Ion Fury Review: A New Build Engine FPS!


Greetings and today on LGR we’ve got something
truly exciting! Today we’re talking about the game previously
known as Ion Maiden, now titled Ion Fury due to truly ridiculous legal qualms but whatever. Ion Fury is a new FPS published by 3D Realms and developed by Voidpoint, released on August 15, 2019. And the main source of my excitement for this game stems from the engine with which it was developed. Because this, my friends, is a Build Engine
game. In 2019. That’s right, a brand new FPS built on the
same code base used in over a dozen mid-90s shooters. Games like Duke Nukem 3D, Shadow Warrior,
Blood, Redneck Rampage, Nam, Witchaven, William Shatner’s TekWar, Extreme PaintBrawl — ahh
crap the games are getting worse I should’ve stopped when I had the chance! So forget those last couple games, let’s
just say it shares the Build Engine with these three and leave it at that. So yeah, that makes Ion Fury the first official
3D Realms Build Engine FPS since Shadow Warrior, and is the first new Build Engine game period
since 1999. There have, of course, been plenty of Build
Engine game remasters over the years like Blood: Fresh Supply, Shadow Warrior Classic
Redux, and Duke Nukem 3D: World Tour. Not to mention countless mods and total conversions
that are pretty fantastic in their own right. But Ion Fury is the first entirely new, full,
standalone game built on Build in over two decades now, so enough with the preamble. I am beyond psyched, let’s get to it! [grenade sounds, menu music] Ion Fury explodes onto the screen with a main
menu that fits in perfectly with the menus of Apogee and 3D Realms throughout the 90s. It even has a readme option that brings up
a classic info screen going over the story so far, gameplay tips, and a list of development
and publishing credits. Oh and it’s worth noting that we’re looking
at footage from the pre-release full version of the game, provided to me for review by
3D Realms so I could get this review out in time for launch day. So some stuff may change in the future, but
I’m told this is pretty feature-complete. Minus a few things like controller support,
something in the works to be patched in later, as you’d expect seeing as multiple console
ports are in the works for 2020. Anyway, starting a new game brings up a few
options, with the campaign providing the main storyline playable on four skill levels, each
with appropriately ‘90s names and matching portraits. There are also an assortment of bonus missions,
including the preview campaign, Crisis in Columbia, a wave survival mode, Queen of the Hill, and a mode with infinite Bowling Bombs, Bombardier Trial. But yeah, we’re gonna take a good look at
the campaign here since that’s where you’ll find the real meat. [music plays, explosions explode] -You’re lucky I can’t fit a grenade launcher in my bag! [door opens, enemies call out] [revolver firing] [cyborgs dying] [electrical zapping] So this is Ion Fury! And straight away, I’ve gotta say I think
this looks positively fantastic. There’s always been something exceptional
to me about the appearance of Build Engine games, and Ion Fury? Just pump it into my veins! Those low-res textures, those flat sprites,
them chunky voxels, that colored sector lighting and those simulated shadows. Dude!
I love it all. And it looks even more legit if you go into
the options, disable OpenGL, and crank down the resolution. Now that’s what I’m talkin’ about,
I can’t see s***! Exactly how I like my Build Engine games. Especially when playing on a nice CRT monitor in 640×480 resolution with a 100Hz refresh rate. I’m not gonna make you sit through a whole review with the graphics cranked down that far, but yeah. Just wanted to drive home the point that Ion
Fury’s graphics options are admirably on-point, to where it genuinely looks like a lost 3D
Realms game from 1997. And don’t get me wrong, I also thoroughly
enjoy the current trend of retro shooters mimicking the look of the 90s! Games like Dusk and Amid Evil are wonderful
games that both look and play like something straight outta ‘97, despite using modern
engines like Unity and Unreal. But it really is another thing entirely to
have a new game in an old engine like this, albeit an updated source port in this case. Ion Fury’s binary is built from the EDuke32
code and has a bunch of stuff tweaked to make it work as you see here, thanks in no small
part to the talents of EDuke32 developer Richard Gobeille working as Ion Fury’s director
and one of the programmers. But make no mistake: this is a Build Engine
title complete with a large group file containing CON scripts, *.ART tilesets, definition
files, and maps that will all be familiar to anyone who’s dabbled in Build Engine
modding, with each individual level file opening just fine in Mapster32. Granted, my review copy didn’t load the
textures, but I’m told EDuke32’s next patch will support Ion Fury maps, no problem. Speaking of maps there are seven chapters
or zones to complete, with two to five maps each, totaling around 30 individual levels
in the main campaign. This is a lot larger than the preview campaign that was already available, it took me about 9 hours to get through everything! As for the narrative, you play Corporal Shelly
