Set in the dystopian far-future of 2007, and filled to the brim with cyborgs, lasers, neon and shoulder-pads, Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon is a love letter to the cheesy action films of the ‘80s.
As a standalone release on Xbox Live and the PlayStation Network, Blood Dragon plays on a streamlined version of Far Cry 3’s engine, fuelled by machismo and synthesisers, and, despite some mechanical problems and its relatively short length, its a gaming experience you’ll almost certainly never have had before.
You take control of Mark IV Cyber Commando, Sergeant Rex “Power” Colt, a bird-flipping, one-liner quipping old school action hero trying to save the world and rescue the girl. After infiltrating Colonel Sloan’s military island, Colt is tasked with sneaking into bases, liberating “science nerds” and saving the day from a deadly nuclear threat.
The game plays very similarly to Far Cry 3, and as such, Blood Dragon never truly shakes the sense that it’s a new coat of paint. That same, large open world replete with wild animals and garrisons to liberate returns, and it’s still a delight to inhabit. There is a strong tongue-in-cheek vibe to everything, from the scientists wailing their arms as they run away from a cyber-panther, to the collectible VHS tapes scattered around the wilderness. It’s fun, but limited. There isn’t a whole lot of content to go around – a 100 per cent completionist run through will take around six hours.
Very few additions are made to the gameplay, something that leaves Blood Dragon feeling like a streamlined version of its predecessor. Colt can move faster, fall further and swim longer than Far Cry 3’s Jason could, and it’s a change that tacks the game further towards action than stealth.
Then there’s the eponymous wild blood dragons: hulking, neon-glowing lizards roughly the size of a rhino that can shoot lasers from their mouths. As with the animals of Far Cry 3, they can be coerced to help decimate enemy forces through the use of bait-style cyber-hearts, luring the Dragons’ laser-based wrath towards the indicated area.
From the dichotomous bright neon and dark lighting all throughout the world to the old-school menus and HUD, Blood Dragon convincingly captures what a game with today’s technology would look like if it were made in the ‘80s. Small elements prevalent throughout the entire world – such as the massive computer terminals or old-school VHS loading screens – strengthen a sense of style and originality throughout the entire product, and it ensures that the game’s high points are incredible, memorable moments. A synthesised soundtrack from Power Glove also complements it superbly.
Unfortunately, the greater focus on action-based gameplay turns out to be a shortcoming in Blood Dragon. While Colt’s increased combat capabilities and the overall tone of the game seem to bias a more action-oriented experience, the strong stealth mechanics of Far Cry 3 hold it back. The shooting isn’t awful, but never feels particularly rewarding. Enemies take far too many shots to go down. Meanwhile, it appears as though Colt’s cybernetic implants are made of tin foil, unable to weather any more than a couple of seconds exposed to enemy fire.
Soon enough, the problem is reversed. Through killing enemies and the completion of open-world side missions, Colt can level up and gain access to better weaponry, such that any challenge soon disappears. Colt’s increased strength and better weaponry eliminates all difficulty and creates a boring gameplay experience. Blood Dragon never gets the balance correct: Colt is either too weak or too strong. The net result is that the shooting which comprises a large portion of the gameplay never really feels all that satisfying or fun.
Blood Dragon is hampered by its direct relationship to Far Cry 3. It presents an interesting and unique world, but it’s wrapped around mechanics that don’t exploit them to their fullest potential. Humorous games live and die by their ability to keep players engaged in their worlds, in order to see (and laugh at) all there is to see. But Blood Dragon doesn’t do enough to keep the player entertained.
It’s a game that must be endured to see the best content, and one where satisfaction doesn’t come directly from playing it, but from watching the world and listening to the characters along the way.