Ion Fury is the latest title by gaming titans 3D Realms, famous for titles such as Duke Nukem, Shadow Warrior & Commander Keen. Is Shelly “Bombshell” Harrison ready to become another household name for the house that “Built” Duke?.
Ion Fury is the prequel to Bombshell which released on PC in 2016, while that title sadly didn’t exactly set the world on fire, 3D Realms weren’t ready to give up on Ms Bombshell just yet. For those who aren’t familiar with Shelly Harrison, she was originally planned to be a sidekick for Mr Nukem, after several scrapped attempts she became the star of Bombshell after Gearbox took control of the Duke Nukem franchise (Let’s not go there!). In Bombshell, the evil Dr Heskel is looking worse for wear and there is alot of talk about how Shelly lost her arm, Ion Fury is this story.
The story is incredibly in depth with alot of world building, character development and intricate lore……no, no it’s not, the story basically exists to justify the setting. Ion Fury may be a prequel tale but really all you need to know is, you’re Bombshell, Dr Heskel is evil, his army must be stopped, you got the guns to do it, bang bang.
Ion Fury runs on the Build Engine, the game engine that powered the greatest first person shooters ever, Duke Nukem 3D, Shadow Warrior & Blood, while initally very similar to the engine Doom ran on, this engine allowed for more complex level design, better verticality & so many iconic interactions.
Ion Fury aims to take that engine, push it to it’s absolute limits & then some, create a kick ass addition to the FPS library and prove that Bombshell has what it takes to tangle with Lo-Wang, Duke & Caleb.
Visually there is no mistaking where Ion Fury comes from, it looks identical to the games that inspired and moulded it, but with a more Cyberpunk look, the game oozes Blade Runner in the best way. Now despite it running on an engine that is over 20 years old, the lighting, animation and scope of the levels really push it to its limits and there is no way that back in the early 90s that a game of this visual fidelity and scope would have been possible.
The character models are all 2D sprites where as the level and alot of the items are 3D such as the collectables, cars in the street and buildings, while this may seem a big jarring for people new to this style, this is how it was always done and it suits the game fine, it gives it a B Movie style look.
Ion Fury has a very SciFi/Cyberpunk inspired soundtrack with the staying power of the games that inspired it. The levels can be quite long and it’s quite fortunate that the soundtrack never quite wears its welcome out. Bombshell is naturally able to sprout one liners and 90s catch phrases, the enemies all sound the same and come out with the same annoying phrases over and over again & finally the vocal performance is topped off by the jibes of Dr Heskel voiced by Jon St John himself!.
So as mentioned prior Ion Fury is a “Build Engine” game, if you’ve ever played Duke Nukem, Doom, Blood, Shadow Warrior (original) or any classic FPS involving coloured keys/cards you will know the loop well.
For people who aren’t familiar with this style of FPS, the gist is you are in a maze style level, you have to collect keycards to get further, you’ll press switches and you’ll shoot everything that moves/doesn’t move/stopped moving.
Unlike modern FPS games (bar the exceptions) which funnel you down a path, Ion Fury gives you the freedom to explore some brilliantly crafted levels. Seriously I am a stickler for well crafted FPS level design and up until Ion Fury I’ve always held Duke 3D and Blood as the champions, move over boys because Ion Fury in my opinion has some of the best level design ever in the genre.
The level design promotes exploration, it looks like a well crafted cyberpunk world, it never gets old and it follows a rather consistent narrative while managing to hit alot of the cliche level designs.
The game consists of 7 “episodes”, each one has around 5 levels, they are riddled with secret items and areas, some are a standard affair and others left my scratching my head wondering how anyone discovered them. All I’ll say on that is generally, if you can see another area, you can get there somehow.
Being a shooter of ye olde we need to talk about that weaponry. First off the Loverboy, a revolver with a much bigger chamber than usual, its ALT fire give you a lock on shot, this is basically the “Iconic” weapon of the game, looks good and deals all the damage.
Following on you have a shotgun/grenade launcher, the shotgun feels so good to use and has the feedback you come to expect with this pedigree, grenade launcher is a little finicky to use and splash damage isn’t great.
Ion Bow is a futuristic cross bow, it’s great for aerial and far off enemies and the alt fire is either a spread or rapid fire depending on length of charge.
Chain gun is pretty self explanatory and then the Clusterpuck is basically a mine you toss and it explodes on impact.
Your melee weapon is a baton pulsing with electricity, it’s handy for combat and also used to solve the odd puzzle or two.
Finally we have the Penetrator and the Bowling Bomb, the latter should be familiar with fans of Bombshell. The Penetrator is a SMG which fires incendiary rounds, this can be doubled up for massive fire chaos. The Bowling Bombs are little Acme style bombs which can be thrown and will chase enemies, they can also have their fuses lit and expose over time.
I don’t usually make a habit of listing off weapons in games but with titles like this they are certainly part of their identity. While not quite as unique as say Blood they are a serviceable set and a pleasure to slay with.
The game is quite tough, the lowest difficulty doesn’t really provide too many problems but as you ramp it up that old school difficulty comes flooding to almost broken effect. You’ll die, alot, fortunately you can save anywhere so there is that option. The bosses while only having a few are giant difficulty spikes and you’ll feel like a FPS god when you’ve taken them down.
The campaign takes around 15 hours which while may sound a bit OTT for a FPS, it never wears thin. There is also a selection of additional bonus levels to tackle, just for the fun of it!.
Sadly I had my game crash on me to home screen twice during gameplay, occasionally the pause menu text wouldn’t appear and a few times the game would randomly spin me around. Nothing particularly game breaking but not the smoothest sailing I’ve had.
There is a helpful auto aim which is ideal for shots from far away, ideal for taking out the small spider enemies which plague the game and gyro aiming is also available. It is worth getting your aim right as some of the enemies have really small hit boxes and the enemies in this game can really ruin your day quickly.
Ion Fury in my opinion is the best First Person Shooter available on the Nintendo Switch, it’s also the best FPS I’ve played since Doom (2016). It was a fantastic reminder of how levels used to be made, how raw and fun Build Engine games can be and mostly how little I get on with current FPS games. The chaotic nature of combat perfectly married with exploration and an exciting locale.
The classic FPS style of game is ideal for the Nintendo Switch, I found it controlled a little better docked but the ability to chip away at a level when I found a minute was essential to me. The genre is poorly under represented on the console at the moment with Doom and ApocoCrypt coming to mind, Ion Fury is easily in the same conversation as Doom.
I am eager to see where the Dutchess will go next, Ion Fury in my mind has put Shelly “Bombshell” Harrison on the FPS greats map and I for one cannot wait to see how her arrival has changed the landscape for FPS going forward, may she reign supreme!.
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