Phantom Fury is a mere phantom of the classics – Review – WGB

The steady rise of the boomer-shooter has been something rather special, a deliberate move back to the days when FPS games were less about the realism and more about the pure fun. There are many elements that make a game a boomer-shooter, from the graphical style which apes the classics to the run and gun shooting. Make no mistake: Phantom Fury is a boomer-shooter. Unfortunately, it isn’t one of the better ones.

This is actually a sequel to Ion Fury, itself a sequel to 2016’s Bombshell, which was released in 2021, featuring Shelly “Bombshell” Harrison and her robotic arm. While Ion Fury was inspired by the likes of Duke Nukem 3D and DOOM, Phantom Fury shifted its focus toward the late 90s and early 2000s. Think Serious Sam: The First Encounter and you’ll be in the right ballpark.

It’s important to know though, that while the well-received Ion Fury was developed by Voidpoint, Phantom Fury was made by SlipGate Ironworks who also made the original Bombshell which was…not so well-received.

But while this is a sequel, you don’t need to have played Ion Fury to jump into Shelly’s latest adventure because, honestly, the plot is more like background noise anyway. Shelly awakes from a coma to find herself inside an underground base, grabs the nearest weapon (a stun baton) and embarks on a journey to save the world from some nonsense or other. She’ll throw out some one-liners and quips along the way, none of which capture the crassness or charisma of Duke Nukem. The occasional character pops in as well, attempting to justify your shenanigans and all the explosions but never managing to.

Like its inspirations, Phantom Fury is about shooting far more than telling a cohesive or interesting story. There’s none of that primary and secondary weapon nonsense here: Shelly is old-school and can magically fit her entire arsenal of firepower, of which there’s a lot, into her non-existent pockets. It’s that or she’s fitting them somewhere else, but I refuse to venture up that rabbit hole. There’s the typical choices of a shotgun, an assault rifle and a rocket launcher, augmented with a spicier implements of destruction like an acid-spitting alien tentacle…errr, thing, a photon rifle and bowling ball bombs. While I admire the idea of making players decide which guns to take, there’s something beautiful about having every weapon instantly available.

The thing about having a big arsenal is overlap, and that’s something Phantom Fury does suffer from. The standard pistol is completely useless compared to the Loverboy revolver which also boasts an absurdly overpowered lock-on ability, while the SMGs are largely usurped by the assault rifle. The Stun Baton has no reason to exist aside from occasionally powering up an electric box, and the same can be said for the circular saw which you’ll sometimes whip out to grind through a locked door but is otherwise useless against enemies due to a lack of ammo for it.

Along the way you get a chance to upgrade your guns, giving them extra abilities that serve no purpose compared to the superior suit and gun upgrades. The shotgun’s blinding flashlight is fine, for example, but not really worth spending upgrade points on.

The combat is fairly fast-paced, emphasising plenty of strafing and dodging in and out of cover whenever it’s available while waves of baddies try to turn you into a fine pink mist. Its very basic action, somewhat lacking in feedback from the enemies you shoot and suffering from anaemic weapons. It’s not bad per se, but I can’t say I enjoyed the gunplay either – it’s serviceable, occasionally fun but mostly forgettable and in need of more enemy variety to keep things fresh.

One thing Phantom Fury doesn’t push as much as it should is Shelly’s robotic arm. You can smash enemies to a pulp with it, hence a decent recharge time, but with the wealth of firearms available I actually found myself barely ever using Shelly’s handy battering ram. It doesn’t get used much in puzzles or exploration either, which is surprising. Considering its her sole defining trait (her personality doesn’t have much going on) you’d expect it to be woven into the gameplay.

One of the fun little ways Phantom Fury mimics its inspirations is through heaps of interactable objects, reminding me of the days of Duke Nukem 3D where you could flush toilets, chug booze and press every button. Most of it is completely pointless but that doesn’t stop it from feeling oddly satisfying, and sometimes it leads to cool minigames such as an arcade light gun game. Other times it can be a little baffling because objects that look interactable, including doors, aren’t always. I honestly thought we had moved past the days of some doors being, y’know, actual doors while others aren’t, but here we are. Mind you, Phantom Fury hasn’t quite moved past the idea of invisible walls, either.

The game is at its best after the first few hours of linear levels. Later environments open up into sprawling layouts that twist and loop, including multiple doors that require good old-fashioned colour-coded security cards. These bigger zones require some proper exploration and even a decent memory since there’s no mini-map or anything like that. God help you if you stop playing and come back after a few days. On the one hand, the majority of the time its fun to figure out what to do next and it feels like the game and its developers actually trust you get the job done. On the other hand, there were a few moments were I found myself genuinely stuck for a while because I couldn’t fathom what the game wanted of me because the signposting wasn’t up to snuff.

There are a few colourful areas such as a jungle or a fun section involving a pub, but ultimate there are too many corridors, military bases and gloomy interiors, harkening back to the old school shooters in the wrong way. Hell, the game even manages to wedge a sewer section into the action that looks miserable from a graphical standpoint. Sure, it makes the few splashes of colours found in outdoor levels stand out, but I’d rather spend less time exploring the inside of a concrete bunker, especially during the final third of the game.

Phantom Fury also tries to break up the flow now and then with something different, like driving along boring roads in a 4×4 or an on-rails helicopter section where you gun down enemy aircraft. These sections are very hit or miss in terms of quality, but do at least provide some variety. The same can be said of the boss fights which typically pit you against some giant foe with an equally giant health bar to whittle down via the careful application of shit-tons of ammo and explosives. I can’t say there’s anything inventive about these fights, though: you’ve seen ’em all before.

Even weeks after launching, I found quite a few technical problems with Phantom Fury, the biggest of which was the dozen or so crashes on my PS5. At one point it crashed multiple times in one section, shutting down the game just before I could get to the next checkpoint and thus halting my progress until I completely turned off the console and booted it back up. Other problems are less annoying, like being randomly catapulted into the air due to the physics system really not liking that specific barrel that rolled into my ankles, or enemies ignoring my existence like I’m a problem they are furiously hoping will go away if they don’t move. They are wrong.


Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

I’d be more willing to ignore these issues if the gameplay was stronger, but it isn’t. It’s not a bad game, but there are plenty of other boomer-shooters out there – like Boltgun, the excellent Selaco or even Ion Fury, for that matter – that do it so much better.

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