“Bombshell” Harrison, explosives expert and leader of the GDF Domestic Task Force, based in the “near future” American city of Neo DC. After another crappy day at work, you’re
about to get wasted at a local bar when the place is attacked by a bunch of cracked-out
cyborg punks carrying out the plans of Diet Coke Doctor Proton, Professor Jadus Heskel, voiced by the one and only Jon St. John of Duke Nukem fame. -This is a public service announcement! -Return to your homes or face death. -We’re taking over this town! And if all this sounds familiar, well, here’s
the thing. Back in 2016 I covered another 3D Realms-published
game: Bombshell. Which was a top-down twin-stick action RPG
thing and ah. Considering I described it as “a game with
no soul that made me sad,” you can safely say I wasn’t a huge fan. And Ion Fury is indeed a direct prequel to
Bombshell, so that’s something. Thankfully though, Ion Fury is so friggin’
fantastic that whatever came before can be completely ignored if you so desire. Besides, this is all new material anyway. And what glorious material it is, ahh. If you have even a slight fondness for the
aforementioned Build Engine games, or other shooters like Quake, Half-Life, Sin, Turok,
and Unreal? Then I can all but guarantee you’ll enjoying
sinkin’ your teeth into this! For me, Ion Fury conjured up the same internal
giddiness I felt playing those classic FPS titles for the first time in the 90s, a kind
of gaming fulfillment that arrives with diminishing frequency the older I get. Admittedly, a lotta that is induced by the
game engine itself, but it’s more than that. What really sealed the deal is the craftsmanship
that went into the level design, merged with its thoughtfully-balanced sense of speed and
skill at which you can eliminate your foes. And of course, the way in which they diabolically
return the favor. [sounds of combat] [screams of death] [chilled out tracker music plays] Also that music, oh man. The soundtrack here went in a different yet
appropriate direction than I expected, and I love it. Instead of going with MIDI files or CD-quality
audio, it’s all XM FastTracker 2 music composed by Jarkko Rotstén, a Finnish composer who’s
been making tracker tunes since the early 90s. [techno music plays] -Nothing that laying down another beating can’t solve! But yeah, allow me to gush over these levels
for a bit now because this kinda map design is an endangered species and deserves to be
cherished. Ion Fury is chock full of captivating places
to explore, ranging from subway stations to office buildings, wide open city streets to
cramped old mansions. I’ve always enjoyed shooters featuring normal-ish
environments like this, instead of endless grimy industrial corridors and military bases. Granted, it’s got those too, because of
course it does. Much of the game involves exploring Professor
Heskel’s weird tech facilities, complete with color-coded key cards and logic and dexterity-based
environmental puzzles. But personally, my favorite levels are the
ones that take place in a well-realized, relatable location. Like, when I came across this shopping mall with its stores, food court, escalators, and water features and stuff? Yeah, this is my own retro heaven. [mall muzak plays peacefully] -Yum yum yum! -Yum yum yum!
[muzak continues] Can someone please make an FPS that takes
place entirely in an old shopping mall? If nothing else, now I wanna make my own levels
recreating old retail chains, cuz dude, playing through this got me all kinds of inspired. However, I know from experience that inspiration
is only the beginning. Creating detailed, complex levels in Build
that are actually engaging to play, as well as being visually cohesive and challenging
enough without getting too frustrating? That is the real task. Again though, props to the level designers. They’ve conceived an exceptional variety
of maps, many of them utterly massive, and each with a sense of progression that feels
less disjointed than you might expect for the engine. A single map takes anywhere from five to twenty-five
minutes to complete, with the end of a level leading straight into the next, sometimes
as seamlessly as walking through a hallway. And yep, you can travel back and forth between
maps in certain spots, so backtracking is not only a possibility but something that’s
encouraged. It even lets you know how many secrets you’ve
missed at the end of a given area, which is nice cuz good grief there are a ton of secrets. I found dozens on my first playthrough, but
apparently that was only 31% according to the end-game stats screen. Each level is bursting at the seams with hidden
ares, or Dick’s Secret Stashes as they’re called, which I can only assume is a Duke
Nukem reference. And why not, Duke’s DNA is scattered all
over the place throughout the entire campaign. 3D Realms unfortunately doesn’t own the
rights to the IP anymore, but that hasn’t stopped them from including amusing Nukem-esque
easter eggs on practically every level. Not to mention the slew of jokey objects that
exist solely to elicit an immature chuckle. On top of the references to old school 3D
Realms and Apogee games, Hollywood movies, TV shows, modern day memes, and pop culture
at large. Everything from Dopefish to Twin Peaks, from Portal to Smashing Pumpkins, from Maniac Mansion to Breaking Bad. Even the computer screens mimic real world
