Pedro would like to apologise in advance for talking about Final Fantasy XIII-2 during a totally unrelated conversation. He really can't help himself.
Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, ,
May 8, 2020
Awesome Games Studio
Awesome Games Studio
Fury Unleashed is a game I am bad at. I’m just terrible at it. I spent 3 hours getting repeatedly pummelled by the first boss. I had to switch to Easy Mode for the sake of this review. But here’s the thing: after I finished the game, I went back and played through it on Hard (the default difficulty). Fury Unleashed is exciting to play, and a single run is quick to get through, so I didn’t care how much I died. This is a roguelite that rewards what you do, no matter how good you are at doing it. I died a lot, but I just wanted to try again every time.
If the name Fury Unleashed sounds familiar, that’s because the game was released on Early Access in 2017. The gameplay reminds me a lot of 2013’s Rogue Legacy, but with guns. The game consists of side-scrolling your way through procedurally generated levels on a 2D plane, defeating enemies and collecting power ups and loot. When you die, you can upgrade your character’s abilities before your next run. But there’s a boatload of guns.
Shooting your gun is easy, responsive, and mapped to the right analogue stick for quick access. You also have a melee weapon, grenades, and a limited use super ability, but your guns are your primary weapon. Enemies will shoot back, but some will swipe at you or explode on death, so guns are the best way to deal with them. The way bullets temporarily stun baddies works well with the game’s exaggerated comic book art style. A helpful auto-aim function means strategy is more important than precision. And with the game’s randomised loot system, there’s always new, better guns to play with. Some guns are slow but powerful. Some are weak but quick. Some are weird sci-fi implements that shoot straight across the room. You don’t get to keep your guns when you die, so each run is different in both layout and playstyle.
If there’s one flaw with the guns in Fury Unleashed, it’s the reload mechanic. Each gun comes with infinite bullets, but must be reloaded once it’s out of bullets. There’s a manual reload button, but no in-game bullet counter, so I never knew the right time to use it. Reloading takes a full second or two, and did lead to some deaths, so I wish bullet capacity was better communicated to players.
Fury Unleashed is at its most fun when you’re getting through levels at a breakneck pace – or should I say, shootneck pace. There’s an addictive combo system that gives you more ink (upgrade currency) the more kills you rack up. The music ratchets up and becomes more intense along with it. It’s exciting stuff. Your combo – and the music – abruptly ends if you get hit, so there’s a challenge in keeping it up as long as possible. Or you could play like me, and slowly explore each room of each level for armour so I can attempt a good combo later. That’s its own kind of fun.
Holding down the dash button turns it into a sprint. Ideally this lets you zoom across platforms and the randomised platforming challenges that pop up. The game makes a point of showing you can dash across spike pits if the gap is wide enough. Unfortunately, the randomised nature of the platforms means you’ll occasionally try to sprint across a gap, only to bump into the 2 pixel of extra height that platform had. Not a big flaw by any means, but it sure does kill the momentum when you keep tripping over the environment.
There’s also a stomp mechanic, triggered by holding down the left stick. It lets you jump on enemies and squelch their skulls like the gritty Super Mario reboot I’ve always dreamed of. Problem is, in a game with such precision-free shooting controls, I often found myself landing a centimetre next to an enemy by mistake. Sometimes, I’d stomp an explosive enemy when I didn’t mean to, just because I wanted to jump off a ledge. Once again, this is a minor gripe that didn’t hinder my enjoyment of the game, but I did notice it a lot.
The game’s plot doesn’t get in the way of the gameplay too much, but is surprisingly nuanced. You play as Fury, the hero of a fictional comic book series called Fury Unleashed. Each level in the game plays as Fury reliving one of their past adventures in order to discover what happened to John Kowalsky, the creator of the comics. I don’t think it quite sticks the landing, but Fury Unleashed has a lot to say about the kinds of mental health struggles and creative fatigue that can set in when running a high-profile comic. This meta layer – all the menus are set on Kowalsky’s desk – is consistent and engaging, and helps frame the game’s wackiness. Of the four levels in the game, one is set in a haunted jungle, another in a Neo-Nazi robot fortress, and it all makes perfect sense.
One small feature I liked was how Fury wears all the randomised armour pieces you find throughout each level. But otherwise, I found character customisation to be lacking. There’s two default character models, each with a half-dozen or so hairstyles and accessories to choose from, and that’s it. There’s four available skin tones, three light, one dark. Other characters can be unlocked throughout the game, but these can’t be customised at all. It’s a disappointment, but it’s often hard to see Fury when there’s bullets and viscera covering every inch of a room, so it’s not a big disappointment.
Fury Unleashed doesn’t hold your attention for very long. This is a good thing. This isn’t the kind of game you play for days on end, perfecting your run. Rather, this is something to come back to every once in a while, when you’ve got a few minutes to kill. And you know, you feel like killing at the same time. This is an exhilarating, addictive roguelite which, while not perfect, is definitely worth sinking some time into, even if you suck at it. It took me a minute, but I eventually beat that first boss. If I can do it, anyone can.