This balls-to-the-wall spinoff mostly succeeds at what it sets out to do… mostly…
Platform: Windows/Xbox 360/PS3
Developer: Ubisoft Montreal & Shanghai Publisher: Ubisoft
Genre: First-Person Shooter/Action-Adventure Platform Played: Xbox 360
Macho bulging muscles, cheesy b-movie dialogue and more explosive action than John McTiernan’s wet dreams. Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon takes many of the best elements of last year’s Far Cry 3 and satirically coats them in an 80s sci-fi sheen – delivering a full-throttle, homage-laden experience, that contains as many laughs as it does adrenaline-fuelled shootouts. Get ready to enter the DANGER ZONE!
Set in a retro-futuristic 2007, where nuclear catastrophe has brought the world to its knees, Blood Dragon dispenses with any notion of a serious plot early on – opting instead for a knowingly awful cliche-riddled storyline, that would feel at home in any number of post-apocalyptic straight-to-VHS movies. You play as the Mark IV Cyber Commando, Sergeant Rex “Power” Colt, fighting a one man war to put a stop to Colonel Sloan; your former commander and mentor gone rogue. Set loose on an industrial neon-bathed island, it’s your job to take down Omega Force and prevent them from using a deadly bioweapon that could devastate the world all over again.
Without a heavy dose of irony this laughably over-the-top premise would be an embarrassing mess of Michael Bay-like proportions; but fortunately the game makes no attempt to take itself seriously whatsoever, and therein lies its genius. It completely embraces the best-of-the-worst of what the 80s action era had to offer, replete with an excellent synthesiser-drenched soundtrack that takes inspiration from classics such as The Terminator and Blade Runner. This results in the ultimate cheesy male power fantasy movie of all time, made interactive – which is turn results in a hell of a lot of fun!
Make no mistake, this standalone DLC is essentially a re-skinned version of its namesake. You’re still charging round an open-world environment, capturing garrisons, rescuing hostages and tracking down dangerous wildlife, (now mutated and roboticized) – when you’re not engaged in the more focused linear story missions. One of the big differences is that this time you’re playing as a supercharged cyborg warrior. You’re overpowered character is faster and stronger at the beginning of the game than Far Cry 3’s, Jason Brody, ever was; plus he’s invulnerable to fall damage, never gets tired and doesn’t require oxygen to breathe. TOTAL BADASS!
Whereas the core gameplay has remained pretty much the same, the game’s visual aesthetic has been completely overhauled. Scan-lines crisscross the gloomy plains, dotted with oppressive concreate structures; each with their own forcefield to keep out the hulking Blood Dragons. These fluorescent behemoths stalk the landscape, and while their eyesight may be poor, (probably on account of the lethal lasers they blast out of them), their bat-like hearing more than makes up for it. It’s endlessly satisfying to power down a stronghold’s defences and stare gleefully as one careens through and decimates the place; snatching up soldiers in its claws and decapitating them in vice-like jaws.
Several animations have been redesigned to be more ostentatious and android-appropriate. Occasionally when you heal you’ll rewire your Cyberdyne-looking robotic arm or meld it back together with a blowtorch. Instead of hurling knifes and stones to kill and distract guards, you now fling ninja stars and D20 dice. When equipping the semi-automatic handgun, (almost identical to the one Robocop wields), you’ll artfully spin it from your holster – and when reloading your quad-barelled shotgun you’ll whirl it in an arc whilst cocking it – ala Terminator 2. The arsenal of weapons you have access to is small, yet outrageously powerful, with attachments and ammo types being constantly unlocked as you earn cash and gain XP. Unfortunately the crafting systems and skill trees of the previous game have been streamlined and replaced with an auto-levelling system – that while functional isn’t overly satisfying and feels almost redundant due to how powerful Rex is from the outset.
Actor Michael Biehn (of Terminator and Aliens fame) does a great job of voicing the gruff protagonist and his involvement is in keeping with the myriad of in-jokes and 80s movie references that are laced throughout the experience. The game features subtle and not so subtle easter eggs from Aliens, Die Hard, Predator and more – with one of my favourite moments being when you’re tasked with navigating a dingy sewer, strewn with discarded pizza boxes, in order to put an end to the antics of four mischievous turtles.
The profanity-laden dialogue is suitably meat-headed and often so brilliantly cheesy it’ll make you wince and chuckle simultaneously. The bottom-of-the-barrel puns were also a highlight for me. Stabbing someone in the neck and immediately quipping “knife to meet you”, never failed to bring a smile to my lips – even after being recycled repeatedly. Alas not all the humour quite hits its mark. The more vulgar, lascivious gags get old very quickly and the 16-bit cutscenes, while initially comical quickly become a drag; even when featuring a Karate Kid-like montage or a Top Gun-worthy sex scene. Still, there’s far more hits than there are misses and the rest of the game is so much fun you’ll get past these inconsistencies quickly.
Regrettably I can easily see a lot of what makes Blood Dragon special flying straight over the heads of younger gamers. There’s still a wealth of ridiculous high-octane madness to enjoy here; wrestling robo-crocodiles and disabling nuclear missiles by punching them does NOT get old, believe me. But without the constant drip feed of nostalgia, the experience is unlikely to be quite as rewarding, which is something to bear in mind, but is by no means a deal breaker.
Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon is a perfectly condensed Far Cry experience, that encapsulates what video games are all about – having fun. Harnessing the spirit of the 80s action era it provides a succinct-yet-supercharged campaign, filled with crazy weapons, self-aware humour and amusing homages to the classic movies that defined a generation. Though it lacks some of the polish and mass appeal of its AAA counterpart, its still an exceptionally enjoyable experience that should not be overlooked. So grab your controller and for only £10 you can see what it’s like to be the baddest Mark IV Cyber Commando the world will ever know. GET TO THE CHOPPER!
+ Absurd over-the-top action
+ Mostly hilarious and utterly nostalgic
+ Retro-futuristic visuals
+ Soundtrack is pure genius
– 80s references can be exclusionary
– Slight lack of polish & player choice
– Some hit or miss humour
Rob Gisbey is a content provider for Analog Addiction from Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk. To listen to his acoustic demo check out his BandPage. To read his other articles and listen to the VxM Videogames Podcast head to MyIGN.