RELEASE DATE: April 30, 2013
PLATFORM: PC, XBLA, PSN
DEVELOPER: Ubisoft Montreal
CATEGORY: First-person shooter
“I’ll go to bed when you’re dead,” says Sgt. Rex ‘Power’ Colt, a cyber commando main character in Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon, Ubisoft Montreal’s neon-drenched expansion of last year’s Far Cry 3, as he celebrates his kills with a user-commanded robot middle finger.
I don’t understand how a game like Blood Dragon got farther than a creative meeting. Usually, this is a bad thing: games so bad andridiculous that gamers start petitions to get their money back. But once in a while, a game is so bad it’s good and transcends to camp (looking at you, Deadly Premonition). Blood Dragon immediately becomes an ultimate camp classic, banking on the neon purple (and I do mean PURPLE) ’80s and the action flicks that made that decade great. It’s an idea so cool that I can’t believe a major game publisher decided to move forward with it in a time when “more of the same” is just what the doctor ($$$) ordered.
But Blood Dragon isn’t as huge a departure from the series as one may think. Far Cry has always banked on the ’80s. Guy gets dropped into a jungle somewhere to kill a bunch of bad guys with ALL the guns and knives. Commando, Predator, Rambo…Get the picture?
It’s a brilliant formula, okay? How could this game possibly not sell? People LOVE the ’80s. They throw parties, dress up as frizzy-haired, leg-warmer clad divas and spin around to the terrible synth pop that branded the decade as one of the worst for music. Even the synth pop made it into Blood Dragon, which was scored by electronic music duo Power Glove. You can’t go through this game without laughing and tapping your foot.
The story is just as nonsensical as the music.”The apocalypse has had an apocalypse,” is the main background information given to you as you’re dropped onto a war torn island full of cybernetic enemies led by Colonel Sloan, another cybernetic badass who was once Rex’s commanding officer but has now gone rogue. Rex’s mission, your mission, is to take Sloan out and free the island. Along the way, you must destroy an evil weapon, enter a parallel universe and fight a crapload of zombies called “the running dead.” Dude, I don’t know, either. It’s very clear that the focus isn’t on the story. It’s all about the gimmick.
The game is beautifully presented and that’s what matters. It’s very colorful: neon splattered all over a reddish-purple palette. Literally, everything has neon. There’s neon shooting up into the sky (not kidding). Red neon on enemies. Colors (green, yellow, and red) tell you if you’re making the blood dragons mad. I will say that the colors can become a bit disorienting at times when you’re on the run-and-gun. Got a headache once or twice.
In terms of gameplay, Blood Dragon plays pretty much the same as its predecessors. It won’t feel foreign to fans of the series at all. You still have to dodge trees as you drive those horrible jeeps in the first person. You still get to stab multiple people in the throat with your (neon) knife. There are combo takedowns and lots and lots of explosive canisters through out the map. Customizable machine gun, pistol, shotgun, sniper rifle and bow are all at your disposal. Finding the most creative way to kill your enemies is still very gratifying.
The map is still open-world and you can decide what missions to tackle first. You can focus on the main missions, go hunting for animals, assassinate enemy leaders, save hostages or take over enemy bases.
There are several ways to complete your missions. You can go through the entire game, with the exception of set pieces, without getting into a big firefight and opt for a more stealthy campaign. But I dare say Blood Dragon wasn’t designed for stealth.
Omega Force, a faction of cybernetic soldiers and your enemies, are a lot more fun to shoot, dismember and blow to shreds than any of the tribesmen in the rest of the series. They talk to each other in an annoying drone (think the Droid Army from the Star Wars prequel trilogy) and are pretty much the dumbest military force in video game history besides the Marines in Halo.
The blood dragons, pissed-off neon dinosaurs, pose the real challenge to Rex as he travels through the map. They can kill you in about three hits or use their freaking laser beams to kill you in two. The only way to get around them is to crouch and duck walk through bushes or throw cybernetic hearts (ripped out of dead enemies) at the dragons to bait them away from you. Blood dragons can also be used as weapons. You can bait them into attacking Omega Force soldiers and obliterating their base defenses. Given the number of enemies surrounding you and your objectives at all times, you’ll want to take advantage of this strategy.
Although Blood Dragon lacks a multiplayer component, there’s plenty to do in the campaign, which should keep you busy for at least a weekend if you decide to complete all the side missions and capture all the bases. The game does a good job at distracting you with the way they spread enemies all over the map. You won’t go without killing something for longer than a few minutes.
Besides destroying all things, the most remarkable thing about Blood Dragon is the presentation. Not only does it pay homage to ’80s culture, but it’s also a love letter to the action games of yore. The cut scenes, which are the only things that remind you there’s an actual story in this game, are all rendered in 16 bits as if on a very bad VHS tape. It’s so incredibly fresh to watch these cheesy little videos that it doesn’t make sense.
And that should be the game’s slogan: “Don’t ask. Just accept.” I got my initial WTF? out of the way early on and just started playing the best shooter of the year thus far. It put me in a sort of trance: a mad man with lots of guns trying to rescue the girl (her name is Dr. Darling) and save the world form the bad guys. What else could you possibly want from an action game?
STORY: 7/10 (it doesn’t even really matter)