The Future is Retro - Blood Dragon Review
Far Cry 3 Blood Dragon is fu*king insane. Insane in a fantastic way. But what is Blood Dragon really? Some kind of joke? Maybe. Expansion? No. Some lame cash-in DLC for the outstanding Far Cry 3? Hell no, it is an entirely new stand-alone game meaning that you don't need the original game to play it. You just download it, install it and you are ready to tackle the futuristic world of the year, wait for it, 2007.
Yes in Blood Dragon you'll play in the futuristic neon filled world of 2007. The world is suffering the aftermath of a nuclear war and the risk of that happening again is big cause of some crazy warlord who has a collection of nukes he isn't afraid to use. And is to America, yeah power, to jump in and save the day. Hmmnn now where have I heard this story before? Right, in every 80's and 90's action movie. Blood Dragon is a tribute to that era or generation of movies and does a hell of a job paying respect to them. You take the role of cyber-commando Rex "Power" Colt, a motherf*cking badass cyborg with an incredibly high desire for killing the bad guys and protecting America. The game starts with a cool 80's cartoon style cutscene describing the story and everything in between. Then we are introduced to Rex and his buddy, Spider, another badass cyber-commando. The dialogue between the two is testosterone fueled and it's a direct nod to the vibe emitted by 80's action movies. The whole script and writing is done to pay tribute to these movies. I grew up watching them and whenever I heard or saw a reference in the game, a smile appeared on my face, a nostalgic smile that only a few games can manage to bring out on people and Blood Dragon does this in an amazing way.
So back at the story, Rex and Spider reach this island, where the warlord General Sloan, as we learn later, is situated with all the nukes and we are tasked to stop him. You start fully equipped, all weapons and abilities, but, a wild cliche appears, after this "opening" mission you are stripped down of everything and you have to learn and get everything once again. Here comes one of the funniest training sessions I've played through in like, ever. "Press X to demonstrate that you can read" or "To look around, look around" and you can hear Rex say "Fu*k this" and "Let me out this sh*t HUD". And this cheesy humor doesn't stop here. During loading screens we are used to see tips that maybe help us understand the game and the mechanics better, but in Blood Dragon these tips are useless but funny as hell example: "Handguns are guns that fit in your hands. The future is here." or "Grenades explode" or "The next randomly generated tip maybe will help you, but not this one". You understand and you are told by the in-game characters that you are in a video-game and not in a blockbuster action heavily scripted game that wants to be "something" more. Lets say that Blood Dragon breaks the fourth wall and does it with an amazing and very interesting style.
In terms of gameplay and its mechanics, Far Cry 3 and most FPS players will feel right at home here. You are on thrown into this open-world and you choose what to do next. Do you want to play the main mission? You can do that. Do you want to do side-mission? Sure go ahead. Do you want just to f*ck around the island hunting, exploring and getting collectibles? Well no one is stopping you. You have the freedom to do what you like, even though it's a small array of choices. The main missions are like 5 or 6 and can be completed in 2 hours. The side missions are of two types: "Hunting" were you have to kill a legendary animal or a "special" soldier with a specific weapon and "Rescue the Hostage" or how the game likes to call it "Rescue the Nerd" where you basically have to kill every soldier in the camp/building and rescue the nerd. These nerds or the scientist are one of the two factions in the game. The other one are the bad guys Omega Force, who operate under General Sloan orders. In the main story you meet with Sloan's head of research, Dr. Darling, which is secretly working behind Sloan's back to bring him down. Rex comes into play and I think you can imagine how this ends...
Like in the original Far Cry 3, spread out in the map there are camps or garrisons that you have to liberate by killing everything and everyone inside. Everyone and everything... everyone okay but what do I mean by everything? Well it's in the name of the game itself, Blood Dragon. These are some big lizard/dinosaur looking creatures that fire lasers from their eyes. YEAH INSANE AND CRAZY, right? These creatures play a role in the overall storyline, but I am not going to tell you how and why. What you need to know is that the blood dragons can be difficult to kill, so you better use them in your favor. How? Simple by tossing a cyber heart you ripped out from the cyber soldiers you mowed down before. This creates a new strategy when you are tasked with liberating a garrison. Simply deactivate the shields, throw a cyber heart inside it and enjoy the spectacle. Blood Dragons will come rushing down to the heart and will annihilate everyone. That's it, you liberated the garrison.
