The 80s was a decade that brought us testosterone driven films like The Terminator and First Blood, paired with a healthy serving of electro-pop music and ridiculous looking parachute pants. For those of you longing for a dose of nostalgia, Far Cry 3 is back with a revamped downloadable spinoff that takes on a more whimsical approach than the original. Blood Dragon is a stand alone title that takes the mechanics of the former and injects it with a grandiose helping of pop-culture references and cyborgs.
Enter a cybernetic, super-soldier named Sergeant Rex ‘Power” Colt — voiced by Michael Biehn from the Terminator, Aliens, and Navy SEALs movies. Taking place in the “future” year of 2007, in a world that has succumb to nuclear fallout, you are one of many ex military men that have been revived with cybernetic enhancement. Rex is fitted with a chrome covered robotic arm and a bionic eye which acts like a HUD and enemy tagging system. He is sent to a mysterious island to investigate the evil Omega organization, only to discover that his former commander, Colonel Sloan, is their leader. Things quickly turn ugly as the plot follows a familiar formula of avenge your friend, get the girl, and save the rest of the world. Depending on your knowledge of 80s film, you will either appreciate the homages to cult classics or look at the nodes as nothing but corny action/sci-fi rip offs.
Similar to previous installments, the game takes place on an open-world island, where there are countless ways for you to approach each mission. No matter which combat style your prefer, whether its a stealth approach using a neon bow and ninja stars, picking off enemies from a distance with the sniper rifle, or going “all Rambo” by bum rushing a bunker with a shotgun and mini-gun in hand, each way pretty much leads to the same result – gratuitous violence. Although the island is 3-4 times smaller than the original, Ubisoft has incorporated nearly all elements, including the option to hunt for animals. It’s not as integrated and rewarding however, and there is no real reason to participate aside from obtaining one or two weapons upgrades and some achievements. You still have access to many forms of transportation, including zip lines that allow you to quickly descend cliff sides and tall outposts.
In addition to being able to explore the island, you are given the choice to take over different garrisons in order to rid areas of enemy presence and unlock quick travel around the island. These garrisons are much larger than the outposts of previous games. Inside of them are cabinets that provide missions varying from hostage rescue, hunting rare animals, or assassination contracts that lead to the availability of weapon upgrades which can be purchased from vending machines in the compounds. After a while the redundancy of the missions is noticeable, as your basically performing a slightly varied task while upgrading your Robocop-style pistol. Your arsenal can be customized with various attachments like fitting your sniper rifle to shoot explosive rounds, equip your shotgun to have four barrels, and an assault rifle to shoot lasers. The upgrades themselves are varied and weapons customization adds a level of personalization that is absent from many other areas of gameplay.
Although many of the mechanics are the same, leveling up has changed. Rather than skill trees and selecting your own upgrades, you simply level up and are automatically assigned a skill. Though this does take away from customization, it grants you abilities fairly early on and gets you into the midst of the fast paced action quickly. As the title eludes, the stars of the show are the Blood Dragons, and for good reason. These huge creatures glow red, yellow, or green based on their mood and shoot lasers from their eyes. Scattered around the island, they add an odd but surprisingly fun gameplay element. By throwing the cyber hearts of fallen enemies, you can use these beast to your advantage to attack foes or help take over garrisons. The satisfaction of seeing your enemies be blown up by its laser eyes or simply devoured, never gets old. Taking down these beast is no easy task as you must maneuver through the environment, while dodging laser blasts and sharp teeth while unloading all of your ammo. Be successful and you are rewarded with a burst of purple gooey, paired with 5000 experience points.
Aside from the re-skinned environments with fluorescent lighting and neon lights, this is still very much Far Cry, which comes as a plus to most players. From an aesthetic standpoint, the world is a visual and auditory feast, lush with deep magenta, neon color schemes, and synth-pop beats of the era. Enemies pop with neon blue blood as they take shotgun shots to the face, weapons shoot lasers instead of bullets, and even your melee arsenal consist of a glowing samurai dagger and ninja stars. Modified animals inhabit this new world as you’ll come across cybernetic sharks, radioactive snakes, and mutant leopards. The style and atmosphere is further enhanced with cut-scenes rendered with a grainy VHS effects, much like the old Duke Nukem games. The soundtrack is much like everything else in the game, full of trancy electro-pop and epic “hero” music that helps ensure that we are well aware that Rex Colt is a badass.
Sadly, Blood Dragon is not without its flaws. The game suffers from occasional collision issues as enemies get stuck in the surroundings or foes fail to respond to your presence, even if you walk directly in their line of vision. These issues are more minor annoyances than game-breaking glitches. In addition, although the campaign is littered with side missions, collectible, upgrades and garrisons to complete, Blood Dragon is a fairly short title. And with the omission of multiplayer, there is no real reason to explore the island after completion. Gameplay also feels a bit unbalanced thanks to Rex becoming nearly invincible as you progress. Even on the hardest difficulty, I was able to complete the game without breaking a sweat.
Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon does a fantastic job at not taking itself seriously and it is a perfect example of how you can take a outlandish idea and create a functional and entertaining game. If you grew up in the 80s, than you can appreciate the cheesy one liners, neon lights, and pop culture references. However, it isn’t perfect and lacks replay value, but it’s still very much worth the price of admission.
Editor’s Note: Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon was reviewed using a Xbox 360 copy of the game. If further investigation reveals any differences between the 360 edition and the PS3 edition of the game, this review will be updated to reflect those differences.
Release Date: May 1, 2013 • Publisher: Ubisoft • Developer: Ubisoft Montreal • Genre: Action • Multiplayer: None • Achievements: Moderate • Cost: 1200 MSP ($15) • Replay Value: Low • ESRB: M for Mature