Ion Fury Review

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Ion Fury is a first-person shooter and prequel to the game Bombshell running on the EDuke32 source port of the Build engine. This is the same engine that powered games like Duke Nukem 3D, Shadow Warrior, and Blood. Developed by Voidpoint and published by 3D Realms, Ion Fury was released for PC in August, 2019. I’m a fan of many Build engine games and I enjoyed my time with the early access build of Ion Fury so I’ve been looking forward to playing the final product.
The protagonist is Cpl. Shelly “Bombshell” Harrison, leader of the GDF’s Domestic Task Force. After Dr. Jadus Heskel unleashes cybernetically-enhanced soldiers on the city of Neo D.C., Shelly sets out to stop him. The story is simple and takes a backseat to the gameplay. Shelly will spout some humorous one-liners as she blows away enemies and Heskel is voiced by Jon St. John and I liked his performance. He makes the character sound like an evil cartoon villain.

You can walk, run, swim, crouch, and jump. Health, armor, inventory items, and powerups can be found throughout the environments. Inventory items include portable medkits and ultrasonic radar. Portable medkits can be used to heal yourself at any time and the ultrasonic radar will temporarily reveal the location of nearby enemies. Powerups are automatically activated upon pickup and last for a limited time. Super Damage increases the amount of damage you inflict. The Hazard Suit allows you to navigate in toxic liquids unharmed and swim underwater for longer. Jump Boots allow to double jump and the Blast Accelerator grants you infinite Bowling Bombs. Like many Build-engine games, you can interact with all kinds of different things in the environments. You’ll push buttons, flip switches, you can eat food to restore some health, break objects, and blow through certain parts of the environments.
You’ll get your hands on numerous weapons throughout your journey. You’ll start out with the Electrifryer and Loverboy. The Electrifryer is an electrified baton that can be used to electrocute and kill enemies and power up generators. The Loverboy is a pistol and it can lock onto multiple targets. It’s actually very useful at close to medium range and perfect for smaller foes like Mechsects and Drones. The Disperser was my go-to weapon throughout the whole game. It’s a shotgun that doubles as a grenade launcher. You can throw Bowling Bombs which will roll into enemies and explode. The Penetrator is a sub-machinegun-like weapon that fires incendiary rounds and when you pick up a second one, they can be dual wielded. I used this weapon the least just because I was usually out of ammo for it but setting enemies on fire is always satisfying. The Ion Bow is great weapon for long range and if you get overwhelmed. It can fire a single electrified bolt or multiple simultaneously and if you hold down the alternate fire button long enough, you can unleash an onslaught of bolts that can take down even the toughest enemy types in seconds. Finally, there’s the Chaingun and Clusterpuck. The Chaingun functions exactly as you would expect and the Clusterpuck is a throwable explosive. Each weapon does serve a purpose and looks cool. Best of all, they’re all fun and satisfying to use.
Ion Fury includes a pretty lengthy campaign and some Bonus Missions. There are four difficulty modes and I played through the game on Wanton Carnage which put up a decent challenge. The campaign plays out in Zones with multiple areas per zone and the difficulty ramps up nicely. The end of the campaign is certainly more challenging than the beginning and I can’t say any encounter ever felt unfair or cheap. Cultists utilize guns and Greater Cultists are equipped with Ion Bows. Liberators are one of my favorite enemies just because I think they look cool. They’re equipped with Dispersers and some of them do lob grenades your way. The Drones and Mechsects are small types. Drones fly around and fire projectiles and Mechsects are spider-like foes that can jump high and inflict damage if close enough to you. I really hate these little fuckers because they’re everywhere. They don’t stop. They usually appear in numbers and it often feels like they’re around every corner. They’re not hard to kill or deal with but they’re constant presence becomes annoying. Diopedes are insect-like robot enemies with multiple segments that can be separated. The head can fire corrosive liquid and if you destroy it, you’ll destroy the whole thing. All of the foes I’ve talked about so far are prevalent throughout the entire game and most of them are not hard to take down. Tougher types are introduced as you progress but don’t appear nearly as often. At least not until the final areas. I found that the common foes only pose a real threat when in large numbers but I always seemed to have more than enough ammo for most weapons to deal with any situation.

