Everything old is new again. The entertainment industry has proven that mantra time and time again as film, television, and music continually tap nostalgia for inspiration. The relatively young video game industry recently dipped into that well, with the likes of Capcom's Mega Man 9 and Mega Man 10, retro-themed PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 titles designed to mimic the Blue Bomber's 8-bit NES adventures. Several other titles reveled in a similar retro video game aesthetic, but very few tapped the overall retro feel of the decade that spawned video game classics: the 1980s. Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon is one. It takes 2012's popular Far Cry 3?title and filters it through a '80s vision of the future, complete with neon, dark synth music, and exciting gunplay. It's a smaller game than Far Cry 3, but this downloadable PC, PlayStation 3?, and Xbox 360?title is the better game.
Welcome to the Party, Pal
Blood Dragon isn't a mere standalone Far Cry 3 expansion; it's a celebration of '80s action silliness. Pseudo action star and #1 James Cameron go-to guy Michael Biehn (Aliens, Terminator, The Abyss) lends his gruff voice to Sgt. Rex "Power" Colt, a cybernetic commando who battles the evil Omega Force army in a post-apocalyptic world where mutants and dinosaur-like Blood Dragons roam. Yes, it's '80s cheese, but well-done '80s cheese, highlighted by homages to Predator, Terminator, and other testosterone-filled flicks from the decade of decadence.
At its core, Blood Dragon plays very much like Far Cry 3 with its tight first-person shooter mechanics, ziplines, collectibles, dangerous animals, multitude of side-missions, garrisons (the game's version of outposts), and open world (though on a much smaller scale). But it's the game's playful adherence to old school action movie clich?s that give Blood Dragon its own footing. The "futuristic" year of 2007?as envisioned from a decidedly '80s point of view?recalls elements from our own real-world '80s with its cold war fears, and big, dumb action movies. The latter, naturally, receives the most spotlight.
Got No Time to Bleed
Sgt. Rex "Power" Colt starts his mission armed to the teeth with a shotgun, pistol, grenade stash, and other weapons that let you ventilate enemy troops with well-placed shots. It's a potent arsenal that only gets better as you loot corpses for ammo and cash.
Money lets you purchase add-ons like silencers and laser scopes from designated areas within garrisons. The carnage you unleash over the course of the game earns CP (Cyber Points) that as XP (experience points) which level up Sgt. Colt with increased health, better accuracy, and other traits. Unfortunately, Blood Dragon doesn't let you select abilities; you automatically gain new ones after reaching certain plateaus. Some may not find that a fault, but I would've loved to dictate how my cyber-commando functions.
As you become more powerful, your ability to take down hordes of Omega Force warriors becomes increasingly effective and fun. In fact, Blood Dragon keeps tally of your accuracy, efficiency from cover, stealth kills, chain kills, and more. The game's tutorial, thankfully, gives you a rundown of the basics, though Sgt. Colt?in a bit of meta-commentary on the game playing experience?constantly gripes that he just wants to kill.
You're a Funny Guy, Sully
Environments are fittingly dark, with Tron-like splashes of blue, orange, and green neon. As a result, the world carries a weighty feel that's given levity by a handful of Arnold-worthy one-liners and hilarious cut scenes that recall the limited color schemes and animations of Sega CD and TurboGrafx-16 titles. The jokes, however, sometimes fall flat. For example, there's a button that causes Sgt. Colt to flip the bird when pressed. That felt less '80s cool, and more immature junior high school student. At other times, some of the dialogue seemed nothing but an obvious set up for a Schwarzeneggeresque one-liner.
Still, Blood Dragon redeems itself in other ways. Omega Force's cyber-troops speak with hilarious computerized vocals, and the screen tears with VHS-like tracking effects when explosions or player death occurs. The attention to '80s ridiculousness is obviously handled by a team with sincere love for the era.
Nothing symbolizes the game's grasp on the wacky than the eponymous Blood Dragons, neon-colored dinosaurs that fire lasers from their eyes. They roam the lands between garrisons and prove quite lethal combatants should you rush encounter one without a sound strategy. Their appetites for cybernetic hearts, however, make them tools in combating the enemy. For example, the tickers you collect from fallen enemies can be tossed into a garrison's entry, which attracts nearby Blood Dragons who rush into the base for a meal. Laughter quickly ensued as I sat upon a hilltop and watched Omega Force members defend themselves with laser rifle from a rampaging dinosaur who shot lasers from his eyes.
Gonna Have Me Some Fun!
Ubisoft must be commended for taking the Far Cry series in this radically different direction. In a gaming industry populated by titles that takes themselves far too seriously (for example, the original Far Cry 3), it's good to see that there's still a place for the goofy.
Game developers have a long history of using of using '80s action movies for inspiration?the original NES Contra has not too subtle Stallone- and Schwarzenegger-based characters that fight Xenomorph-like aliens. Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon, likewise, wears its inspirations on its sleeve. At times the dialogue forced and the bird-flipping comes off as too Duke Nukem-like, but Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon's old school strengths outweigh its few weakness.