REVIEW – FAR CRY 3: BLOOD DRAGON

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Played on: PS3 (also available for Xbox 360)
Played for: About 6 or 7  hours to finish up the campaign, free every garrison, do every side quest and level cap at level 30. Ended up with 70% of the trophies unlocked.
DLC Pricetag: $14.99 on PSN, not sure about MSP on XBLA
Achievements/Trophies: Yes, and they’re very straightforward.

Far Cry 3 was widely successful in 2012 and was met with widespread critical acclaim. On April 1, 2013, the world was greeted to what was to be the greatest non-April Fool’s joke in gaming history – a glimpse at Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon. Blood Dragon is a stand-alone experience (as it does not require Far Cry 3 to play) that takes players back to the glory days of the 1980’s with its bright, neon colors, macho characters and over-the-top, sci-fi freedom fighter storyline. As a smaller-scale, stand-alone experience, Blood Dragon is essentially a diet version of the original Far Cry 3, but is the mass amount of 80’s sex appeal enough to warrant the purchase? Let’s find out.

All cutscenes are shown in a 16-bit style, similar to classic Konami titles.
All cutscenes are shown in a 16-bit style, similar to classic Konami titles.

The year is 2007.. stay with me here. Cyber-soldier Sgt. Rex “Power” Colt (Michael Biehn) and his partner Spider (Phil LaMaar) touch down on a dark island in search of Colonel Sloan; a former mentor gone rogue. Upon confronting Colonel Sloan, he reveals his true plan of using the blood of Blood Dragons to power gigantic rockets and bring the world back to its pre-historic state. That’s no bueno. With the help of former Sloan assistant, Doctor Darling, Sgt. Colt looks to rid the island of the Omega Force and prevent the apocalypse from having an apocalypse. Adjust the tracking on your VCR, tease your hair with some Aqua Net and turn up the Motley Crue because we’re in for an awesome ride in to the 80’s sunset!

Voiced by action veteran Michael Biehn (Terminator, Aliens), Sgt. Colt is the apotheosis of classic action heroes. From his raspy voice and robotic arm to his enhanced vision provided by a cyborg eyepatch, Colt is all about killing the bad guys, getting the girl and saving the world. His dialogue reads off like a PSA, refusing to accept an enhancement injection because he’s “made a promise to a special lady.. Lady Liberty” and how “Winners.. don’t use drugs“. He often displays his macho cockiness by mocking HUD tutorials, giving the finger while you melee or spinning ammo clips around as you reload, but he’s a likeable hero that you could see flexing on a child’s poster with the American flag flowing in the wind behind him.

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Blood Dragon frequently nods to 80’s action films, namely Robocop 2, Predator, Rocky IV & Over the Top. Levels are dark, the lighting is vibrant and the world has this VHS-style grainy haze that furthers the retro action gimmick Blood Dragon was going for. Loading screens adjust the VCR tracking while offering vague pro-tips like “Attachments are strap-ons for your guns” or “Sniper rifles – close ranged weapons for when you accidentally select the wrong weapon“, further emphasizing that if there is one thing Blood Dragon doesn’t do, it’s take itself seriously.

Like I mentioned before, Blood Dragon definitely comes off as a smaller scale Far Cry 3 with its flaws creatively hidden behind the low budget delivery, and that isn’t always a bad thing. Action is over the top (*turns hat backwards*) with a decent variety of weapons to choose from and the ability to lure massive Blood Dragons to Omega Force camps by lobbing cyborg hearts. The leveling system from Far Cry 3 has been simplified down and unfortunately feels very automated. You have no choice in the matter; just leveling up and getting whatever you get, whether it be a health upgrade, the ability to reload as you run or taking less damage from explosions. It has a very classic JRPG feel to it, but having the freedom to define my play-style as the Rambo that runs and guns or the Rambo that silently assassinates his targets would have been most welcome.

Aside from following the main storyline, the concept of Blood Dragon is simple; follow the flashing red lights and eliminate all Omega Force in the area to free the garrisons. A liberated garrison acts as a fast travel point and offers side-quests that reward weapon upgrades, so there is plenty of incentive to explore the island and commit Omega genocide. Like in Far Cry 3, the island is full of wild animals hungry for human flesh, but this time around the island is also inhabited by the titular Blood Dragons.