operating environments and applications, like Amiga Guru Meditation errors, Linux bootsplashes, and even id Software’s De-Ice program for DOS. And naturally, there are copious one-liners
spouted at random or triggered by an event. -Fire in the hole, assholes! -Dōmo arigatō, Mr. Roboto. -This is my boomstick! -I spray, you pray. -You gotta keep ‘em separated. -Oh my god, the quarterback is toast! All of this is just the expected icing on
the cake though. The true heart of Ion Fury beats to the drum
of its first-person combat. Unlike Bombshell before it, there are no robotic
arm powers or upgrades here. Instead, there’s a rather basic FPS weapons
loadout, with the most interesting part of each one being its alternate firing mode. You got a nightstick called the Electrifryer
that doles out melee combos and electrified shocks. The Loverboy triple-barreled revolver shoots
as quickly as you can pull the trigger and can also lock onto things for quick headshots. Penetrator SMGs can be dual wielded and fire incendiary rounds that set dudes on fire because it’s awesome. The Disperser shotgun shoots the usual scattershot
and also doubles as a grenade launcher by clicking over into the alt-fire mode. Bowling Bombs make a return from Bombshell and work like homing grenades, exploding only on enemy contact. Cluster Pucks are powerful explosives that
detonate when touching a solid surface. The Ion Bow works like a rail gun, shooting
single high energy bolts, or charged up in horizontal groups, or as a rapid-fire attack
launching dozens of rounds. And of course there’s a chaingun, with alt-fire
spinning the barrels. Ion Fury also keeps it simple on the inventory
items, with only a portable medkit and a radar for revealing enemies for a few seconds. There’s also items that activate on pickup,
like jump boots, damage multipliers, and briefly infinite bowling bombs. For the most part though, yeah, it’s pretty
typical FPS fare. Nothing wildly imaginative in terms of weaponry or power-ups, and that’s a bit of a missed opportunity. At least, compared to the memorably creative
loadouts from the likes of Duke 3D and Blood. Still, at least the enemies keep you on your
toes, with new types of robotic minions being introduced all the way through the campaign. For the first quarter of the game you’re
mostly fighting the same robed cultists and soldier grunts over and over, and these small
but deadly head things that can be tough to get a bead on in both their flying and crawling
forms. But eventually it starts throwing increasingly
powerful enemies your way that are far more difficult to dispatch, and I thoroughly enjoyed the way these guys were laid out through the story. Every time I heard a new creature sound off
in the distance, or came across a weird-looking lab with experiments lying around, I knew
things were about to grow more complicated. I won’t spoil the way these creatures are
introduced or the boss battles or anything, but lemme just say I thought these occasional
scripted moments were wonderful. Every new enemy intro brought to mind certain
iconic moments from Quake II, Half-Life, and Unreal in a way that had me grinning like
an idiot without fail. And yeah, augh.
That about sums up Ion Fury for me. This is a game that makes me smile, makes
me laugh, makes me feel like that kid I once was in the 90s with an Acer Aspire desktop
running Windows 95 and with an insatiable appetite for first-person experiences. Quite simply folks, my expectations were exceeded
to a degree that honestly threw me for a loop. I figured it would be a short but sweet shareware-type
experience when I first heard about the project in 2015, just a neat little nostalgic throwback
to kill a couple hours of time. But my initial skepticism has been destroyed
by the final product here, because instead we’ve got a full-blown FPS that’s twice
as long as Duke Nukem 3D Atomic Edition and multiple times more advanced
on a technical level. Though sure, there’s still room for a little
improvement. Despite some deeply satisfying weaponry and
the ability to pull off headshots, it doesn’t feature the kinds of crazy unique weaponry
found in Blood or the absurd action hero protagonist attitude of Duke Nukem. I also wish it had cooperative multiplayer. I mean, they announced it’s getting some
kind of multiplayer later on, but playing through this with a co-op buddy would be great. And they could call it something dumb like, ‘2 Girls 1 Co-op’ or whatever,
it’s an ideal opportunity! Even only as the solo experience
it is now: Voidpoint and 3D Realms have delivered a fresh Build Engine title that shines bright
in a world of samey first person shooters, and is a game that’ll sit proudly on my
shelf next to the classics. [BOOM] Oh and yeah, there’s a physical big box
release on the way too with all sorts of fun stuff inside! That version of the game costs $60, but just Ion Fury itself launches at $24.99 on Steam and GOG, a fair price in my book. So if you’re in the mood for a shooter that
injects a cocktail of late 90s PC gaming serum straight into your bloodstream, do yourself
the favor of checkin’ out Ion Fury. It’s the good stuff. [acid sizzling, game over screams] [Ion Fury soundtrack plays] And if you enjoyed this review on LGR, then
awesome. Feel free to check out my other retro FPS
coverage, or stick around, there’s new videos here every week. And as always, thank you very much for watching!

