Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon Review

Far Cry 3 was my favourite game of 2012. I loved the lush open world island environment, the combat, the leveling system and most importantly the variety of ways I could take over enemy encampments. The story was fairly weak for sure, but the robust and rewarding gameplay more than made up for it. Well, history is repeating itself because that’s pretty much how it works for Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon.

As many of you know by now, Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon is a stand alone, downloadable title that has been released on Xbox Live Arcade, PSN and Steam. In lieu of the self-serious narrative present in Far Cry 3, Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon has it’s neon tongue firmly planted in it’s 80’s cheek. The cut scenes look straight out of the 16 bit era, the plot is like any of those Albert Pyun 80’s action movie cheapies like Nemesis or Cyborg, and the score is pure synth, not unlike that in the original Terminator. There is not a single moment that it takes itself seriously and thus lies the game’s biggest flaw.

Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon Review - Cut Scene
The cut scenes are all presented in this 16 bit fashion and they’re all pretty funny.

Paint a Vulgar Picture

In the 80’s, with the rise of the home video market, there was also the birth of the direct-to-video cheapies. Most of these films would be Z movies with B aspirations at best. Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon‘s presentation is very much like an 80’s direct to VHS low budget sci-film like the ones my older brother would rent for us from our local video store. It didn’t matter that the FX were cheap and the acting was awful. We were action movie junkies and took our fix any way we could get it.

In this regard, Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon nails it. From the absurd plotting to inane dialogue, the game oozes 80’s low budget action in every single frame. The plot, such as it is, has the player taking control of Rex “Power” Colt, Mark IV Cyber Commando, veteran of Vietnam 2. The game takes place in the 80’s future of 2007. Sent with his teammate, fellow Cyber Commando Spider, to investigate the activities of their former commander, Sloan. Sloan has been rumored to be up to no good on a remote island. Needless to say, clichéd events unfold and Rex finds himself left with his guns and his AI, HUD. His mission: save the girl and that world from Sloan’s ridiculous, ehm, nefarious plan.

What makes this initial setup work so well is the attention given to little details, such as the scan lines across the screen as if viewing the game on a videocassette, or the incredibly inane dialogue exchanges like this:

Sloan: “If anything happens, tell [my wife] that I died for my country.

Rex: “You tell her yourself you hear me?”

There’s even a late game training montage. The homages and references come fast and last the entire length of the game.

The story is purposely and knowingly bad which makes the story work well, especially if you grew up in the 80’s like I did. Unfortunately the final moments of the game seem like the development team ran out of time and or money as the final stretch of gameplay is an on rails shooter that ends jarringly and the climactic confrontation of the game wraps up during one of the 16 bit cut scenes thus robbing the player of that cathartic final battle.

That Joke Isn’t Funny Anymore

All of this lends itself perfectly to its inspiration of bad 80’s movies and clichés. Knowing this will be a turn off to anyone under the age of 30, the game is also full of jabs at video game tropes such as collectibles, lengthy tutorials and overly confident game heroes. For example, when Colt collects an item, he’ll quip about how at he hopes he doesn’t have to collect any flags or feathers. Yes, this is a clear cut at Assassin’s Creed’s collectibles and it was mildly amusing the first time I heard it. Unfortunately, I heard it–or some variation thereof –at least 40 more times because I am wont to collect everything in games. Hearing the same 4 things over and over again throughout the game is neither funny nor clever and undermines what Ubisoft so clearly put a lot of care into.

It’s not just with the collectibles either. Colt repeats the same things ad nauseam throughout the game. I’m not sure if it’s the size limit of the title, or if Michael Biehn was only available for a few hours to record dialogue or what, but it really became a struggle to listen to the fake gravelly voiced Colt make off the cuff remarks about almost everything, especially considering the lines of dialogue were not very funny to begin with. Repetition of an unfunny joke does not make it funnier.

A Rush and a Push and the Land is Ours

Thankfully, the story and dialogue aren’t the meat of this package. What I honestly came for was the gameplay. Sticking to Far Cry 3‘s core gameplay anyone familiar with that title should be immediately at home with the smooth as butter controls and system at work here. Shooting and stabbing enemies work in ways you would expect, only red blood from gored enemies has been replaced with a neon blue substance.

Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon has 7 fairly lengthy main story missions, 15 “garrisons” (outposts in the original Far Cry 3) to take over, and several hostage rescue and Path of the Predator (hunting/assassination) missions. Overall, the game isn’t very long. With all of the side-quests and collecting completed I finished the game in less than 10 hours, but that is a great amount of content for a $15 downloadable title.

The leveling system from Far Cry 3 has also returned, only this time in a much more stream-lined version. All 4 weapon slots are open to you once the game starts proper, so there is no need to hunt animals beyond the achievement for killing one of every kind and the few side missions that require it. Since hunting is a non-issue in this game, all choice in this regard has been stripped away and instead the player gets a preset skill upgrade at every other new level and a health slot in between. It makes the game much easier to take in this bite-sized serving and keeps the player moving and killing, which is much appreciated as the gunplay and exploration are still as great as they were in the original.

What Difference Does It Make?

Here we are, almost 1000 words into a review, and I haven’t even mentioned the titular creature of the game. That’s because, in all honesty, while the Blood Dragons are awe inspiring upon first view, they didn’t amount to much for me once I added explosive rounds to my Kobracon sniper rifle. They do play a significant role in the story, and yes, they can be lured into occupied garrisons by throwing collected cyber hearts, but I only wound up using that twice during the whole game. Instead I opted to take out the enemies myself, which was much more satisfying.

Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon Review - Tag enemies to track their movement.
Just like in Far Cry 3, you can tag enemies to track their movement through environments.

I Know It’s Over

Should you decide to forgo the side missions and achievements, Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon can easily be completed in an afternoon. With all side-missions completed and all achievements unlocked, my game clock had me at 9:45:30 accumulated over several days. While the story may work better for some than it did for me, Far Cry 3’s core gameplay still shone through and made Blood Dragon a blast to play from start to finish. It won’t be my favourite game this year, but it’s definitely one I had a lot of fun with. And honestly, isn’t that the point?

Sean completed 100% of the campaign of Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon on Xbox 360. The copy of the game played was purchased from Xbox Live and was not provided by Ubisoft.

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8/10+ It’s Far Cry 3, only bite-sized
+ Streamlined leveling system
+ Great homages to 80’s action movies and the VHS era
+ Does what it is trying to do almost perfectly, but…
-The “jokes” spoken by Colt wear thin, quickly
-The ending seems abrupt
-Final moments of gameplay are on rails.

Available on: PC, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3

Version Reviewed: Xbox 360

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