Ion Maiden's hero has come a long way since the 1990s

Ion Maiden is the new game from 3D Realms being made in the same engine as Duke Nukem 3D, built to play like a first-person shooter from the 1990s. It's so old school its artwork, seen above, is a reference to the box art for the PlayStation edition of Doom

You may remember Ion Maiden's protagonist from a previous game, Interceptor Entertainment's top-down ARPG Bombshell, which Ion Maiden is a prequel to (not that you need to have played it first). She's got a history that goes back further than that, however. At one point, Shelly 'Bombshell' Harrison was almost an NPC in Duke Nukem Forever.

She'd been conceived as the star of her own game back in 1997, inspired by Barb Wire (both the Pamela Anderson movie and the comic published by Dark Horse). When that game's creators left 3D Realms the decision was made to have Bombshell instead debut in Duke Nukem Forever, and then get her own spin-off. Early concept art from this period shows a version of the character very much like the 'bad girl' comics popular in the era, like someone straight out of Danger Girl. (Art by Dan Panosian and Paul Richards.)

In 2003, with Duke Nukem Forever still years away, Feng Zhu was hired to redesign the character with a slightly more practical look. But none of these versions of the character would be used in the final game, from which she was completely absent—a blessing in disguise, really.

It wasn't until 2015 that Bombshell was revived for her own game. While those early concepts had her as essentially a sexed-up female version of Duke Nukem, then as an EDF soldier, the next redesign transformed her into a bomb disposal expert—hence the nickname. This design kept the bionic arm that had been part of some of the early concept art, but not much else.

This brings us to 2018 and Ion Maiden, which details Bombshell's early career working for the Global Defence Force, building up to the 'Washington Incident' and the loss of her arm. Here, her look is much more practical, complete with armor. She even wears a helmet sometimes. (Art by Isabel Alonso.)

Finally, as a bonus these facial close-ups by Isabel Alonso, which were repurposed from concept art to become in-game health portrait expressions in the classic Wolfenstein 3D style. 

Ion Maiden's 'preview campaign' is currently available in Early Access, giving you a Shareware-size taste of the finished product.

Jody Macgregor
Weekend/AU Editor

Jody's first computer was a Commodore 64, so he remembers having to use a code wheel to play Pool of Radiance. A former music journalist who interviewed everyone from Giorgio Moroder to Trent Reznor, Jody also co-hosted Australia's first radio show about videogames, Zed Games. He's written for Rock Paper Shotgun, The Big Issue, GamesRadar, Zam, Glixel, Five Out of Ten Magazine, and, whose cheques with the bunny logo made for fun conversations at the bank. Jody's first article for PC Gamer was about the audio of Alien Isolation, published in 2015, and since then he's written about why Silent Hill belongs on PC, why Recettear: An Item Shop's Tale is the best fantasy shopkeeper tycoon game, and how weird Lost Ark can get. Jody edited PC Gamer Indie from 2017 to 2018, and he eventually lived up to his promise to play every Warhammer videogame.