Fury 3

Microsoft’s Fury 3 PC Game Review

This is a game that’s full of nostalgia for me, and probably for you too. You might not have known that Fury 3 was the game that helped to sell Windows 95, even though today it has faded into complete obscurity.

Is it Fury Three? Fury Cubed? There isn’t a Fury 1 or 2 and the manual says it’s “Fury to the Third Power”. But I don’t want to sound like a total bellend so I’m going to go with Fury 3. Along with POD, Fury 3 came with my first computer, our family Pentium 2 PC. I have really strong memories attached to that. I can remember playing Fury 3 at about 11 years old, using the terrible beige Quickshot joystick that also came bundled with that PC. In fact, I remembered while making this video. I can tell you how I was first exposed to Fury 3. It was on the Microsoft CD Sampler that came with that old Pentium 2 PC.

Fury 3 Windows 95 Development

But wait. Let me take it back. It’s autumn 1995. Bosnia was in the news a lot. Pocahontas was the big Disney film that summer. Take That’s “Never Forget” spent 3 weeks at the top of the chart, before Blur’s “Country House” knocked them off. The new must-have item was the personal computer.

Bill Gates had got this idea into his head that Windows 95 was going to be this shiny all-singing gaming platform. Before Windows, gaming on a PC was a bollock ache. Things like getting DMAs and IRQs set up for your sound card needed doing for every game. There were no central drivers or global settings. Even something as simple as calibrating your joystick was much harder that it needed to be. Big Bill’s idea was to move away from the wild west that was DOS development. He wanted all PC software developed to a set of specific standards. This would (almost) guarantee a game’s compatibility, rather than it being a blind guess as to whether it would run on your hardware. The name of this standard was to be DirectX.

3D cards like the Voodoo and ATI Rage were on the horizon and Microsoft were gearing up to unveil their Direct3D API to leverage this new 3D frontier. All they needed was some killer apps to package in with Windows 95.

Microsoft turned to Mark Randel, the lead programmer from their Microsoft Flight Simulator. Randel had founded Terminal Reality the year before and released a 3D space shooter called Terminal Velocity in May of 1995. Terminal Velocity was a DOS game but its 3D engine could be modified to run natively under Windows 95. Not DOS mode, but actually running in Windows. This was a big deal. For the first time gamers would be able to put the disc in and the game would just work. Microsoft would be able to use this to show consumers how easy gaming on Windows 95 was, and they could use the technology to promote Direct3D to other developers. Terminal Velocity had got some decent reviews on its first release. So Fury 3 was going to be more of the same but a Windows 95 overhaul. Sharper graphics, higher resolution, better sound.

Microsoft Fury 3 is an arcade-style space shooter. These were big news in the early 90s. TIE Fighter, Descent, Wing Commander had all been mega popular on DOS. This would be the perfect genre for a Windows 95 launch game. You play a hotshot pilot called The Councillor. You’re tasked with saving the galaxy by taking down the evil Bion empire.

Fury 3 Game Story

The story is literally what’s in this advert from 1995. Robots bad. The evil Bions have annexed nine planets which you’ll need to liberate. You have to go through all nine planets in a linear path. I would have liked to be able to choose the order, but never mind. Each planet has its own unique look and also its own unique enemy types. You’ve got your red planet, your mining colony. Ancient-Egypt planet with little scarab ships, underwater planet with robot sharks. You’ve got the whole planet is a city planet. It’s nothing super creative, certainly nothing we haven’t seen before elsewhere but Terminal Reality weren’t planning on going mad. It’s a nice/10.

I will say, each level is surprisingly big. They’re peppered with little hidden areas and secret power ups. Hidden underground tunnels are dotted about every planet. These can be pretty challenging to get through. They definitely get the old heart pumping and they’ve usually got loads of weapons and ammo in them to incentivise looking them out.

Speaking of weapons, your spaceship has got seven different weapons in Fury 3. These range from lasers and missiles through to big smart bombs and even a BFG. There’s not exactly a lot on offer here, but for 1995 I think this is some pretty decent stuff. If you wanted to compare Fury 3 to deeper flight simulations like TIE Fighter or Wing Commander, then you’d notice is that Fury 3 is a lot more shallow by comparison.

The only goal on each level is just to blow everything up. As I said right at the beginning, Microsoft pitched Fury 3 as an arcade shooter. Back in the 90s “arcade” was basically a codeword for short games which didn’t have any real depth. They were fun to play and usually had a fair bit of replayability because of the pick-up-and-play nature of them. Fury 3’s focus was on being a cool guy, not a serious sally simulation.

Giant spiders, big stompy robots. All of the enemy designs are good. The sound effects are chunky, the music is wicked. It all suits the style of the game and it feels like a product of its time. If you view it through the perspective of it being a short-lived but bombastic experience, I think Fury 3 was a pretty wicked game. It’s like Wing Commander The Movie but if it was a game.

