For older FPS players, the name 3D Realms rings a very special bell. The studio has a very important role in the history of gaming, responsible for publishing timeless classics like Wolfenstein 3D, developed by iD Software, or developing titles like Duke Nukem 3D (shake it, baby!), my very first FPS game. Yes, their curriculum has loads of other titles, like the original Max Payne, 2006’ Prey or 2016 Rad Rogers, just to mention a few, but these are undoubtedly their most prominent titles. And once again using the same Build Engine that gave life to titles such as Shadow Warrior and Blood, they recently published in Xbox One their last project: Ion Fury.
Developed by the Californian studio Voidpoint and published by 3D Realms for PCs in 2019, the game was an instant hit to fans of the said games. And now they joined forces with 1C Entertainment to bring this new classic to consoles! Playing as Shelly “Bombshell” Harrison, Cpl in the Global Defense Force, you will face augmented criminals, cyborgs and other cyber monstrosities to protect Neo DC. Find in our review if you are ready for the task.
What we liked!
- Your arsenal: The selection of guns in Ion Fury is quite interesting. From your initial revolver (yes, a six-shooter, not a pistol) and an electrified baton to a chain gun, you have at your disposal shotguns, SMGs, bow guns (a strange option for a futuristic game, but the weapon is pretty cool!) and two kinds of explosives. What makes things even better is that each weapon has an alternative mode: your revolver has a ‘Dead-eye’ like effect that aims for the head of enemies, your shotgun can fire explosive grenades instead of its regular rounds and your SMG shoots fire rounds that can set your enemies ablaze! It adds an interesting variation to the gameplay, doubling the fun to eliminate your enemies.
- Visuals: Yes, I loved the visuals of Ion Fury. You may disagree with me, but the visuals of this title are the best of a genre – if you compare it with other similar titles. The visual effects of fire, explosions and enemies being electrified are simply amazing! No, you can’t compare it with titles built on modern engines like Unreal Engine 4, Frostbite or AnvilNext 2.0: it would be the same as comparing Top Gear and Forza Horizon, for instance – two racing games from very different ages. Take my word for someone who has seen the best (and the worst) of the industry in the last decades.
- Atmosphere: If you can go past the 20 years old graphics, you will find an amazing atmosphere in the streets and buildings of Ion Fury. There are dozens of bars, restaurants and drug stores you can enter and, sometimes, interact with things inside. Soda machines can always offer you a cool drink that will replenish your health. Seeing a ventilation tube in the wall? Try breaking it and you will probably find a secret area. Bottles and glasses can be shot or smashed. Feeling hungry? Try looking for a Chinese food box or even a slice of pizza on the balcony. These tiny details – all summed up – creates an enjoyable experience through Neo DC.
- Finding your way: At first, I had some problems with my orientation due to the absence of a map. Thanks to the modern shooters that give us a lot of info, it now feels… strange playing an FPS that doesn’t have this resource. So, keep in mind that in Ion Fury, you will need to use your exploration and memory to find your way – or your way back – at each level. Every level has a beginning and an end, but they aren’t all that linear as you may think: you need to look for keycards (usually three) that will give you access to new areas so you can reach the end of the level. To find them, you will need to explore each level – a lot. Sometimes you will feel lost, maybe even spending hours while looking for them – like I did in a few levels. But this exploration is part of the fun in the game: while trying to find your way, you will eventually find Easter eggs or secret stashes full of goods. Sweet!
- Shake it, baby! Fans of the good and old Duke Nukem remember how emblematic his mottos were back in that time – although full of sexism and with a doubtful taste for nowadays standards. Whatever your opinion is about what he says, you will agree with me about how badass Jon St. John’s dubbing was. In Ion Fury, Voidpoint tried to recreate that feeling, but Shelly Harrison misses all the charisma that charisma and sex appeal Duke had. (Hint: there’s an Easter egg where we can hear some ATM pronouncing the old phrase Duke said when visiting those adults-only clubs). Not complaining about the dubbing work performed in Ion Fury, but the heroine of Ion Fury’s phrases are empty and her voice can hardly be noticed. Duke wasn’t a poet, I admit, but Shelly doesn’t even try to impress us with her slogans.
What we disliked
- Same old problems: It’s quite disappointing to see gameplay problems we had more than 20 years ago are still present in this engine. Take climbing down a leader, for instance: as leaders are part of the sprites of the texture, you can easily see them when you’re trying to climb it. But once you reach its top, it’s nearly impossible to climb it down without falling to your death (in most cases). It seems not all those years were enough to teach an FPS character how to climb down a leader.
- Managing your inventory: Different from nowadays games where you can only carry a pair of guns, in old games you carried a true arsenal with you. Usually mapped in the numbers of your keyboard, selecting the gun for each situation was easy-peasy. When translating it to a joypad, though, things ain’t all that simple. Some developers come up with great ideas such as holding a button and using your analog to select the desired weapon. But here in Ion Fury, we have to use our D-pad to scroll through all the weapons until you find what you are looking for. Considering the six-shooter was my favorite gun, I had to scroll it A LOT to find the gun that would best fit my needs. And it became troublesome in countless situations.
It was really hard for me to give Ion Fury a score. The game works smoothly in its proposal of bringing back the FPS genre as it were in its roots, presenting this generation with the best the genre had in that age. But it’s a genre that has changed so much in the last few decades that new generation of gamers will hardly enjoy – or even have fun with it – without any of the resources and technologies from modern games – from its photorealistic visuals to its amazing gameplay elements. It’s an instant classic for gamers born in the ’80s, but maybe not all that special for gamers born after 2000. But it’s definitely a timeless jewel you should take a look at. And a piece of evidence that Voidpoint and 3D Realms still got it!
With a history of gaming that goes from his old man’s Atari 2600 to his Xbox One, Rafael or RAF687, our Brazilian editor, has a love for games as old as he can remember. He has already spent countless hours in many consoles (Mega Drive/Genesis, Sega Saturn, PS1, PS2 and Xbox 360) and is always ready for more (as long as his wife is asleep). Raf has been writing for LifeisXbox since 2017, with a passion for games of almost all genres – though we know he has a special place in his heart for RPGs, racing games and anything that includes pixel art. Writing about games has always been a childhood dream to Raf, dream that he has fulfilled reviewing games for you here. You can drop him a message at Twitter, Facebook or Xbox Live at any time.