'Islands of Nyne'
Even as the shooter continues to enjoy its decades-long reign as the most visible genre in gaming, the once-diverse form has started to fade into ever-diminishing shades of military taupe, largely in imitation of Call of Duty. Islands of Nyne hearkens back to the days of the Halo and Crysis, when realistic weaponry could gel with outsized concepts like power armor or moon-gravity jumping. But to hear project lead Rob Logan tell it, it isn’t these sci-fi classics that most influence ION; rather, it’s the shooter that first struck the ideal balance between the bombastic arena shooter and the real thing: Counter-Strike.
“I think the first thing that people notice when they boot up ION is that our pre-game warmup is [Counter-Strike gamemode] Arms Race,” says Logan. “That’s definitely intentional on our part. We want you to get the chance to try out weapons before you get thrown into the fray. We also have a shooting gallery that allows you to practice your recoil, which was a must-have feature for me personally. I think that’s definitely a first in the battle royale space.”
As Logan takes great pains to emphasize, Islands of Nyne is best described as a faster, leaner version of the standard battle royale template, with a ballistic model and gunfeel heavily reminiscent of CS:GO, complete with consistent recoil patterns and an emphasis on maintaining accuracy through deft movement. The usual slow glide down to the battlefield is nowhere to be found here, replaced with a superhero-esque fast-fall that recalls the only worthwhile scenes in the latter Matrix films. Compared to the copious menu-wading of PUBG’s questionable loot system, ION manages to glide like a dream - switching back and forth my holographic sight to my eight-magnification scope felt much more intuitive, at least to my inexact fingers. True to its “stripped-down” pitch, the distribution of loot is much more generous than the mudhuts of PUBG - even the most discerning soldiers will find themselves fully-kitted out after raiding only two or three buildings, and I very rarely found myself without my preferred sniper rifle.
As a longtime CS fan, it isn’t exactly shocking that I mostly enjoyed my time with ION; to me, it strikes a much-needed balance between the rigidity of PUBG and the rote simplicity of Fortnite. Still, as Logan himself admits, when it comes to targeting ultra-hardcore shooter fans - the sort who value precision over bombast - Islands of Nyne has a steep climb ahead of it, and the hill is getting more and more crowded by the day. “A big advantage that we have over the competition is the quality of our netcode. We always register your hits,” Logan says. “But that, combined with the small size of our team, means that we’re taking longer to scale-up. Other games already have a huge amount of players - that’s fine with me. We’re taking our time to make the game that we want to play, and I think that people recognize that even if their first match.”