The Windows 95 Launch Game

But it wasn’t enough for it to be a wicked game. For Microsoft to convince people Windows was a good gaming platform, Fury 3 needed to work without any mucking about. Terminal Reality’s job wasn’t just making a good game. Fury 3 had to sell the Windows experience. So the game runs windowed, because its Windows. You’ve got File and Edit dropdowns. File new, file save, file load, all that stuff. The joystick config menu is right there in the menu. Sound is calibrated without any headaches.

PC Zone specifically mentioned in their 1995 preview of Fury 3 about how it all just worked out of the box. They also mentioned how impressed they were about being able to move a game running in windowed mode around the screen. They even mentioned the ability to ALT+Tab out, as if this was a feature of the game! Seriously, imagine that.

It can’t be overstated how important Microsoft’s Fury 3 was for showcasing Windows 95. It seems funny now because you’re thinking well my computer can do all that but in 1995 your computer really couldn’t. An inexpensive Playstation could easily supply 3D games. Big Bill knew if he could just make the PC a bit more friendly then they’d be on to something.

Windows 95 Launch and Reception

Fury 3 launched to retail in August 1995 in the USA alongside Windows 95. A bundled demo came with Windows 95. Fury 3 being essentially a launch title for Windows 95. Fury 3 was bundled with Microsoft Sidewinder joysticks as well as new PCs. Bundling the game with joysticks, new computers and with copies of Windows meant Fury 3 shifted a lot of copies. But I don’t think the game sold well at retail at all. With a shocking 40 quid price tag (adjusted for inflation that’s over £75), Fury 3 would have been going up against Mechwarrior 2 and Dark Forces in that Christmas window and given the choice you’d choose Dark Forces wouldn’t you? Especially as there were thousands of copies of Fury 3 floating around for nothing!

I think Fury 3 was released here in the UK around Christmas ‘95. I can’t find reviews in the mags until early 1996. The few reviews I have dug up praised the game’s smooth framerate and the sharpness of the visuals. More often they say how impressed they were with Windows 95! The few that did review it do mention that Fury 3 is essentially the same as Terminal Velocity. Hardly any press outlets seemed to have covered it at all though.

With the focus squarely on launching Windows 95, Microsoft did no favours to Terminal Reality and apparently welched on the marketing spend. The bottom line is Fury 3 is a good game. The shooting is solid, it’s colourful and it’s fun. Nobody had any real issues with the game, but selling a reskin of a six-month old game for £40 was probably a bit of a pisstake. It might have faded into obscurity with the mainstream press but Fury 3 left a lasting impact on me. I love PC space shooters and whenever I think of this genre I always think of Fury 3.

Running Fury 3 on a Modern PC

If you do remember this game and want to play it again, or even if you didn’t and you’ve just curious about some random 20-year old PC game, then I’ve got good news for you. Getting Fury 3 running on a modern PC is staggeringly easy.

The only real obstacle between you and playing Fury 3 is that fact that it is now abandonware. There are no digital storefronts selling legal copies of this game. Microsoft Game Studios (recently renamed Xbox Game Studios) have made no indication that they’re interested in selling their back-catalogue of PC games, and this is unlikely to change. The only legal way to play Fury 3 is to go and buy the CD-ROM, but it isn’t expensive.

Once you have a copy, it’s quite unbelievable how easy it is to run this on modern Windows. Installing Fury 3 is much easier than getting Terminal Velocity running on DOSBox, and it comes with that nice familiar Windows interface. You can even use a 360 controller out of the gate. Fury 3 paved the way for windows games. It can’t be understated how important that was for market confidence. Buying a game that was guaranteed to work was unprecedented. And how poignant is it that that legacy of compatibility still holds up today?

Is Fury 3 Still Worth Playing Today?

Microsoft Fury 3 doesn’t exactly contain a ton of content. I’m man enough to admit that. If you’ve played the classic PC space shooters and want something more, it would be hard to recommend Fury 3 on the basis of its content alone. In 1995 I thought this game was super. Something about the pixelly, exploding spaceships and the aggressive electro soundtrack pulled me in and kept me there. Today it’s mad to think about what this game represents. Bridging the gap between DOS and Windows. This one game helped to sell the PC as a gaming platform.

I don’t think any other operating system ever launched with launch titles? But then again maybe no other operating system has been as significant a leap forward for gaming as Windows 95.

Terminal Reality had a fantastic run. They followed Fury 3 with a sequel, Hellbender, and then went on to make BloodRayne, the good Ghostbusters game, Kinect Star Wars and a lot more. They’ll forever be a part of PC gaming history, even if it is a bit hazy.