Video Game Review: ‘Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon’ is Totally Rad

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CHICAGO – My favorite 80’s sci-fi movie is a hammy flick named “Guyver II” starring David Hayter - the voice of “Solid Snake”, the EA sports “It’s in The Game!” guy, and writer of “X-men: United”. I’m fully aware “Guyver II” was released in 1994, but lets not split hairs, here. That movie was pure 80’s. The style, the action, the plot, the hyper-violent sci-fi that was heavily marketed toward kids- it was, for 12 year old Paul Meekin, 80’s B-movie nirvana. Video Game Rating: 4.5/5.0
Video Game Rating: 4.5/5.0

But there’s a Schwarzenegger-sized difference between evoking the essence of an era naturally, and ham-handedly copying the tropes and none of the soul (See the first 20 minutes of “The Great and Powerful Oz”). So it’s refreshing that, without deliberately mentioning it, “Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon” evokes fond memories of “The Terminator”, “G.I Joe”, “Tron”, “Rambo”, and a man-sized dose of “Duke Nukem” to boot, too. Now I’m not saying the game doesn’t contain direct references to that source material - it very well does, but what I’m saying is despite its far-out premise and tangential relation to the game it was born out of it, “Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon”, strangely, feels like an organic experience.

Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon
Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon
Photo credit: Ubisoft

I say organic because while “Blood Dragon” is essentially “Far Cry 3” with neon-paint, 80’s attitude, some extra bells and whistles, dinosaurs, and the ability to click the right analog stick to give the finger it takes itself seriously enough to be worthy of investment. The post Vietnam War 2 nuclear wasteland is a daft-punk bizzaro-world version of the Island setting you’re used too, and the game and its characters completely commit to the setting and ridiculous premise, and is better for it.

Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon
Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon
Photo credit: Ubisoft

First impressions are mixed-to-positive. After a series of great 16-bit era cutscenes that introduce you to cyber commando Rex Colt (played by “Terminator”’s Michael Biehn), the game’s introductory mission spends a little too much time holding your supple cyborg hand while you infiltrate an enemy base as an elongated tutorial. And while the chance to reacclimate to “Far Cry 3”’s specific brand of mayhem is welcome at first, things get frustrating in the not fun way at about the three-quarter point of this mission, as wave after wave of enemy is thrown at you and you’re required to give into the standard FPS tropes that “Far Cry 3” wisely avoided. Thankfully the tutorial has a sense of humor, eventually asking if you’ve had enough of the condescending tips and tricks before eventually opening up, and you’re dropped into a post-apocalyptic wasteland filled with enemy bases, mutant animals, and blood dragons - which are neon T-rexes that shoot lasers… And if you’re looking for excuses to buy this game, just repeat that phrase over and over again while entering your credit card info.

The difference between “Blood Dragon” and other games that attempt to be funny is like the difference between “Airplane” and “Disaster Movie”. The characters in Airplane were bizarre people in bizarre situations, but they acted as if their actions were perfectly normal, which made the jokes funny. “Disaster Movie” had bizarre actors acting bizarrely, but treating it as such, and it was funny to no one because “we” knew “they” knew it was supposed to be funny. “Blood Dragon” is definitely more “Airplane” than “Disaster Movie” in this regard, immersing you in a quality cyber-punk milieu that isn’t quite in on the joke, as every stupid “What a blast” when using a grenade or “I think he got the point” when you arrow an enemy is uttered by Biehn in a just this side of ironic fashion - though occasional missteps occur - a brief been-there-done-that monologue about how undangerous video games are annoyed me to no end.

Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon
Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon
Photo credit: Ubisoft

Initially I wasn’t sure if the excellently crafted over-the-top setting and humor lended itself to the…stalking nature of the gameplay, and I got frustrated for the first time somewhere around the 2 hour mark - as my desire to fulfill Rex’s macho, guns-blazing cyborg commando nature led to several situations where I tackled battles head-on and died, as opposed to giving in to the prowling of “Far Cry 3”’s optimal play style. Don’t get me wrong, the vulnerability of the protagonist in “Far Cry 3” and “Blood Dragon” makes taking out an enemy base personally satisfying and rewarding in game, too - it just takes a bit to understand that while you may *sound* like Duke Nukem, you’re more of a John Rambo type.

