Platforms: PS3, Xbox 360, PC
Release Date: April 30, 2013
I did not grow up in the 1980s, nor was I even alive for a nanosecond of it. Michael Jackson, Ronald Reagan, and cocaine were all legendary aspects of that era that I’ve only grown to hear about in my later years (with cocaine being the only survivor). Such is not the story for the creators of Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon, a downloadable standalone title loosely based on 2012’s spectacular Far Cry 3. Taking Far Cry 3‘s winning first-person shooter formula and letting it soak in a radioactive 1980s cesspool, Blood Dragon pays wonderful homage to this coveted decade along with neatly mixing a level of oft-requested stupidity and open-ended, play-however-you-want gameplay.
Blood Dragon is good in all the good ways along with being bad in all the good ways. The game is set in the far flung “future” of 2007 and you are the perfectly-named Mark IV Cyber Commando cyborg Rex Power Colt. Your mission is simple: journey to a mysterious island to investigate Colonel Slogan who has been rumored to have gone rogue. Because this wouldn’t be much of game if he was just on an innocent vacation, Slogan’s nefarious plans are soon brought to light and can only be stopped by Rex.
As far as game plots go, Blood Dragon‘s is pretty dumb, but, unlike most other video games, it knows its stupidity. In fact, Blood Dragon revels in it. Every single spoken line is layered with cheese and is delivered in the corniest possible way, hitting home the fact that this was how it was envisioned. The horrendous script, presented in a VHS style with NES era visuals, is a cornucopia of lunacy that deserves to laughed at as much as it is laughed with. References easily acquire the cheap chuckles but Blood Dragon does have its fair share of quality writing (in both good and “bad” ways). Since it flip flops between reference and original humor, neither style grows tired and each only benefits the other by breaking up the pace. Blood Dragon had me laughing out loud in multiple instances and made me wish that more games nailed this sense of irreverent idiocy.
The archaic narrative doesn’t bleed over into the gameplay area; Blood Dragon plays excellently. The Far Cry 3 part in the title isn’t an accident since it basically is Far Cry 3 but dipped into a large tub of neon paint. A lot of the basics are very similar, if not the exact same. You can still gather attachments for the wealth of weapons, go on side quests, choose between stealth or action, and execute a lot of the same strategies, which is made easier since the list of takedowns is ripped straight from Far Cry 3 proper.
Directly aping the moveset isn’t a pejorative since these systems are all open enough to still feel fresh. The flow between stealth and action, which is exemplified by taking over outposts (called garrisons), still is gratifying since it never feels like it is shackled by the confines of bad design. Bases and most objectives can be tackled the way you see fit, be it through the silent bow or loud futuristic machine guns.
But, as great as it is, the interplay between the stealth and action is lifted straight from Far Cry 3. The true innovation that Blood Dragon brings is, well, actual Blood Dragons. Yes, it’s not just a namesake. Blood Dragons roam the open world just like the other wildlife, except they are far more controllable and can shoot laser from their eyeballs. Harvesting cyber-hearts from fallen foes Kano-style, these reptilian foes can be tricked through these cardiac substitutes into devouring the enemy for you.
Manipulating Blood Dragons is yet another tool in the vast tool bag and lengthens the list of strategies, but fighting these mythical behemoths guarantees its own sense of satisfaction. Like the Big Daddies in Bioshock, these giant monstrosities feel like spontaneous boss fights that test your ability to fight and stay alive. It may only grant an experience points, but felling Blood Dragons is a welcome test in a different kind of strategy and is the game’s biggest positive. Dinosaurs with red scales and laser beam eyes are indeed a recipe for success.
While I said most aspects of Blood Dragon are lifted from Far Cry 3, it doesn’t mean they are executed in the same way. Leveling up is still present but is strictly linear this time around. Linearity may disappoint some players, but it shortens the time in menus and streamlines the whole experience, which is perfect for a title with a fraction of the cost.
Hunting has been similarly downsized. Cybernetic versions of animals still linger on the island, but poaching them is more of a waste of time than a viable side activity. Stabbing a cyber shark is stupid fun the first time, but taking its $100 off its corpse (sharks carry wallets apparently) just seems like waste of time. Collecting collectibles should replace your hunting time, since the game intelligently shows you each item’s location and grants some useful upgrades once snatched. It incentivizes collecting and rewards greatly for it, even if the game openly (and hilariously) mocks the tedium of all video game collectibles.
Blood Dragon‘s array of unique neon-infused colors look distinctive enough to garner props, but the soundtrack deserves just as much, if not more, attention. Video game metal band Powerglove has composed a score that is not only alluring from an aural standpoint, but reinforces the atmosphere Blood Dragon evokes so excellently. Absolutely hypnotizing beats and video game inspired noises feel like they were baked in the 1980s but were infused with a modern style. Nostalgic and new, this audio style meshes incredibly with the entire game’s mood and highlights and betters the game’s central 1980s theme.
Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon may be more Far Cry 3, but wrapping it in a coat influenced by 1980s pop culture and zany humor gives this downloadable title reason enough to exist. The solid open gameplay foundation set by its predecessor mixed together with the mood, aesthetic, soundtrack, and Blood Dragons more than justifies the reasonable $15 price point. Although probably meant to made just a side endeavor for the whole franchise, I can only hope this is just the first step for Mr. Power Colt.
+Absurdly stupid sense of humor throughout the entire package
+Addicting upgrade system
+Shooting and stealth are tuned well and lifted directly from Far Cry 3
+Catchy, mood-fitting soundtrack
+MOTHERFUCKING BLOOD DRAGONS ARE AWESOME
-Crafting isn’t present
-Last encounter, while stupid, isn’t as climactic as it should be