Ion Fury is out now, and the Build Engine brings some great memories back with the likes of Duke Nukem 3D, Blood, Exhumed (aka Powerslave), Redneck Rampage & Shadow Warrior to name a few old school titles that use it. It’s also the first game to actually use this engine in 19 years the last of which was World War II GI.
So, for those unfamiliar with said Build Engine, you get fully 3D environments with 2D enemies and characters. It works nicely and runs well. Having the 2D characters means they are always facing you ready for a shot to the face to leave them crumpled in a heap on the floor. The Doom engine, itself, runs in a similar way from the same era and also used by many companies for first person shooters.
Ion Fury is a prequel to Bombshell, released in 2016, which is a decent top-down shooter in a similar vein to the classic Chaos Engine and other more modern twin stick shooters. You play Shelly “Bombshell” Harrison fighting against a cult fronted by Dr Jadus Heskel who is attacking NEO D.C with his army of cultists. That’s all you really need to know to get you started!
The gameplay follows the old tried and tested formula of the era when games like Duke & Blood thrived. Each level is self-contained with a set number of enemies and events taking place whilst playing. You also have key cards to find, in order to open doors and each level has a few secrets to find, so you could be clicking every surface and item along your route if you can be bothered! The trouble with level structure and design like this is that you will find yourself being bounced back and forth across a level. Often, whilst you are traversing like this, more enemies pile in to hinder progress once you have met one objective and are making your way back to a newly opened door, or you have a new key. If you forget to manually save along the way, you can find yourself back at the very start of the level. Alternatively, if you quick save just before a tough bit, you’ll save yourself the heartache of beginning said level again.
It has to be said that modern gaming – with auto saving and regenerating health – will not hone your skills and prepare you for playing Ion Fury. I have lost count the amount of times I have died during my first playthrough, forgetting to save halfway through a level, only to have to restart the whole thing again! At times, it can be borderline sadistic with enemies hitting you from quite a distance, and a perfect shot or a grenade launcher enemy sitting in a shadow, and the next thing you know: instant death and wondering from where it came.
Weapons are generally great and there is a good variation albeit what you usually see in shooters, my favourite being the shotgun which tears through enemies up close and personal, and can drop them in a single shot. This makes it feel suitably meaty, unlike a lot of other modern shooters’ shotguns.
I tried playing this using both using a controller as well as keyboard and mouse. The latter is standard PC stuff, and sees you zipping about at high speed delivering death to enemies. The controller, however, using standard settings, is just to fast to be able to hit anything. This is for both movement speed and looking around. You can, thankfully, adjust these settings to slow movement and looking around, and it makes for better targeting. That said, I did find a problem doing this with the controller as there is a bit in one of the opening levels where a fan pushes you into the air, so you can move forward at the peak and land on a platform in front of you. If you have slowed your movement speed down, you cannot move far enough forward at the peak and land on the platform.
Voice work is very well done, with numerous quips and jokes coming from the main character at certain points in the game. The weapons sound decent enough, and various explosions literally gets the job done. It is exactly what you would expect from a game using the Build Engine.
One glaring omission from Ion Fury is there is no multiplayer at all. Given today’s games are usually built from multiplayer first and then making the story content as a second (granted, mostly military shooters), I find it pretty strange. After finishing the campaign, there isn’t much else to do bar playthrough again on a higher difficulty setting and try and find all the secrets on all the levels.
Overall, Ion Fury is a great game which kept me entertained throughout the campaign. It is nice seeing a new Build Engine game after all these years, as it just works and does what it should. I have found the gameplay a bit irksome at times, though, given I have adjusted to modern gaming and this is proper old-school. Getting back into the mentality of “save often” and “having to collect health and armour etc” or “reloading if you take to much damage” can be a bit frustrating in itself. Then, the fact there is no multiplayer at all means that there is little else to do after finishing the campaign and finding all the level secrets.
A big plus which I must mention is that Ion Fury is literally only 90Mb in size so will download in seconds!
Ion Fury is out now on PC/Steam.
- Developer: Voidpoint
- Publisher: 3D Realms
- Players: Single-player
Retro at heart and lover of all things ’80s, especially the computers, the music and the awesome movies and TV shows! Crazy huge retro gaming collection spanning the ’80s and ’90s with hundreds of tapes, discs and carts for various machines on top of a 600+ strong Steam library that is ever-growing. No I am not a serial hoarder, just a dedicated retro gamer!