Phantom Fury Review – More Than Just The Boom

Phantom Fury Review - More Than Just The Boom

The Boomer Shooter revival has been rolling for a while now. A host of games have launched in recent years, all trying to cash in on our collective nostalgia for games like Quake, Duke Nukem 3d and Doom. Some have been great, recapturing the spirit of old, while others have missed the mark. But, as with all trends in the gaming industry, things are starting to get crowded so it becomes tougher for new games to stand out. Enter Phantom Fury, a Boomer Shooter from 3D Realms that brings more than just the boom to proceedings and as a result stands out from the pack. 

Phantom Fury is something of a sequel to Ion Fury, a game that was in the first wave of titles that made up the boomer shooter revival. It follows Shelly “Bombshell” Harrison as she wakes up from a coma in an underground medical facility. Before long she is contacted by her old general who has a mission for her, find the legendary Demon Core and prevent the end of the world. You know, that old chestnut. Look, story really is secondary here, Shelly makes for a likeable enough lead, with smart arse quips a plenty (which can be adjusted by a frequency meter in the options) and a true action hero personality, but she is hardly deep. Luckily, deep is not what the team are going for here, this is pure 80s action flick territory with story and character exposition a secondary concern.

This is a game that is all about the classic FPS experience, but it does it with a host of modern touches that help propel Phantom Fury towards something more than a nostalgia grab. Firstly, the gameplay is much more than just shooting. Sure there is plenty of that, but there is also a huge focus on both puzzle solving and exploration. There are some fantastic puzzles that involve cranes, electrical currents and locked doors that encourage out-of-the-box thinking and provide a satisfying “aha” moment when the solution comes to you. The exploration is also key, there are a host of hidden rooms, locked doors and even main checkpoints that require the player to scope the map looking for codes, keys and hidden nooks. It adds some variety to a genre that can be a little one-note at times. 

The action is still the star of the show however and there are some great set pieces and scenarios on offer here. From hordes of mutants swarming a weapons testing facility to a white-knuckle helicopter flight through a tight ravine, there is plenty here for shooter fans to dig into. Initially, some of the guns feel a little underpowered and useless but thanks to a cool modern touch, a weapons upgrade system, even the basic pistol becomes a useful tool of death. There are the usual suspects, grenades, shotguns and uzis, but the real star of the arsenal is Shelly’s custom 12-barrel revolver that can auto-target enemies for a quick string of headshots, Wild West style. It makes for a varied shooting experience that rarely feels rote or cliched. 

Sadly though, things start to fall apart when it comes to the tech the game is built on. Not the graphic style, that is fine and well suited to the genre, no I mean the dreaded bugs. From simple things like settings not saving and glitching enemies to more serious concerns like checkpoints not activating and quests bugging out causing full-level resets, there are just too many issues getting in the way of a smooth experience. It feels like Phantom Fury could have done with another month or two in QA before release. As it is, I am sure these issues will be patched, but frankly, I am sick of that excuse and in a title like this, a delay would have easily been better than releasing a busted product. 

Some other issues also bear mentioning. The most obvious of which is the save system. The game doesn’t include a manual save, only checkpointing. For a game that is inspired by the great shooters from the late 90s, missing a manual/quicksave option feels like a mistake, especially when the checkpointing can leave players in a tight spot, lacking ammo and health. There is no way to go back to a previous save, the only option is to restart the level. The other problem worth mentioning is the enemy design. Due to the low-detail nature of the graphics engine, it can be very difficult to tell the different enemy types apart, especially the soldiers. This means choosing appropriate tactics on the fly is a challenge. Some clearer colour identifiers would have been greatly appreciated. Finally, forget playing it on a Steam Deck or with a controller, this game needs a mouse and keyboard. It is just too imprecise with a controller, so I am really not sure the PS5 or Xbox releases are going to be the ideal way to play. 

Despite the issues though, I had a fun time with Phantom Fury. It tries to take the boomer shooter revival in a new direction and I have to applaud that. The puzzles and exploration are great, the shooting is satisfying and there is a nice tongue-in-cheek tone throughout that game that I enjoyed. Issues with bugs and some strange design choices hold this back from being a classic, but fans of the genre should be well-served, especially as it has been released at quite a reasonable price. I just hope boomer shooters continue down this path, taking the genre in new and interesting directions, because Phantom Fury proved one thing, you can invoke nostalgia while moving things forward, and that is the game’s biggest achievement by far. 

Phantom Fury was reviewed on PC with code kindly supplied by the publisher. 

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