But you can also do it using stealth or you can go full Rambo style. The trusted bow is back from FC3 and you can use it for stealth kills. Or you can use grenades, molotx, C400 and mines if you want to blow sh*t up. Being that you are a badass cyber commando you can always carry a trusty minigun in your pocket, because why the f*ck not, to help you mow down hordes of Daft Punk looking soldiers and hearing the famous Rambo "Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa" scream while firing makes it 10 times more epic. Or, maybe you want to use the futuristic sniper, the shotgun, the futuristic AR or you can use Robocop's pistol. Again, you choose. Each weapon feels good at first, but when you unlock parts and upgrades for them by doing side-missions as you progress, they become fu*cking incredible to use. Laser shooting AR, quad-barrel dragon's breath shotgun, sniper that fires rockets, a hand mounted laser that obliterates everything... the team behind this game has earned my eternal respect. Rex runs fast, like nanosuit Prophet fast and the best thing is that he can run like that forever. Yeah, you can outrun cars and enemy boats since swimming is as fast too. Also he jumps high, very high and most importantly he doesn't take any fall damage. I remember that I was running toward an objective and I wasn't paying attention to where I was going until I started falling hundred of meters down a dam. I thought I was finished, but no, Power is Rex's middle name. As you level up you gain the ability to takedown heavies, throw shurikens at soldiers, chain takedowns together. By the end of the game you will become a tank, a total badass and nothing will stop you.
All of this is going to happen, with or without your consent. And this kinda makes the game way more scripted than the original Far Cry 3, in a sense that in FC3 there was the Tatau system, where you choose what to invest in and what abilities you would get. Sure in the end you will end with all of the abilities, but till that time arrived you had some variety. Here in Blood Dragon, you don't have that kind of choice. You earn experience by killing, collecting things, completing missions and you get these abilities how the game wants you to get them. Also the whole crafting system is gone. Also in difference of FC3, there aren't many things to do here. Throughout the game you will kill only 4 types of enemies, regular soldiers, sniper soldiers, heavies and blood dragons. Also there are only 2 types of side missions, 5 or 6 main missions and 3 sets of collectibles to get. I completed the game 100% in less 6 hours. Again this is totally understandable for a AAA experience for 15$, but I have to ask the devs: Why didn't you add the option to reset the garrisons? Didn't you learn anything from Far Cry 3? In the end you are fully maxed out and I can't even imagine how much fun would be to clear garrisons with all of the crazy weapons and powers. So WHY?!
The presentation of the game is fantastic and very unique. From the 4:3 resolution retro Ubisoft logo intro, to 80's cartoon style cutscenes, to the minimalist menu, to the fantastic techno with a touch of retro soundtrack and sound effects. The visual style is interesting, very dark with a red neon effect applied over everything. The enemies look like were inspired by Daft Punk. I would have loved to find an easter egg where some of the soldiers were jamming a piece from them, but whatever. The character models look fantastic, their animations too. I really liked Rex's reloading animations and the "heal yourself" ones where he uses the blow torch or twist his mechanic hand. The soundtrack is fantastic and the pew pew sounds from the laser AR... priceless! The VO is extremely well done with Michael Biehn giving Rex a voice to remember. The one liners, the dialogues, the references, everything is well thought and executed to perfection, Rex is a true American hero. The frame rate is steady with small stuttering during heavy dense sequences, but nothing too distracting. The annoying screen tear that was present on the PS3 version of Far Cry 3 is nowhere to be found here, since the game is very fluid and the loading times are super fast.
So bottom line: Far Cry 3 Blood Dragon is a fantastic nostalgia fueled experience that's well worth it and doesn't overstay too much its welcome. Funny as hell (where else can you punch cyber sharks?!), plays fantastic and looks great. More variety and the ability to reset the garrisons would have been nice, but for the price it's well worth it. This game redefines the definition of insanity and of the word f*ck. And from what I have been hearing, this may not be the last time we see Sergeant Rex Power Colt.
Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon was reviewed on the Ps3 using a promo key provided by Ubisoft. Far Cry 3 Blood Dragon is now available for PS3, Xbox 360 and PC.