Never has a title so accurately described the sentiments I’ve felt while playing a game than FURI. The Game Bakers’ debut title for the PS4 and PC is a lot of things. The blend of bullet hell shooting with hack ’n’ slash swordplay, the striking aesthetic, and the pulse-pounding soundtrack all combine to create one of the most multifaceted titles in recent memory. Yet for all of its features, FURI’s components are all united to form a single theme: how goshdarned furious I get when playing this game. DARK SOULS and SUPER MEAT BOY be damned; FURI may be the new king of pissing me off.
Before we talk gameplay, let’s start with the story, because this game is the exemplar of many problems plaguing narrative in gaming. FURI’s premise is all but nonexistent. You are a prisoner. You break out of jail. You must fight through several powerful guardians to win your freedom. Your nameless protagonist has little to say about this situation, leaving the talking to your monologue-inclined opponents and a Frank the Bunny cosplayer who acts as your shadow. Words inevitably turn to fisticuffs, as the bosses realize that the protagonist, just like you, is simply here for the violence.
“Why do you wear that stupid anime suit?”
It would be easy to ignore FURI’s plot if it simply stuck to the token nature of stories attached to games of this genre. The problem is that FURI assumes it contains greater nuance than “shoot, stab, repeat,” and spends quite a bit of time trying to prove this to you. Between each fight, the player must walk for an extended period of time while the Bunny recites a soliloquy about the upcoming opponent. It’s hard to pin down what’s most annoying about these tiresome segments; the clunky tank controls that become instituted, the fact that you’re suddenly slowed to a snail’s pace, or that there is no reason to care about the next archetypal mook I’m about to cut down.
FURI’s characters are intended to represent themes and ideas, but come off instead as flat stereotypes that serve only to bore. None of the sob stories or heroic pledges made by your wardens relate to your character in any meaningful way. FURI subscribes to the hackneyed theory of game writing that a compelling story can be crafted by a handful of characters with “names” like The Chain, The Edge, and The (Monosyllabic Word Here) speaking in cryptic riddles and leaving it to the player to decipher meaning. The truth is that FURI is all style and no substance, and the mystery it tries to cultivate leads to the most underwhelming and tangentially related conclusion that there could have possibly been.
Yeah, so shut up and start dicing
Of course, the meat of FURI is in its combat, as it’s there that you will spend most of your time. This is where FURI starts to feel inspired, rather than insipid. Like SHADOW OF THE COLOSSUS, this is a game where you solely face off against powerful bosses, with no cannon fodder or platforming filler in between. Each boss has multiple stages, each divided into two sections. The first half of a stage sees you dodging hundreds of projectiles while returning fire with your own gun. Once you’ve depleted the boss’s health bar, you then close in for a sword battle where parries and counters take center stage. Rinse and repeat as the boss then becomes more powerful.
This fusion of genres within a single battle is a novel idea, but it is only that: an idea. FURI nails the concepts but bails on the execution. On a micro level, it’s fine. Your gun, sword, and dash all handle excellently. It’s the structure of the fights themselves where FURI suffers. The skill ceiling is so high and the punishments are so cruel that the game is nearly impossible to play, no matter how tight the controls may be.
More hazards fly through the air here than a bus full of third graders
Other, better “hard” games know how to pace themselves correctly. DARK SOULS is ruthless, but enemies are designed to both be reasonably read and reacted to. Likewise, SUPER MEAT BOY will kill you ad infinitum in its deadly mazes, but will immediately toss you back into the action to try again.
FURI does neither of these things. Not only do the blizzards of enemy bullets require crackerjack timing to avoid, they often exploit the stage to silly degrees and will leave you with a completely drained health bar before you can even recover. Additionally, dying during a boss fight will reset that segment of the encounter, some of which can be pretty lengthy affairs. Losing all three of your lives will reset the entire battle, which is perhaps the most aggravating feature I’ve seen in a video game this year.
Have fun repeating a minute of this ten more times
What is perhaps most insulting is that as well as an unlockable, even harder difficulty setting, FURI does feature an “easy mode” which turns the game into a cakewalk. The game can be finished in half an hour with this setting, as opposed to the hours normally spent on each of the game’s ten bosses. “Balance” is not a word that seems to exist in The Game Bakers’ dictionary. In making the only two difficulties effortless and impossible, they’ve made FURI unapproachable to all but the most die hard genre fanatics.
It’s a shame. I really wanted to like FURI, and there still are plenty of things I do appreciate about it. The stylish cel shaded graphics and anime-inspired designs hearken back to classics like JET SET RADIO and NO MORE HEROES. The score features a bevy of electronic artists that make it sound like the lovechild of Justice and Daft Punk. Given how franticly you’ll be dodging lasers, the beats lend FURI a pseudo rhythm game feel. But despite the amazing aesthetic, playing FURI is like pulling teeth, and in the end, I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemies. Unless you’re desperate for an ulcer, stay far, far away from this game.
Verdict: Do Not Recommend
Reviewed on PlayStation 4, also available on PC