Speaking of “Rambo”, “Blood Dragon” presents a quite few different ways to draw first blood, too, presenting a few entertaining mission types. While crafting, radio towers, and talent trees are absent, the gameplay from “Far Cry 3” is mostly intact, especially in outpost capture missions. When capturing a base, you can go the standard route of knocking out the alarms - silently and ruthlessly assassinating every combatant in the base with the same thrilling combination of stealth, explosives, and takedowns you loved in “Far Cry 3”, but it’s also possible to disable a garrison’s shield generator and lure a giant, laser-breathing blood dragon into the base with a cyborg heart (which you loot from slayed daft-punk-meets-cylon looking enemies), and watch the carnage ensue - unintentionally drawing misty-eyed comparisons to that “Jurassic Park 4” script that never got made. A new side-mission type has you rescuing a helpless scientist -with the objective literally being “save the geek” - and it has its own feel as you’ll often have to take out perimeter guards before moving your way into some sort of building or natural structure. If you alert the guards they start harming the scientist, and you gotta hustle or (more likely) restart the mission.

Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon
Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon
Photo credit: Ubisoft

However, much like “Far Cry 3”, “Blood Dragon”’s story missions tend to be the low-light of an otherwise incredible fireworks display. They’re unnecessarily prolonged and feature protection missions on occasion, where you must prevent an AI companion from taking damage, which sort of like the least “Far Cry 3” thing I can think of. To be fair, these missions give you a chance to try out all sorts of play styles, as you’ll often infiltrate silently, something will go wrong, you’ll find a BFG, then get your hard-core cyber-commando on proper, which is cool but even the early missions have 3-4 phases and repetitive objectives where the mission can’t continue until you kill every enemy in a room so your AI companion can hack a door, only for it to repeat in the next room with a slightly different arrangement of furniture. It’s not that the story missions are bad it’s just when you have a world of freedom and option available to you, the confines of advancing the story via the same sort of action we get in every other FPS is a drag.

But I digress, the stand alone expansion will run you 1400 MS points, or roughly the price of a 1980’s Laser Disc these days. For the record, “Far Cry 3” was my game of the year in 2012, and “Blood Dragon” is more of the same, and then some. My favorite feature in both these games is its feel for escalation. Far too often games have side content that fails to become harder. As you progressed in “Far Cry 3”, new enemy types appeared, outposts had three alarms instead of two, three “heavy” enemies instead of one, and so on. It compelled you to keep playing because it presented new and more difficult challenges as you went along, as well as rewards for completing them - creating a core gameplay loop that was nearly impossible to put down. “Blood Dragon” while missing some of these mission types, makes up for it with it’s spectacular setting, glorious explosions, and incredible sense of humor (The tool tips during loading screens are laugh out loud funny). If you’re someone that loved everything “Far Cry 3” accomplished gameplay wise, buy this game. If you love the 80’s, buy this game. If you love quality humor from your interactive media, but this game. If you like laser-equipped dinosaurs, you’ve probably already bought this game. Good.

“Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon” was released by Ubisoft on April 30, 2013. The version reviewed was for the Xbox 360 but the game is also available for the PS3 and PC.

By Paul Meekin
Staff Writer

WickedSick's picture

The only think I don’t

The only think I don’t like about FC3: Blood Dragon is the variety of side missions. But overall I find Blood Dragon one of the best shooters of 2013 so far and I really hope there would be a “full length” sequel.

The titular blood dragons are very challenging and they make the game tougher. Sgt. Colt is the epitome of 80’s action stars being far from Jason Brody (pun intended).

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