Is it true that if you jump on a bloke’s shoulders, he’ll explode? According to Awesome Game Studio’s Fury Unleashed, the answer is a firm ‘yes’. A roguelite arcade platformer, you’re a merc-type individual out on the slay, toting an obscene amount of weaponry. Come to think of it, the extra weight might explain the exploding bodies…
The platform-traversing antics of our eponymous lead — Fury — is presented in comic-book style. Literally, as the level select screen is a comic, the map a set of comic panels, and some levels appear as unfinished black and white sketches. A fun framing device, this allows the game to flit between its stylings without any need for exposition.
The style changes will see you gibbing your way, in excessive fashion, through three large missions: an Aztec-themed jungle, a WWII-influenced underbase and a sci fi-inflected alien mothership. The enemy types are mostly the same under the (re)skin, but squishing Greys (them of the fondness ofr anal probes) one minute then goggle-eyed Nazi types the next makes for a more varied visual outing.
Fury is a tool. By that I mean, a Swiss Army Knife of diverse murder possibilities. Just about every action he can perform is an assault, or can be weaponised. The aforementioned head-stomp deals mega damage at the tap of the down direction, and why not follow it up with a melee slash with your machete? Or lob a grenade whilst backpedalling and firing twin SMGs in a deadly arc?
The over-the-top violence is punctuated by blood showers reciprocated in the form of return fire from every direction. Platforms can be dropped-through in most cases but bullets, rockets and all manner of other ordnance can pass through too, meaning there are practically no hiding places, reinforced by the surprise appearance of hidden enemies. In fact, the entire game is riddled with traps of every kind, from laser barriers and trip mines to acid-spitting plants.
There are a lot of indies that do this kind of thing, of course, so what marks Fury Unleashed out from the crowd? For one, the structure is great. As the game is split in three, with a main boss character at the end of each comic/world, you can tackle each one as a standalone or attempt a run of all three once unlocked. The game shutters the latter two comics behind a simple but effective objective: defeat three different (randomised) boss types in each comic before the next unlocks. This encourages replay for progress, whilst also prepping you for the steep difficulty of the later stages.
Whether you’re knocking around the evil dead in South America, or bore-holing Mr. Alien Autopsy in the Independence Day Mother Ship, the levels are always a mix of crafted and procedurally-generated, but you feel the hand of a good designer working behind the scenes of each. Loot crates (not MTX ones, thank the maker) are liberally dropped around the stages and contain all sorts of goodies, from armour to weapons to BIGGER STOMPING BOOTS for shoulder-crushing kicks. You also get random tasks assigned that drop perks if you complete them — melee X number of enemies, reach the end in X amount of time, that kind of thing — and dealers of various stripes often appear, offering upgrades for part of your lifeforce.
This level of interaction should create brain overload, but the simplicity of the run-and-gun antics contrasts nicely with the mini-breaks these transactions give you. There’s a big incentive to keep your combo going, find equipment to make its propogation more likely, then kill larger chains of bad guys, to collect ink to spend on the upgrade tree at the end of the stage.
So yes, there’s an eye-punishing amount of action filling the screen, all the time, but the feedback you receive from your weaponry is so satisfying that time melts away as you slip into the fabled ‘zone’. The first time I grabbed a nail gun and heard the sharp, percussive rat-tat-tat of the nails’ release I was transported back to the Quake days; a game series this one takes inspiration from. In fact, Fury Unleashed is practically Quake III Arena in 2D form, sporting sound FX and gibs the id Software of old would be jealous of.
Despite the praise so far, I think two or three things keep the game from being an all-time classic. The stages sometimes configure themselves so that powerful enemies are obscured by foreground objects, an issue exacerbated by the second problem where the colour palette can occasionally make it hard to differentiate enemy from background. I’d also like the uncommon perk which reveals hidden enemies to be a standard upgrade. There’s nothing more frustrating than building a gigantic combo then having it ended by some little squit of a drone, or a feeble explosive that was buried in the ground until you passed over it.
The controls are pretty tight, but unmappable (on PlayStation 4, at least). Jump is assigned to the X face button, but unusable there as you need that thumb for Fire, mapped to all directions on the right-hand stick. Jump is replicated on the L2 analogue trigger which becomes your default, but some may struggle with their squishy nature, long travel, and positioning on the same hand that’s operating movement. Being able to — for example — map jump onto the more responsive R1 and sticking the lesser-used grenades onto a trigger would save a lot of awkward hand gymnastics.
Awesome Game Studios may have stood on the shoulders of giants to craft Fury Unleashed into the streamlined death engine it is, with strands of DNA from the likes of Metal Slug, Enter the Gungeon, Broforce and countless other indie throwbacks, but it lands square and true on the collarbones. It’s addictive, feverishly hectic, moreish and squishes the opposition into the ground, sending up a thoroughly satisfying gore fountain in the process.