During its Realms Deep presentation today, 3D Realms has announced Phantom Fury — a new game and chapter in the Ion Fury legacy. If you’re wondering if it’s a prequel or a sequel, the answer is yes. Phantom Fury takes place after the events of Ion Fury, but before Bombshell — a game that didn’t quite hit the mark like its prequel. Shelly “Bombshell” Harrison does indeed return to blast more baddies. And this time, she has her upgradable bionic arm to help tear through more retro-inspired levels.
I got to check out Phantom Fury in a hands-off preview weeks ahead of today’s show. As mentioned, its story is snuggled between Ion Fury and Bombshell, taking place years after the former. It’s Shelly’s first mission with her bionic arm, which she dubs Amiga in Bombshell. It takes an important role here in Phantom Fury, and thankfully doesn’t look like an obnoxious piece of construction equipment. At least, not yet.
Sitting between two games set in Shelly’s past and future, it’s fitting that the aesthetic matches up. Graphically, Phantom Fury looks like a marriage between the ’90s and early 2000s eras of first-person shooters. It uses polygons for its world and characters, but close up you can clearly see the pixels that make up the myriad textures. The game is not built using the Build Engine, which powered its predecessor. Phantom Fury is instead being created with Unreal Engine 4.
Here there and everywhere
The game will feature many new and diverse worlds, ranging from deserts. Shelly starts off in the desert region of Albuquerque, but makes her way to other places like Chicago. As seen in a new trailer, at least one level has an underwater section, and others will contain driving or flying segments.
Levels, as I was told, come in two flavors. There are exploration levels, which are more spread out, allowing you to search around for means of progress. These bigger maps also contain a lot of secrets to find, and they’ll reward you for your curiosity. Linear levels, on the other hand, funnel you along from beginning to end with minimal exploration.
I got to see an entire level for my preview of Phantom Fury, which took place on a moving train between two missions. The train, falling under the “linear level” category, had been taken over by enemy forces, and getting off safely required us to hunt down a vehicle, fuel it up, and get the hell out.
A little old, a little new
Phantom Fury‘s gameplay loop shouldn’t surprise most shooter fans. Combat is still as fast-paced as ever. Enemies stream in and fire away, give you the perfect excuse to warm up your arsenal. There are more than 20 weapons coming to Phantom Fury, including some fan favorites from Ion Fury — such as Bowling Bombs. There are also keys to hunt down for locked doors, explosive barrels to shoot, and secrets to hunt down.
However, Phantom Fury does feature some notable changes. Shelly is able to vault over obstacles, as well as slide toward enemies while hammering away at the trigger. She can use “kiosks” to upgrade her suit and bionic arm, giving you options on how to spice up the gameplay. In the demo, Shelly had upgraded her arm to be strong enough to rip a turret off its stand and use it as a mobile weapon. We also saw an ability in the trailer where the arm can create a shield to block bullets. I didn’t get to see how the upgrade system works, however.
There’s also more interactivity within the levels. Vending machines dispense cans of soda, which offer a small replenishment to health. There is also a jukebox, as well as arcade machines where you can play simplistic mini-games. In the demo, it was an adorable light gun shooter.
The interactivity isn’t focused on smaller distractions, however. In one part of the train level, Shelly had to use a crane to pick up a crate to swing like a wrecking ball and destroy a container of fuel, opening up progression. Near the end of the level, a crate containing a necessary key was locked. Loading up an email on a nearby computer terminal gave us the code for the crate, which contained extra ammo and the key.
Back in the swing of things
As mentioned, there are more than 20 weapons to find in Phantom Fury. You’ll have your usual picks, such as a pistol, machine gun, SMG, shotgun, an electric baton, and a revolver that can shoot six times even though there are a lot more bullets in the cylinder. The train level, however, introduces a new gun that belched out electric foam. Enemies hit by this new bad boy would get zapped and sputter in place until they died. It looks fun.
So far, Phantom Fury is looking like a great follow-up game to Ion Fury — which still has DLC on the way. The game is still in development, but I like what I’ve seen so far. There are still some unknowns, such as how the upgrade system works. And the enemy AI is bit lackluster at this point. But as an old and grizzled shooter fan who cut his teeth on Build Engine games, I’m lookin’ forward to seeing more. Phantom Fury is coming to PC in 2023.