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Phantom Fury

Phantom Fury

Marcus has once again dipped his toes in the nostalgia well and played Slipgate Ironworks' follow-up to the acclaimed Ion Fury.

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Out with the new and in with the old. Boomer shooters are here to stay, that much is clear by now. That nostalgic sense of the old days, the experiences of the past when life was perhaps perceived as a bit more light-hearted and carefree. Very little can compete with that rose-tinted feeling, which many developers have become very good at utilising. Including Danish Slipgate Ironworks, whose catalogue is filled with retro-modernist tributes.

Ghostrunner, Rise of the Triad, Ion Fury, Graven and Kingpin Reloaded are just a handful of these examples of the marriage of modern technology and nostalgia. A recipe they now return to with Phantom Fury, where the cocky Bombshell is once again pitted against a seemingly never-ending stream of 90s-scented debris dots. But to merely allude to the nostalgic side of Phantom Fury is also to do the title a grave disservice.

Initially, it's easy to dismiss Slipgate Ironworks' spiritual sequel to Ion Fury as just another in a long line of boomer shooters - deja vu. But if you scratch the surface, and spend some time with it, it becomes clear that there are far greater aspirations here. Phantom Fury is not content to simply replicate what has become the norm for the genre.

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In what is now Shelly Bombshell's third rodeo, parts of the experience have been modernised with game mechanics that don't necessarily match the visual aspects of Phantom Fury. Don't get me wrong, this is not a negative thing - it's a bit unexpected. Because without spoiling too much, you quickly realise that the developers have been inspired by Half-Life 2, for example.

This is not least noticeable in the environments that have been allowed to become more expansive and complex, with a clearly increased focus on interactivity. Objects can be picked up, studied and moved to a far greater extent than before, which is well utilised in the game's many puzzles that offer appreciated breaks from shooting. Phantom Fury is also far more cinematic in its presentation than the studio's previous titles, with sequences lifted from or inspired by Hollywood.

The result is a visually spectacular but occasionally frustrating experience, which at the time of writing is in need of a lot of polish to reach the levels of its predecessor. Because while I really appreciate a lot of what Slipgate Ironworks' previous games, and am certainly impressed by their willingness to evolve rather than blindly rely on the nostalgic aspects, Phantom Fury leaves a lot to be desired.

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Aside from its sparkling presentation, and yes it is worth mentioning once or twice - a direct reference to the voodoo generation. We also find a surprisingly grey and dull arsenal of weapons, offering little in the way of satisfaction. Which, together with the enemies' ability to absorb ammunition like sponges, creates a certain problem.

Shelly never really feels like the bombshell she's made out to be, there's no oomph here and that raw euphoria I so often associate with the genre - simply doesn't exist here. Phantom Fury is simply an unpolished experience with an incredible amount of potential, but which really should have been left to cook for a few more months before release.

The interactivity, the breadth of the adventure and its visual packaging are absolutely outstanding, and in the best of moments Phantom Fury is among the most impressive you can find in the genre today. An unbearably impressive piece of craftsmanship and a love letter to the glory days of the early 2000s, peppered with a good dose of modern sensibilities. And if you can live with the aforementioned flaws and have no problem with a (big) challenge. Go for it.

Personally, I will now put Phantom Fury on the shelf for a few months to return later this summer, when Slipgate Ironworks will hopefully have had time to balance the experience and improve the feel of the relatively substantial arsenal of weapons that the game presents. Because there is undeniably a lot to be impressed, amazed and entertained by here, even if it is in a relatively unpolished form at the time of writing.

07 Gamereactor UK
7 / 10
+
Awesome game world, impressive interactivity and an unrivalled aesthetic jaw-dropper.
-
Overly tough enemies, a dull feel to the weapons, frustrating difficulty and confusing levels at times.
overall score
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Phantom Fury

REVIEW. Written by Marcus Persson

Marcus has once again dipped his toes in the nostalgia well and played Slipgate Ironworks' follow-up to the acclaimed Ion Fury.



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