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The Kobra sniper rifle can be upgrade to shoot explosive rounds, which is pretty much like having a grenade launcher with a zoom function. It’s delicious.

Blood Dragons are very T-rex natured creatures with poor eyesight and Tron lights that bloodlust at the sign of careless movement. You can crouch to sneak around them at point blank range, but an aggressive Blood Dragon can be your best friend or worst enemy. If you happen to be their primary target you’re in for a world of hurt, but thankfully their favorite snack happens to be the hearts of dead Omega Force troops. Just like throwing your D20 (seriously) to distract the humanoids, you can lob hearts to lure in Blood Dragons, crack open a soda and watch the chaos unfold.

This isn’t a very complicated game, and I often felt overpowered at times, but I assume this was intended to mimic the one-man-army style of a Stallone film. You’re always given the option to roll up on an occupied garrison in a jeep, jump out and mow down everything with a chain-gun like Jessie “the Body” Ventura in Predator, or sneak in and use silent take downs. As you gain levels, you eventually learn the ability to take down multiple enemies at once or reload faster while aiming down the scope, so the sense of caution begins to dwindle toward the end.

Sure, there were times when a garrison was guarded by armored Omega Force with flamethrowers, or a Blood Dragon would patrol in by accident and start blasting lasers at my face, but there was always enough room to duck around a corner and either lure it away or heal myself with medikits. To make matters even easier, you can heal yourself without medikits by holding the heal button (triangle for PS3) and waiting a few seconds. It’s not the same as the health regen featured in modern shooters, but it’s a similar concept that kind of took away any sense of danger.

Blood Dragons turn red when aggressive and expose their weak spots.
Blood Dragons turn red when aggressive and expose their weak spots.

Blood Dragon does get more difficult as the game goes on, but if you’re not playing on the hardest setting you may not find much challenge here. This is especially true once you finish the main storyline and continue in to the open world with the most overpowered weapon since Turok 2’s cerebral bore – the Killstar. On the other hand, it’s such an amazing sight to see everything exploding in a 5 mile radius that I was totally okay with this. Plus you get to ride an inquisitive dinosaur that shoots lasers from its eyes. Most. Fun. Ever.

I’ve already touched on the voice acting a bit, but it’s worth noting that the soundtrack in Blood Dragon is quite fantastic in a Blade Runner/Terminator sort of way. Australian duo Power Glove provide the ambient, electronic-fused tracks which could have easily been found in the opening credits of Red Dawn, Escape from New York or Stallone’s Cobra. If you’re a child of the 80’s or dig the classic tough-guy era action flicks, Grandfather Nostalgia will be beating down your door every step of the way in Blood Dragon.

The Verdict – A-

Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon is the equivalent of drinking diet soda, but without the disgusting aftertaste. It feels like Far Cry 3 if it were re-made as a “so bad, it’s good” sci-fi action flick in the 1980’s. Even with all of the tongue-in-cheek pop culture references, bright colors and over-the-top violence, it still felt like Far Cry. It’s similar enough to feel familiar, but different enough to remain interesting. Personally, I was born in 1981 and grew up playing Nintendo, listening to thrash metal and watching Terminator, so I was right at home with Blood Dragon.

My main complaint was with the save system which only allows you to manually save if you do not have a quest active; basically after the main storyline is finished. Prior to this, the autosave function only updates when you pick up or complete a quest, so dying usually meant replaying the last 15-20 minutes all over again. I didn’t die very often, so this wasn’t too much of a hassle, but was a general complaint amongst friends who also played the game so I felt it was worth mentioning.

I was honestly hovering at a B+ until the last 30 minutes of the game. With so many WTF moments, Mortal Kombat references, cyborg love making and montages, I had to give it an A-. I would gladly pay full price for a complete Blood Dragon sequel and applaud what Ubisoft Montreal was able to pull off with only a short 6-month development period. Hopefully other developers take notice as to what can be accomplished here rather than unloading generic DLC with ‘more quests’ or ‘more guns’. Ubisoft Montreal took an already solid concept and rather than cop-out, they presented something insanely different with amazing results. Blood Dragon sprinkles a bit more flavor on a tired genre and is definitely $14.99 well spent.

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