One of the tougher enemy types is the Deacon. It’s a flying enemy that can fire explosive projectiles at a rapid rate. Wendigo is a large foe with a powerful melee attack and it can leap long distances, making it quite dangerous. The Brute is one of my favorite enemy types. It’s a robot equipped with a buzzsaw and some kind of plasma launcher. Skinjobs are one of the more interesting foes. These guys utilize ranged attacks and can teleport around. When fatally damaged, it will explode which can inflict splash damage. Finally, there’s mutants and armored mutants which hurl or spit projectiles. They show up late in the campaign and more or less act as cannon fodder. You’ll have to fight some bosses every now and then and I enjoyed engaging most of them. Two of them will be thrown into the mix of regular enemies late in the game, resulting in some intense encounters. The combat in this game has a nice chunkiness to it. Enemies are typically standing around until you’re in their sights. Once you’re spotted, they’ll run around and attack you but sometimes I would see one or two get stuck in the environment.
One of Ion Fury’s biggest strengths is its level design. Each area in a zone is connected by a loading point but every zone feels like one huge level and the areas have a great flow to them. There are a shit-ton of secrets and I didn’t find half of them. Secrets normally contain resources so they are worth finding. The levels are exceptionally well crafted and each zone contains a unique set of areas. You’ll battle enemies on streets, in various buildings, through a laboratory, and there’s plenty of locations to explore. It can be easy to get lost or stuck. If enemies are along the path, you know you’re going the right way. When you do figure out how to progress or activate something, a shortcut to a previous location will often become available. You’ll have to find cards, power up generators, press buttons, and flip switches to progress. Explosive barrels, toxic liquids, and turrets make up the hazards you’ll want to avoid and health and armor are peppered throughout the environments. If you can’t find any health packs or medkits, food and drinks seem to be lying around everywhere so health is usually not hard to come by. Plus, you can break objects like trash cans to acquire resources.

In addition to the campaign are three bonus missions. One of them is the early access level. Another has you going through the same level but you can only use Bowling Bombs and have an infinite amount. The final bonus mission is Queen of the Hill. You’re equipped with the chaingun and have infinite ammo and the goal is to survive numerous rounds of enemies and try for a high score. You’re timed in each round and every kill grants you points and more time.
Ion Fury is a Build engine game and it definitely looks like one, too. From the interactive environments to the sprites, this a damn good-looking Build engine game. Neo D.C. is depicted as a futuristic dystopian-like city and the aesthetic remains consistent throughout. Every building and room contains a crazy amount of detail which brings the locations to life and some of the lighting effects add to the atmosphere. The weapon and enemy sprites look great and the explosions look glorious and are accompanied by a neat smoke effect. Blood will spray, you can blow the heads off some enemies, and when you shoot down drones, sometimes they’ll rapidly fly into a wall and explode which looks pretty cool. The action is accompanied by fitting music that matches the whole futuristic theme the game is aiming for. The weapons sound great and explosions are loud. The humanoid enemies like Cultists and Liberators will shout lines during combat and let out a scream when they die but they all seem to sound the same which is my only gripe with the audio side. On the technical side, the game ran great most of the time. The frame rate dipped here and there but other than that, no major issues.

I had a blast with Ion Fury. This is easily one of the best Build engine games out there. It’s an action-packed romp from beginning to end and it’s filled with pop-culture references and juvenile humor. Literally filled. From the one-liners Shelly shouts to the little details in the environments, there’s pop-culture reference around what seems like every corner or just something that made me laugh like the gold toilet and toilet chair on display at Turd-O-Rama for example. I smirked whenever Shelly shouted “yippee ki-yay, motherfucker” and I see the developers are also fans of the hilarious Big Bill Hell’s Cars commercial. The environments are so well designed that I often found myself just stopping to look at my surroundings and admire everything. From a gameplay standpoint, you can see the nineties influences. From the sprite work to the level design, Ion Fury is a love letter to classic games like Duke Nukem 3D. I also feel the game puts up a decent fight without ever feeling unfair or cheap, at least on the Wanton Carnage difficulty. Some encounters will be trial and error but I rarely found myself quicksaving and quickloading just to survive. The game does autosave pretty frequently so that’s nice and it doesn’t hold your hand. The bonus missions are neat little extras but nothing to write home about in my opinion and from what I understand Steam Workshop support is coming.
I would absolutely recommend Ion Fury to fans of shooters and Build engine games. I love how the game throws you into the action and doesn’t take you out of it until it’s over. The difficulty modes and sheer amount of secrets should keep you coming back for a while. The gameplay is fun and exploration is rewarding. I believe mods are already out there so I’m excited to see what fans can do with the game. Definitely check this out.

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