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100 thoughts on “Ion Fury Review: A New Build Engine FPS!

  1. i was about to talk shit on the game being pixel trash and it hurting my eyes at my old age but they did a great job with smoothing the edges

  2. 3:35 I died when you went "Now that's what I'm talking 'bout. I can't see sh*t! Exactly how I like my Build engine games" awesome work man

  3. kind of disappointing he talks about easter eggs but doesnt address the mean one they had to take out, or the horrible things the developers said about trans people

  4. Cute looking game, just returned it now that devs have been caught making public homophobic and transphobic jokes, and now refuse to remove a homophobic asset from the game. Gross.

  5. Hey, I just noticed LEGO Rock Raiders box on the shelf… Holy cow!… does that mean a possible review? 😀

  6. lol those one liners sound so cheesy (not fun, just bad way) – it's like when your younger sibling tries to imitate your behavior or jokes and they're total shit at it; if they went with a female protagonist, they should've used female type of comebacks/oneliners (sex and the city/matrix/tarzan..and there's more, these were just quickies that hit me), they chose the shit way (tbf, it's like playing as a tranny lol)

  7. 0:49 Nice collection Clint, you're only missing Poweslave (known as Exhumed in Europe). I would send you a physical copy if I had one :p

  8. The Guru Meditation alone is enough to make me want this game 😎

    I appreciate the fact you're aware of where it's from, my hat goes off to you sir 🎩 Now I just need to buy a hat 😏

  9. WHY IS BOMB SHELL NOT BLOND .LIKE SHE SHOUD BE FROM DUKE NUKEM… WHY DO THEY mess up good things… also this looks LIKE ASSSSSSS compared to modern doo mods.. .what is this crap

  10. It's not often that a game that isn't the sequel is coming out that I literally cannot wait to play I can't even look at this game without getting a big stupid grin on my face and getting so anxious to try it out for myself with Duke 3D be one of my first and favorite video games ever the build engine just IS video games to me.

  11. Holy buckets that mall music Solo in the video and when she says yum yum yum that's the exact same feeling my ears are feeling beautiful sexy old video game music

  12. I don't have much nostalgia for these types of games, but I recall I did enjoy the feel of Duke Nukem 3D on the Vita, this looks a lot like that, except to some extent cooler, so I can't wait to play it, kinda wanna get into this Retro games less for the nostalgia, abd more just to have a hell of a time

  13. Did you catch the Jazz Jackrabbit reference in the bar on the first level? It has the name of the Tech Noir zone above the bar on the dot matrix from Epic Pinball. I only just found out that it doubles as a Terminator reference as well. You can see it more clearly around 3:20

  14. I personally think the classic cheesy one-liners from the game's heroine would've been much more tolerable to hear if the voice-over was done by Laura Bailey.

