostalgic feel, that is also really fun and never gets old – it’s been quite some time since I binged 5 hours straight playing a game without even leaving my chair but this game managed it and that means something.
The power-ups are quite creative and can be found mostly in secrets, which are well designed and will make you nearly tear your hair out trying to find them all – I usually have a keep eye for secrets and get 50-70% of them on most of my first runs (even the Blood Remaster proved I still got it) but here I barely got 15-20% of the total chapter secrets. The increased level size and new mechanics added are probably the culprits of this extra difficulty found in secret hunting.
Speaking on new mechanics, it’s great to see some fresh new take in how level progression works and Ion Fury has you use your melee weapon (the shock baton) to electrify power supplies to allow you to move object architecture like bridges or elevators, allowing you to advance in the game. The shock baton itself is a welcome addition to both combat (since it also stuns upon hit) and the overall usefulness in the gameplay and level exploration.
New modern additions can be observed in the game as well: headshots are a thing so aiming high is a much better idea when approaching combat, but body shots are also extremely effective so going for heads all the time isn’t a must as the game’s been very well balanced for this new system so you can play as you used to back in the 90’s without any problems. Autosaves also make an appearance and are well paced and divided among each level (save-scumming through the quicksave option is always available too, of course) and are a very welcome addition to the classic FPS formula.
The game isn’t complete without a protagonist that stands out, and Shelly Harrison is a pretty good one – much like the edgy Lo Wang and the iconic Duke Nukem, one liners give a good chuckle and reactions to the environment and the antagonist’s dialogue are a treat to listen to. Her voice work is excellent but I must say that the combat lines are quite repetitive after just 1-2 hours as there seems to be little variety there and the rest of her voice work focused on the story progression and annoying Dr. Haskel, the main villain of this saga.
Not much to say here besides the music since I already praised the voice work of Shelly – the soundtrack for Ion Fury is phenomenal from the absolute get-go (the first level’s song is actually my favorite). It mixes techno with some rock and it does so with flying colours, probably the best OST I’ve heard in the past 2 years or so.
Weapons, enemies and level interactions all have their own sound props and they are well done. Enemies go from wondering where you are to screaming as they die and pop into a red paste of brains and blood. Weapons sound magnificent and enhance the visual cues of combat greatly and level interactions just add to the immersion of the level itself: light switches popping, security cameras beeping, pots breaking, everything has great attention to detail and not just visually which is much appreciated.
At the time of writing I nearly beat the game twice and some of my playtime was spending 2 full afternoons of my vacations binge playing it, may God help me…
Probably the best game I’ve played all year so far. The shortcomings aren’t difficult to patch, especially the performance related ones and as such, I can safely give the game a full must-buy recommendation as it pretty much nails every single aspect that makes a video game fun, which is the greatest compliment I can give.