When Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon was first announced people didn’t really know what to make of it as the date was April 1st. Was this just a joke or was it something real? Well as it turns out it was very real, so the next question obviously was what exactly does this have to do with Far Cry 3? The answer in short, not a damn thing at all. Aside from quite a bit of Far Cry 3’s gaming mechanics Blood Dragon is a standalone title that is a messy, sloppy love letter to anyone who grew up watching action flicks in the 80’s. It’s blowing stuff up and toilet humour done right, and game flops like the last Duke Nukem title can take note.
You fill the role of Rex ‘Power’ Colt, a cybernetic super soldier on a mission to stop his rogue ex-commander, Sloan, and his band of robotic cronies Omega Force. Sloan is also breeding the nasty Blood Dragons too, and once you encounter one of them in game you’ll understand that this is a bad thing. Blood Dragons are badass and they shoot lasers out of their eyes! Yes you heard me right, frickin’ lasers! If this sounds like the clichéd story line from an 80’s action flick I’d agree with you, but it’s also everything that makes this game awesome. Quite honestly, the storyline itself is really only so-so but the way it’s played out with cheesy one-liners and off-the-cuff humour makes your play through an enjoyable one. The dialogue is hilarious and even the load screens will cause you to chuckle. In fact, they waste no time hitting the funny bone as the tutorial experience is pretty funny too. Press A to demonstrate your ability to read. SERIOUSLY? For me that was a great start into the game. If you’re on the ball you can also find homage being paid to many of the movies that quite obviously inspired the title.
As mentioned the mechanics of Blood Dragon are pretty much identical to Far Cry 3 so if you’ve played that previous title you’ll feel right at home here. There are a few new things thrown in but the similarities, right down to the chained takedowns, are there. One of my favourite additions was the ability to throw a shuriken at another enemy after a takedown. As one of the many great load screens told me ‘you can ninja their ass’, and I did, a lot. Weapons have great names like the Fazertron and Kobracon and these are just a small example of the attention to detail of mimicking the over the top cheesiness of the source material. As you play through the game you’ll collect cyberpoints, which is Blood Dragon’s version of EXP, and you’ll use it to level up. Instead of having to slog through a skill tree and make decisions the game takes all that out for you and basically has a minor upgrade or addition for every level you achieve. For example, you’ll get an extra health bar or your ability with the bow will improve. Seeing as this is a game that doesn’t take itself seriously at all I was completely ok with letting the game do that work for me.
Apart from the story based missions there are plenty of side quests and optional collectibles to help you extend your play through. I say side quests and optional collectibles, but to really get the most out of Blood Dragon they are very much a necessity. In order to acquire many attachments and perks for your weapons you actually need to unlock them by taking over garrisons, completing the side quests and finding your collectibles (VHS tapes, TVs, Doctor’s notes). Some of them are required in order to move the story forward but you’ll find that you won’t want to skip over any of them. Do you want that silencer? Best finish up that last ‘Predator’s Path’ side quest then. The only negative I found is that some of the missions can start to feel little bit repetitive but on the whole this is a really minor complaint.
Where Blood Dragon really stood out for me was in the sound department. Rex is voiced by Michael Biehn, a veteran of the 80’s and 90’s sci-fi scene with appearances in Terminator, Aliens, The Abyss and Navy Seals. He is perfect in his role gruffly delivering line after line of some of the best material I’ve heard in a game in a long time. Not all the voice work is as spot on as Rex but as a whole it stands strong as a fantastic part of the game. Of course not to be outdone, the music is equally as amazing in every situation. The opening on-rails gunning from a helicopter scene has Little Richard blasting at you which evokes thoughts of Platoon or Hamburger Hill almost immediately. When you get further into the game the synthesizer soundtrack is exactly what you would have expected to hear in your favourite childhood shoot ‘em up flick. Feel free to check it out ahead of time on Soundcloud as the group responsible, Melbourne Australia’s Power Glove, has made a few of the tracks available for your listening enjoyment. For those wanting to have an early listen, you can go HERE.
Visually you’re in for a treat because this reskinning of the jungles of Far Cry is as stellar as the rest of the game. A neon infused look into an apocalyptic would-be future of the year 2007, if of course we were still in the 80’s. The Blood Dragons look fierce with glowing neon lines piercing through their hide and the cybernetic Omega Force baddies fit perfectly into the established motif. Cutscenes are fantastic too as they show respect to the great 8-bit games the Nintendo generation grew up with. Watching Sloan glide towards Rex as opposed to actually walking is kind of funny and reminiscent of so many games I played growing up.
There isn’t much that the developers at Ubisoft Montreal got wrong in this one. They took everything that made an old summer popcorn flick great and they transcribed it into an interactive feast for the senses. A potty mouthed blast from start to finish I’d have a hard time believing anyone could hate this game. Do yourself a favour and pick this one up, you’ll be glad you did.