It’s quite a rare thing that Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon attempts to do. It takes the combat and gameplay mechanics from last year’s hit, Far Cry 3, and transports them into a retro 1980’s era video game set in the future. However, since Blood Dragon is portrayed as if it was made in the ‘80s – albeit with current-gen graphics – that means the “future” the game is set in is actually 2007. In it the world has been swallowed up in war and technology has advanced much further than it actually has in our world. Laser weapons, cybernetic super soldiers and mutants are abundant in this dystopian hell hole.
It is clear right from the first five seconds of Blood Dragon that you are in for something special. An old school Ubisoft logo with appropriately vintage music sets the tone right away: this is a game that is not going to take itself seriously. Like so many classic 1980’s movies, the story is quite simple. You are Sergeant Rex “Power” Colt, a billion dollar Cyber Commando who has been dropped onto an island with just a few simple tasks: kill the bad guy, rescue the girl, save the world.
The writing in Blood Dragon is quite a feat. It’s intended to be incredibly cheesy but it works great. It’s impressive because corny dialogue is perhaps the hardest to write; it would be easy to see some of the lines flop but the overall style and self-awareness keep it fun. One-liners such as “I gave him the shaft” after lodging an arrow into someone’s skull is common-place and the actual story dialogue garners equal amounts laughs and groans. It also helps that it’s all delivered with the perfect tone, including Rex’s lines being delivered by none other than ‘80s mainstay Michael Biehn.
The retro feel of the game extends far beyond the premise and story. Cutscenes are presented beautifully with a style similar to classic Sierra point-and-click titles such as Space Quest. However once you are dropped into actual gameplay, you are squarely set back into current gen graphics with great detail and effects. But even with great graphics, Blood Dragon manages to make it feel retro, with a slight VHS-esque filter over the screen and bright neon colors dotting the landscape
The unique color palette extends to most characters in the game as well. Enemies are highlighted in bright colors to help make them stand out, vicious animals will have glowing eyes or teeth and basically every light source is some bright, saturated color. It all leads to a game that simply looks like absolutely nothing else out there.
Gameplay wise, things are much more straightforward. But that isn’t a bad thing at all. If you’ve played Far Cry 3 you’ll be right at home here as the full range of shooting and melee mechanics have come over almost unchanged. Blood Dragon does feature all new weapons but those still fall into the basic categories of rifle, shotgun, sniper, etc. Even the bow makes a return – albeit a glowing neon blue bow – and it’s still as fun as ever.
In fact with the new weapons introduced in Blood Dragon, the combat is even better, with much more satisfying kills. Part of this comes from the fact that the game starts you out as a super soldier, rather than an inexperienced kid, so you feel powerful and awesome right from the beginning. Most of the cool melee kills you had to unlock in Far Cry 3 are available right from the start. Also, while the weapons start out feeling fairly normal, as you get new upgrades for them they change into much better and more fun killing machines than anything that was ever found in the original game. This all leads up to the final weapon you get your hands on, which I definitely won’t spoil but I’ll just say that it’s amazing.
The rest of Blood Dragon will feel quite similar to those who have played Far Cry 3. After being dropped on the island you have a set of story missions that are definitely fun to go through. However the bulk of your time will likely be spent clearing out the thirteen garrisons on the island, Blood Dragon’s version of the outpost. By taking control of these garrisons you unlock simple side missions and also locations for fast travel around the island. In Far Cry 3 usually the preferred method was to tackle the outposts by being as stealthy as possible. While this is still an option, with the fun array of weapons you get your hands on I found myself preferring to go in guns-blazing as it was just more fun.
Another option to take out the garrisons is presented with the titular Blood Dragon. These animals are the focus of the main story and the biggest change in the game. Where every other animal was simply given a facelift and some shiny colors, the Komodo Dragon from Far Cry 3 has been transformed into a dinosaur-like monster that is intimidating and incredibly scary. Not only are they physically imposing but they also shoot lasers out of their eyes. Frickin’ laser beams! You can lure one of these animals to a local garrison and watch as it just annihilates the entire place. When you actually have to take one – or more – down it is a great experience where you have to throw pretty much everything you have at it and hope for the best.
Blood Dragon is not a terribly long game – it is a downloadable title after all – but for the $15 price tag you’re going to get a good 8-10 hours if you task yourself with tackling all of the garrisons and side missions. However when you reach the end of the game, you will see that your money was incredibly well spent. To put it simply, the events in the final mission, including the accompanying cutscenes, are some of the best moments I have had in recent memory. It’s hilarious, it’s fun and it gives you gameplay that is drastically different than anything else in the game.
Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon is a special title. It takes most of the best parts of a great game, Far Cry 3, and couples them with a unique style and world. The game is gorgeous, the writing is on point and it’s a blast to play. It also gives you a lot to do, with plentiful side missions and collectibles to take up your time. The only real downside is that the ‘80s aesthetic is certainly not going to be for everyone. However if you enjoyed Far Cry 3 then this is likely going to be right up your alley. If you think the idea of a retro-themed shooter with neon colors and dinosaurs that shoot lasers sounds like a fun time, then you’ll likely love Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon.
SCORE: 9.0 out of 10
A review code for Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon was provided to Pixel Related for review.