Want to watch this review? It's featured in Player Attack, May 17 2013!
Dust off those video cassettes, fire up those wireframe displays, it’s time to travel to the future. ...2007? Ubisoft’s expansion to last year’s massive Far Cry 3 has just been released and it’s making a big impression. Far Cry 3 Blood Dragon is a throwback to the time of hair metal and skintight leather.
You control Rex “Power” Colt, a Mark IV Cyborg built for warfare. His mission is to stop the Evil Omega Force, lead by Colonel Sloan, from unleashing a bioweapon upon the world. Let me level with you here, this game does not have a series of plot twists or a mystery to uncover. This is a straight up, pea-and-ham, blow up the bad guys type game. The story it tells is certainly a lot of fun, but it’s as deep as your average tablespoon.
That said, I love the setting of this game. It’s being marketed as “an 80’s VHS version of 2007” and really, there’s not a lot of other periods a story about a group of cyborgs fighting over dinosaur blood would fit. It’s not just the retro-futuristic lighting style and Harold Faltermire-esque soundtrack eitther. Every little element is rooted in maintaning that big 80’s sci fi action movie feel. Colt heals himself by either performing quick surgeries on his mechanical hand or exercising with his organic one. The loading screens, deliberately invoking a VHS player, were a particular highlight for me. My main issue is, within story anyway, nothing really done with the setting. Most of the set piece battles happen in what could be any old military complex, all grey and lifeless. All the weapons are functionally the same as standard FPS weapons, without much outside of asthetics to tell you this is a sci-fi game.
Blood Dragon does, however, pepper this with amazing self awareness. It knows exactly what it is. It has a genuine 80’s action star (Michael Biehn of The Terminator) spewing one-liners, Naked innuendo runs rampant and the cut scenes look like something from the SNES. I found the game was a lot of fun when it wanted to be. Around the time I got the hang glider I realised that the game is just doing cool things because they’re cool to do. I found moving around the (admitedly huge and interesting) world to get from mission to mission quite hard going, even after stealinga jeep. And after literally punching a nuclear reactor, the “rescue a hostage” and “capture a base” side missions didn’t sound interesting enough to do.
Technically the game feels great, albeit not particularly groundbreaking. There were occasional graphics and physics glitches, but luckily every time I got frustrated something cool happened to keep me interested. For example I had to reload a save at one point because the last enemy in a “kill em all” scenario got lodged in a wall and couldn’t be seen. Straight after said mission, I was treated to an 80’s training montage. While that was enough for me to forgive and forget, It’s still a possible gamebreaking bug, which could rub people the wrong way.
Your basic hazards include cybernetic soldier mooks, heavies, armed with chain guns or flamethrowers, and the local wildlife. Snakes, alligators, sharks and the titular Blood Dragons all think you’re delicious and will attempt to make life as difficult as possible for you, if you annoy them. It’s totally possible, and in some cases necessary however , to trick the monsters into fighting your enemies for you. The AI in the game isn’t all that great. More than once I was able to fool enemy soldiers into drowning themselves, but that honestly doesn’t make them any less fun to mow down.
Where Blood Dragon shines is its openness. There doesn’t appear to be any set way to solve any given problem. A stealth approach using distraction and silent kills is just as effective as sniping from a long distance which works just as well as driving a car into the base and charging in guns blazing. The game doesn’t compensate for how well you do in one particular approach, so there’s no encouragement to try anything new. You might find yourself sticking with one strategy over another most of the time.
The setting is probably going to be enough to sell Blood Dragon to a lot of people. Its story, and all the cool stuff one gets to do within that story, will probably endear it to a lot more. If you can get into a game that wholeheartedly rips off Aliens in one mission, then this could be the game for you. It’s cheesy and shameless about it and it clearly loves its source material. Being an expansion, it’s not a very long game, but then again it’s totally possible if it was any longer it would overstay it’s welcome. If you really love Schwarzenegger movies, Far Cry 3 Blood Dragon is definitely worth looking at.
Once a Reality TV Somebody,
Now just a big kid who loves video games, and the telling people about them.