Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon review

Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon Got Right

+ Crazy supercharged fun

+ Packed with ’80s references

+ Awesome soundtrack & retro cutsenes

+ Michael Biehn

Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon Got Wrong

– Environments do get bland after a while

– Some jokes a little too crude

– The tutorial sucks trying to be funny

Even if you didn’t live through the ’80s (hey, I didn’t) you know it has a reputation for gallant action heroes, cheesy one-liners and soundtracks you should hate but can’t help but love. When you aim down the barrel of your futuristic gun at a neon-bright dragon shooting lasers out of its eyes, Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon takes you back to a ludicrous era when entertainment was about fun and escapism rather than dramatic tales and relatable nobodies.

That’s what makes Blood Dragon so great. It’s chock full of ‘80s references and throws away the video game rulebook in favour of just winging it.

Running on Far Cry 3’s mechanics, it plays more or less exactly the same, but that’s where the similarities end (granted, it’s a big one). Playing as cyborg Sergeant Rex “Power” Colt (voiced by everyone’s hero Michael Biehn), you’ll fight dragons (or dinosaurs) that shoot lasers out of their eyes and robotic sharks.

Rex is a veteran of Vietnam War II, and some horrific explosion which pretty much killed everyone in the ’90s, seeking revenge on his former commanding officer. The B-grade story (generous) is meshed together with static 16-bit cutscenes reminiscent of movie games made in the early ’90s. The story is at times laughable, the images are hideous, the fan service is high and that’s what makes it so magnificent.

There’s nothing more satisfying than tricking a dragon into doing your job for you and murdering a bunch of faceless men.

The jokes lose their way now-and-again, particularly those that take aim at game mechanics rather than ’80s shenanigans. The retro cutscenes are a laugh at first, but eventually overstay their welcome, and I get that pressing ‘A’ all the time is annoying — it was funny the first few times, but enough already.

The action, meanwhile, is relentless as Rex is capable of superhuman feats. He never has to stop sprinting, there’s no fall damage and don’t even think about breathing underwater. A protagonist like Power Colt relieves the inhibitions resulting from our obsession with realism. Gamers have developed a nasty habit of complaining when first person shooters lack a human element, but entertainment doesn’t have to be true to the world we live in; that was the mantra of creativity in the ’80s where everything was about lasers and mechs drenched in neon

I’d almost forgotten about neon lighting. Blood Dragon is covered in the now foreign glow, but there was a time when it represented “the future”. I can safely say the unique visual style is like no other game you’ve played this generation, but it does become bland after a few hours.

More impressive is the VHS overlay. While the cutscenes look as if they’ve been ripped from a 16-bit game based on a movie, the gameplay has been washed with some magnificently dull effects that embellish a VHS experience. You’ll forget about it soon enough, but the rush of nostalgia every time the dated Ubisoft logo pops up at launch with a “tracking” bar is almost worth the $18 price of admission alone.

You’d be forgiven for expecting a linear affair from playing through the first hour, but Blood Dragon soon opens up into a condensed version of the Far Cry 3 islands. The gameplay, when you really think about it, remains largely unchanged. You’ll be racing around the island in a bevy of rundown vehicles and clearing enemy strongholds to progress the story.

It’s the dragons themselves that create a point of difference. Bears and tigers offered a fright in Far Cry 3, but they couldn’t shoot lasers out of their eyes. The massive beasts roam the land, but have restricted sight. You’ll need to tippy-toe around them when confronted and try to lure them into enemy bases to lighten your workload. There’s nothing more satisfying than tricking a dragon into doing your job for you and murdering a bunch of faceless men.

As a budget download, it’s unbelievable value. The gameplay is almost as deep as Far Cry 3 rolled into a six hour story, combat has been supercharged and I can’t even begin to describe the most memorable ’80s references without spoiling them. I still have no idea how Blood Dragon relates to Far Cry 3 (actually it doesn’t) or why it even happened other than the throwaway “happy accident” line from Ubisoft, but it doesn’t matter. I’m glad it happened and it’s the most fun I’ve had with an XBLA/PSN title this year.