I’ve always had a soft spot for over the top machismo, explosions and one-liners. As a kid, I discovered the guy at the local video store didn’t understand how the rating system worked (or just didn’t care to enforce it), and I exploited this. I became exposed to men like Arnie, Stallone, Van Damme, hell even Lundgren, who I watched with a sense of awe. But then society changed and sparkly vampires became the new benchmark for the perfect man. Thankfully, Ubisoft Montreal decided to do something crazy and resurrect the past in all its pastel glory. The result; Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon and boy, does it just feel right!
You’re thrown into the boots of eye-patch-rocking, ninja-star-flinging, Sergeant Rex ‘Power’ Colt, a cyborg super solider, tasked with stopping an ex-army buddy gone harbinger of nuclear war, by any means necessary. If that sounds like the blurb of a movie doomed to live out the rest of its existence on the discount shelf, then we’re heading in the right direction. Strap yourself in, it only gets better!
The Blood Dragon story unfolds through seven missions, where the usual completion criteria is to explode everything you see and leave everyone with at least 52 bullet holes in them (or there’s the stealth approach… if you believe stealth belongs in a game that gives you exploding bullets). It starts with possibly the most enjoyable tutorial I’ve ever played, with Rex constantly breaking the fourth wall, as he groans and complains about how the hand-holding is stopping him from getting his kill on. The humour remains front and centre through the whole five-hour campaign, welcomingly permeating into sequences designed to make you feel like the ultimate bad ass.
Blood Dragon goes all-in selling its 80s aesthetic, replacing Far Cry 3‘s sun-soaked beaches and dreamy, blue skies with an LED encrusted wonderland, bathed in a claustrophobic neon haze. This scarily accurate portrayal of an 80s futuristic, post-apocalyptic 2007 is truly something to behold.
It does, however, sometimes become too much of an assault on the eyes. Like when the glow given off by everything, mixed with the rampant firing of a laser minigun (I was going for the subtle approach) makes identifying a door from an enemy an unwanted task. The constant little touches never ceased to make me grin like an idiot though. From the grainy VHS-style loading screens with useless advice, to the 16 bit cut scenes packed with more pop culture references than a Kevin Smith film. On the audio side, you are treated to a heavy synth soundtrack that I can only describe as if the scores from Blade Runner and The Thing made a beautiful baby. It perfectly accentuates the suspense during tactical stealth manoeuvres and fills you with the confidence of an unstoppable killing machine during intense shoot outs.
[img_big]center,10982,2013-04-08/farcry3_blooddragon03.jpg,Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon[/img_big]
You’ll quickly discover during this frantic combat that the core gameplay from Far Cry 3 remains, if not a little trimmed down in this iteration. The gunplay is still precise and responsive and the human limitation that bogged down our previous protagonist, Jason Brody, is gone. Rex is able to sprint forever, breath underwater and fall from any height without taking damage because, you know, he’s a robotic ninja. The experience system has also been streamlined to reward you with perks at certain levels as opposed to the branching ‘build your own hero’ skill tree of Far Cry 3, which I feel doesn’t detract from it at all. As you explore the island, you’re still tasked with clearing out enemy strongholds, which now work as convenient warp points and can undertake side quests and go scavenging for collectibles. Instead of feeling like busywork, these distractions are totally worth it as completing them upgrades your already ridiculously destructive arsenal to those of WMD status (quad-barrelled shotgun, anyone?).
Now here’s the clincher. What could possibly stand up to the jeep destroying laser cannon you’re now toting? What can deliver that ‘Holy mother of hell! What the hell is that?!’ moment that all action games need? Oh, Blood Dragon delivers.
It delivers in the form of 150ft long, neon, dinosaurs that fire lasers out of their eyes! Aptly named Blood Dragons, these beasts randomly stomp over the island laying waste to everything they encounter. The first time you fight one of these behemoths is exhilarating, unloading everything you have and just hoping they’ll die. You can, however, use them to your advantage too. Try luring them into enemy garrisons using cyber hearts, torn from the chests of your enemies, and letting them clear it out for you.
It is a shame, though, that when such an emphasis is put on these super lizards that they tend to clip and get stuck on scenery a little too regularly and that after defeating them (a monumental task may I add) they just disappear with no death animation, making it feel kind of anticlimactic.
[img_big]center,10982,2013-04-08/farcry3_blooddragon05.jpg,Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon[/img_big]
When all is said and done, Blood Dragon achieves exactly what it set out to do. It’s a perfect pastiche of the 80s action movie pop culture, with fantastic tongue in cheek comedy and solid gameplay. Blood Dragon is unapologetically loud, dumb and profane. It’s just plain fun. A concept that’s kind of been forgotten by the push to make our beloved medium as serious and artistically respected as, say, film. I, for one, am glad to see the team at Ubisoft still know how to show me a darn good time.