Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon Review
If you’re a child of the 70s or 80s, you may miss those cheesy, tongue-in-cheek, ridiculously silly themes found in many action movies. Nowadays, it seems like such films (even the ones obviously designed to be absurd) take themselves far too seriously, and you might miss the corny innocence of the good ol’ days. If that’s the case, it’s time to strap on a virtual holster and go hunting for aliens in the new spin-off, Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon. Last year’s popular and acclaimed Far Cry 3 was fantastic and you know, as far as spin-offs go, Blood Dragon is pretty damn great. Give it a try.
This downloadable title might actually fool the uninitiated from a graphical standpoint. Well, at least so far as the cut-scenes go: The developers purposely made the non-interactive segments look like one of those low-grade animated cartoons from decades ago, and they will definitely remind you of all those awesome Saturday morning cartoons. Of course, then you’ll hit the gameplay and you’ll realize that with a fantastically retro style, top-notch detailing, slam-bang special effects and a well-designed environment, Blood Dragon is a wicked solid technical achievement. Overall, this is an ooey-gooey, bloody and oh so visually stimulating production.
The cheese factor goes off the charts with the dialogue and many of the special effects. The latter splatter your speakers with over-the-top gory goodness, and the soundtrack is just classic 80s in every sense of the word. Plus, you’ve got the total bad-ass Michael Biehn (“Terminator,” “Aliens”) who plays the protagonist, and he plays this role perfectly. It’s true that you might cringe at some of his lines, but even the cringe-worthy parts come across as charming and even wistful. Biehn as Rex Colt really works, and along with a fitting, nostalgic soundtrack and satisfying effects, the game boasts grade-A audio. Yes, old cartoons did sound like that.
So you’ve got some adolescent, juvenile rudeness to go along with a raucous FPS that resonates with a particular age group. It just so happens to be the demographic that grew up with Duke Nukem, by the way, and this is what Duke Nukem Forever should’ve been. This is a digital production and had it been DNF, it would’ve ideally boasted higher overall production values and length. But really, if this had been the Duke effort, I would’ve been satisfied. Blood Dragon captures the old-school tone and theme better than any game this generation. Granted, not a ton of games were going for this style, but I still think it’s worth mentioning.
There’s just such an appreciated sense of humor; you can’t help but laugh at the comically insulting tutorials and the innuendo-laden collectibles. So many of the classic 80s gags, one-liners, and clichés are here, and they all poke gentle fun at the “Me Decade.” That heady combination of nostalgia and comedy results in a really entertaining game and truly, you don’t have to be a geezer like me to love it. That’s because beneath the excellent, bodacious, gnarly, rad, and tubular exterior is a solid, nicely paced shooter that keeps you absorbed. Despite the drastically different atmosphere, it really does play a lot like Far Cry 3.
It’s more open-ended that I thought it would be, which immediately reminds one of the sprawling tropical island found in FC3. And once again, enemy bases are spread across this retro landscape, complete with patrolling enemies and indulging in the reverse futuristic (is that what you call it when you go back in time and see a fictional future from that vantage point?) atmosphere. You will tackle a variety of missions, each of which has its own special style and appeal. You’ll earn weapon upgrades by locating collectibles and completing side quests, but the adventure remains relatively simplistic. There’s no RPG-like character advancement; you just earn new skills and pre-determined points throughout the story.
That’s mildly disappointing but it fits the game’s straightforward theme. This leads me to another false assumption on my part: I thought that due to the more straightforward approach and simplistic style, Blood Dragon would be more about brute strength and fast-paced shooting. In other words, I thought the stealth option from FC3 would disappear. But instead, not only is stealth still a possibility, it’s actually more entertaining (albeit far less realistic) in this spin-off. From the start, you’ll be darting from hapless foe to hapless foe, stabbing them at lightning speed and reveling in your bad-ass abilities. Of course, you’re more than welcome to mix things up by getting into crazy firefights, which is always invigorating.
Chained stealth kills are just one of the appealing aspects of this game, as hunting and killing Blood Dragons is challenging and satisfying. You gotta see those things…you won’t soon forget them! And actually, now that I’m sitting here comparing Far Cry 3 and Blood Dragon, I think the bases are actually larger in the latter. This adds to the immersion and encourages various forms of experimentation. The shortcomings shouldn’t be enough to dissuade you from trying the game, but they are evident— for instance, the animations aren’t always as smooth as you would like, and there are a few examples of technical hitches and glitches.
The enemy AI is another issue, because it strikes me as a step back from FC3. I could be remembering this part wrong, but I don’t recall foes in FC3 being quite this stupid. Lastly, while Ubisoft has said this game is 8 hours in length, you’ll really only reach 8 hours if you plan to do absolutely everything. If you just breeze right through the adventure, you’ll probably be done in only 5 hours or so. Oh, and as big a fan as I am of 80s cornball humor, some of the comedy here misses the mark. There are times when you go, “Okay, that really just fell flat.” It’s almost like the designers tried too hard to make it all retro.
But anyway, Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon is still mighty fun. There are some games that are best described with the simple “fun” adjective, and this is definitely one of them. The action is fast and satisfying, the control is solid, the 80s humor is usually spot-on (and makes some of us all sorts of nostalgic), and the combination of the gameplay and totally sweet retro atmosphere makes for the ultimate guilty pleasure. A few enemy quirks and some bad jokes aside, this is the title you should play after a tough day at work. It isn’t a perfectly created spin-off in the spirit of FC3 but it’s pretty damn close. And talk about relieving stress…!
The Good: Visuals and audio have fantastic retro 80s flair. Biehn’s voice is awesome. Open-ended yet accessible gameplay. Great control. Well-paced adventure with some variety. Genuinely charming and even hilarious atmosphere.
The Bad: Animations can be off. Some of the comedy misses the mark. AI seems a little iffy.
The Ugly: “Some 80s cheesiness was beyond cheesy…and kinda painful, unfortunately.”
5/6/2013 Ben Dutka