We haven't kicked ass or chewed bubble gum and been all out of gum for a very long time! Duke Nukem has been a franchise that has silently slipped into the night, however Ion Fury seems to have made us realise what we were missing.
Taking to the mean streets of NEO DC, you take control of a wise-cracking, gun-totting protagonist called Shelly "bombshell" Harrison as you defend the aforementioned mean streets from Dr Jadus Heskel and his army of augmented cultists.
As you battle your way through the game's seven zones you'll face hordes of baddies and bosses in this retro-style run-and-gun first-person shooter that will trigger your nostalgia. The basic aim is to kill everything, and to that end, you pick up weapons, sometimes duel-wielding, and launch a hail of bullets at anything that moves. On top of that, you need to discover all the secrets hidden around the levels while flicking switches and finding various coloured keycards to open doors. Those familiar with old school versions of Doom and Wolfenstein will be right at home.
We've already mentioned words like retro and nostalgia, and part of this comes down to the graphics. Ion Fury was built on the Build Engine - the same engine used to make classics like Duke Nukem. At first, we weren't sure about the graphics, but after a few seconds, we were totally sucked in and realised the visual style perfectly suited the experience on offer. The enemies sometimes go completely flat if you stand above them - reminding us of the time when graphics weren't the be-all and end-all, and it was more down to gameplay and fun! That's what we have here: something fun!
The comparisons with Duke Nukem don't stop there. Our female protagonist is wise-cracking just like Duke and some of her one-liners had us chuckling. It's always refreshing to see a game create an interesting and engaging character like this one, and well done to actor Valerie Michelle Arem as her performance was superb. There's also a healthy dose of cultural referencing going on such as a coffee shop logo in green and white that looks like a cannabis leaf on it, and a red and white soda can that looks like it might read "cock". We say "might" as the graphics can be a little unclear at times close up.
There was also quite a good variety of enemies and guns with which to kill them. There are magnums on hand to take down spider-headed... things, and uzis to set cultists on fire, not to mention the crossbow you can use to obliterate an acid-spitting centípede. There's lots of enjoyment to be had here.
There were a few things we want to mention, though. First, occasionally the frame-rate drops and stutters. It's not game-breaking, but it is slightly annoying when it happens (we reviewed the game on PS4). Then, there are the comments uttered by the baddies; they constantly repeat the same lines over and over again. Yeah, they're cultists, but it does get a bit annoying after a while.
The other issue we had was with the controls, which are very sensitive for a console shooter. We needed to tweak the camera sensitivity as it felt too high by default. Likewise, sometimes the guns just seemed to go off even when we didn't feel like we'd put any pressure on the trigger. The weapon selection wasn't the most intuitive we've seen before, and we found ourselves clumsily changing on the D-pad. Yes, it felt like the olden days, but it could have been better.
Finally, the lack of multiplayer disappointed us. This is an experience that would have surely benefited from some online action, and we think multiplayer would have added more longevity. There is quite a bit to do here, with secrets to find and a few difficulties to play on, and the action is such fun that there's plenty of value already, but another reason to go back for more would have been great.
All in all, we had lots of fun with Ion Fury, but this retro shooter won't be for everyone. The occassional frame-rate issue, the annoying bad guys saying the same annoying things, and even the graphics from yesteryear will put some off. That said, there's fun to be had here, especially if you're a fan of classic FPS titles. As an old friend once said: "come get some."
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