When Ubisoft revealed Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon on April 1st this year, it’s easy to understand why a number of people assumed it was another ridiculously awesome April Fool’s joke, something we have become accustomed to in the industry. Then the developers did the unexpected – they confirmed that Blood Dragon was in fact a real thing.
That started a trend for this insanely awesome 80s cybershooter, because in the normal video game world, Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon is certainly unexpected. It was unexpected to be priced at a mere $15, it was unexpected to be shipped in six short months, and it was unexpected to be this damn good.
“It embodies what gaming should be in my eyes: it doesn’t make sense, there are dragons with lasers, and it’s freaking awesome.”
Blood Dragon takes every lame sci-fi film from the 80s and turns it into a work of interactive fiction that is simply outrageous. Filling the shoes of cybercommando protagonist Rex “Power” Colt, players set forth on a quest to destroy cyberdudes, rescue scientists. and to destroy the Blood Dragons. Did I mention these horrific beasts can shoot lasers out of their eyes? Yeah, it’s totally rad!
Filled with more one-liners than Schwartzenegger’s finest moments, the humour of Blood Dragon is completely over-the-top in the best way possible. The overbearing tutorial section, the cheesy responses when pilfering slain enemies and Rex’s brand of wit fits perfectly with the tone of the game, and a lot of that has to do with Michael Biehn’s portrayal of every character he has ever played. Don’t recognise the name? Picture Kyle Reece from The Terminator and Sergeant Hicks for Aliens, that’s him, and he does a stellar job of making Rex become a believable 80s action star.
While I fell in love with the neon-filled world of Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon, I recognised that there are a number of niggling issues that could pose a problem for some gamers. First of all there is an issue of length – the story missions can be raced through in three to four hours, and even if you’re scavenging for all the items and free all the garrisons, you’re still only talking six to eight hours maximum. Considering the low price point, and the fact that you don’t require Far Cry 3 to gain access, this is easily forgivable.
While I personally enjoyed most of the humour found throughout the game, it’s easy to see how it can become grating for some. While classic 80s action films are lame in a hilarious way, they were never self-aware of their shortcomings. Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon isn’t only self-aware, but it’s constantly ramming endless puns and obvious one-liners down your throat, which can become hard to swallow at times.
Those expecting a different experience from vanilla Far Cry 3 sure to be disappointed. Blood Dragon takes the same mechanics and re-skins them, complete with neon, dragons, lasers and blue blood. It looks completely different, but it plays largely the same. If you hated Far Cry 3, the only way Blood Dragon is going to sway you is through the nostalgic comedy on offer.
Despite the short running time of the story at hand, one of the best features of Blood Dragon is the 16-bit rendered cutscenes, which should be recognisable to anyone who played games during the Wing Commander era. Minimal animation, sweet voice-overs and a style from a bygone area pulls it through.
Yet I truly believe the most important aspect of Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon isn’t the game itself, but what this project represents. Ubisoft has let the development team go batshit crazy with a multi-million dollar game engine, and it has paid off in spades. Hopefully this signifies a shift in the industry, the chance for highly polished experiments that supplement the big releases of the year in new and exciting ways.