There’s no doubt that classic shooters such as Doom and Duke Nukem paved the way for today’s Call of Duty and Halo. But given today’s modern graphics and mechanics, would these games still hold up without their nostalgia factor? Ion Fury provides evidence that they just might.
There’s a story to Ion Fury, but like most shooters of the ’90s, it’s not the central focus of the game. In fact, most of it is told via a “Read Me” option in the menus. You play as Corporal Shelly “Bombshell” Harrison, who is in charge of the Global Defense Force’s Domestic Task Force after only six months on the job. As its most senior member, it’s your responsibility to take to the streets of Washington, D.C. and take out the hordes of a cybernetic cult led by Dr. Jadus Heskel (voiced by Duke Nukem himself, Jon St. John).
Instead, the focus in this game is rightfully on gameplay and aesthetics. Across Ion Fury‘s roughly 10-hour campaign and three sets of bonus levels, you’ll crack cheesy one-liners (often song or movie references) and come across a number of incredibly humorous (also largely inappropriate, but that’s partly why the game is rated M!) posters and signage. Of course, part of the fun is finding all the game’s hidden secrets, and Ion Fury definitely has plenty to be discovered. In fact, if you fail to kill every enemy in a zone, or don’t discover every secret, the game actively taunts you on the completion screen!
Ion Fury isn’t a perfect recreation of classic shooters, instead opting to incorporate some more modern features. When it comes to classic titles, where you shot the enemies didn’t matter. However, headshots can make all the difference here. Much like the classics though, Ion Fury does a great job at making each weapon feel unique and useful. Many even have alternate fire modes, like the revolver’s dead eye-esque lock-on. Lastly, like many classic shooters, Ion Fury is tough as nails, even on normal. Thankfully, you can mitigate some of the danger by saving at will, but that only gets you so far.
I do wish there was a bit more variation in enemy types, though there are some rather unique ones. All the standards are here, like humanoid gunslingers, spider-like creatures, and flying drones. In particular, the gunners come in a few varieties based on weapon, but it can be hard to tell at a glance which kind you’re fighting because of the way the game’s lighting works. My favorite enemy by far is something a bit more unique — a mechanical acid-spewing centipede. Destroying its head obliterates the entire enemy, but if you destroy any other part of it, it splits in two.
Ion Fury runs on a modified version of the Build engine, notably used in games like Duke Nukem 3D and Shadow Warrior. It runs pretty well (for the most part) in both the Switch’s handheld and docked modes, with a natural maximum frame rate of 30 FPS. However, if you desire, you can unlock the frame rate by inputting the Konami code at any time. I’m not usually one to notice such things, but I personally felt that playing with the frame rate unlocked actually felt a bit better.
It’s not a perfect performance though. I experienced a few glitches where some textures seemed to rapidly pop in and out or hang in air. The worst of the problems came in the form of teleportation. Occasionally in firefights, I would teleport a few steps in a random direction, often facing me away from my enemies. In a game as tough as Ion Fury, it can be rather frustrating when you die multiple times due to this glitch. You should also expect a bit of slowdown when there are a lot of enemies or large explosions happening. The secret level of Zone 3 was particularly brutal about this.
Ion Fury is nothing short of a giant love letter to the classic shooters of the 1990s. From the cheesy one-liners to the secret-filled stages, the game oozes style in spades. Though it doesn’t improve much over its predecessors, Ion Fury really doesn’t need to. Fans of classic shooters will definitely not want to miss this, while fans of modern shooters looking for a change will find an experience not too far outside of their comfort zone.
A review code was provided by the publisher.