  15. Wow, excellent! Blood has been my all-time fave fps shooter, and now this great game comes to freshen up the scene! It wouldn't have been so interesting without you excited narration! Thanks for the update!

  16. Very nice! Did anyone else notice the reference to Twin Peaks? "Damn good coffee! And hot!" is one of my fav lines of Dale Cooper: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4EsqvYBeyws

  17. Just the game for someone who hasn't upgraded their PC in two decades or someone that picked up their PC from their neighbor's driveway just before the trash pickup.

  18. LGR, please, make a review of "Twinsen's Odyssey" (1997), a french 3D adventure game developed by Adeline Software International wich was sooooo ahead of it's time. And i'm not being nolstalgic about it, i swear, i played it recently and it's still fresh! Please, make a review of it! – From a brazilian fan.

  19. I grew hearing duke cheesy one liners as he kicked alien bastard butt. now my sons can grow with Shelly kicking cyborg bastard butt. Awesome game, definetly gonna make my kids play this before some Call of duty 12 or something like that crap

  20. Where is your copy of Powerslave in your collection, it's also a Build game don't you know. By the way Powerslave could be considered the fourth best Build game behind DN3D, Blood and SW, Ion Fury would be the fifth. It is not fair that it is forgotten and despised by the public, why don't you make a video of the game. You can download the DeHacker patch to make the controls more modern and easy to use so you don't have to use the outdated controls that the game originally had. Now that I think about it, that may be the reason why people did not like the game, a pity that a good game had such terrible controls and outdated, even for its times. I am using the google translator for this comment if someone notices something weird or wrong. I live in a distant country and I do not know much English and this is not my real name, it is just a generic name that I use for my account. I am a native and here it is better to remain hidden to avoid attacks by hispanistas, it is difficult to explain.

  21. It's not that uncommon to see almost 20+ year old game engines still being used. Just look at the Halo CE modding community. We've been making multiplayer maps and campaign mods with the same damn engine that Bungie used back in 2001 as our core (with various new mod tools and software developed by our fellow modders to keep it fresh and usable with newer hardware) and… it's still good, although we still have to use mod programs to make use of widescreen aspect ratios without stretching the damn HUD. There's just a certain charm and quality that specific game engines from the late 1990's through the late-2000's had. There's a kind of timelessness that's captured by them, although perhaps nostalgia may be a factor here, but I still find that the artistic style and look of certain games gives them a charm that modern "ultra realistic" graphics in today's games don't really capture… aside from a few sci-fi series (DOOM 2016 and Eternal, Dead Space, Half-Life in general, Bulletstorm, and the HALO franchise) that are exceptions to the rule.

    Still, to see a major game company go back to an engine this old and make something new with it… it's kind of beautiful.

  22. Finished this game yesterday, and I have to say it is awesome. I loved it really much, despite the last boss fight being a mess, completely hard and repetitive.

  23. This game is fecking awesome but there is one thing i think they could done better. Play song called Bombshell Rock from Inepsy during credits

  24. Can't wait to rent the CD-ROM at the local library! I hope my Sound Blaster 16 and 3Dfx Voodoo card are supported.

  25. Clint, you've violated your own mantra here for "lazy" game reviews. Completely comprehensive, well-written, and entertaining review that's anything but lazy. Thank you for the chuckles and the info.

  26. So, after seeing this review, I tried ION Fury and ended up playing right through it in fairly short order. Loved it. So much so, I went setup Duke 3D with eduke32 and played through that again (hadn't touched it since the 90s). Having done both games all the way through in the course of a couple of week, I.F. feels like the perfect evolution to the earlier Duke3d. And boy do those Duke3D levels feel super short now, with par times under 5 minutes. I.F. is positively epic by comparison…

    What is a good, modern Eduke32 compatible mod that is large and high quality? I wanted even more now…

  27. 3:42 – Holy crap, that snap. Really channeling the aim of [insert god-tier reference here]!

    Seems like an ability / skill, but definitely satisfying to watch.

  28. Duke 3D was the game that forced me to learn how to aim with a mouse. I was getting by with just a keyboard somehow up until that game. Crazy how hard it was to adapt to new controls like that.

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