Few game developers pull off good satire. Sure, there are plenty of examples of tongue-in-cheek humor in video games but not very many dedicate their product to ridiculing an entire cultural era, either intentionally or unintentionally.
This is exactly what Ubisoft has done with their ’80s action movie knock-off in the form of Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon. The end result is a brilliantly executed homage to a time of cheesy one-liners, gaudy flair and horribly off-target depictions of future society.
Don’t let the name fool you. The only connection to Far Cry 3 is the game engine. Blood Dragon is a stand-alone download with a completely original storyline and a graphics style that is sure to stir nostalgia with anyone born in the ’70s or ’80s.
The game is set in a 1980s depiction of the future. The opening cut-scene, rendered to look like 16-bit SNES pixels, is ripped right out of the pages of Terminator. You play as Rex “Power” Colt, a cyborg who sounds a bit like Kurt Russell’s Snake Plissken in Escape from New York. Set in a nuclear-ravaged environment with mutants and a military threat known as the Omega Force, Rex has to defeat the group’s leader and save the world.
The setting is dark and moody with a permanent purple fog hanging over the land. The highly stylized design is cool to look at for the first few hours but grows old after a while. The heavy use of dark colors obstructs your view, making it quite difficult at times to see where you are going. It remains a problem even after adjusting the brightness settings.
Just like Far Cry 3, Blood Dragon is an open world first-person shooter. The Omega Force controls much of the map – which is completely original – in thirteen different garrisons. It is your job to liberate the garrisons in order to unlock new side missions. These include a combination of both predator hunting and rescue missions. Each of them rewards you with some sort of upgrade.
Blood Dragon’s replay value is limited. I do not really see myself coming back to play any of it, but there is a few hours’ worth of side missions, enemy bases to liberate, and a host of unlockables. The game heavily uses collectibles like television sets, notes, and a salute to vintage ’80s VHS tapes.
The shooting mechanics are pretty much unchanged from Far Cry 3. Rex is equipped with a pistol, futuristic machine gun, shotgun, sniper rifle, bow, and eventually the kill star. These can be easily swapped using a weapon wheel or pressing triangle (on the PS3) to switch to your last weapon. He also has a number of explosives at his disposal: grenades, C4, Molotov cocktails, and mines.
A melee stealth option is a wise choice in certain situations. The game gives plenty of opportunities to climb above enemies to perform stealth kills. Stealth kills can be chained across multiple nearby enemies. One of the abilities that I really like is a stealth kill that allows you to throw a shuriken at a second enemy.
Speaking of killing enemies, Blood Dragon has a loot system called pilfering that restores some ammo and gives your character experience. Rex pulls out the “cyber hearts” from the chest cavities of dead soldiers, which can be used to lure away the large mutant dragons that roam around the island freely – or it can be used offensively to send the reptile behemoths into the enemy’s base.
As an aside, I highly recommend playing Blood Dragon on hard. Veteran shooter fans will find that the hard setting is even too easy, but casual shooter players should get just enough challenge to make it enjoyable. The biggest complaint I have with the entire game is that the babysit missions, where you have to make sure that an accompanying CPU does not die, are extremely annoying.
Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon is in many ways a game unlike any that I have played, not because of the competent gameplay but due to the setting. The over-the-top satirical approach is borderline ridiculous. Gen Xers and early-generation Millennials will definitely find the charm overwhelming. Other generations might just scratch their head.
Charm offensive aside, Blood Dragon is built on the solid foundation of Far Cry 3’s engine. The gameplay proves to be better than almost any downloadable shooter on PSN or Xbox Live. That being said, the side missions are somewhat dull and unimaginative. Once the novelty wears off and the main story is complete, you probably will not come back to Blood Dragon. Nonetheless, it’s well worth the $15 purchase.