Leave Anything Behind?
Far Cry 3 Blood Dragon is a game that shouldn’t exist, it single handedly threatens to ruin the Far Cry brand alongside making Ubisoft look like idiots. It’s rare that we see a game take such a risk within the industry but the final product does enough things right to warrant a recommendation even if the game isn’t as great as it could or maybe should be.
Let’s get something out of the way first, Blood Dragon is a bit of a tricky game to review. I could easily spend the next couple of minutes completely ripping on the game for all the things it does “wrong” but in reality that’s the intention. There’s a fine line between making something so bad that it’s good and something so bad that it just ends up staying bad. The game may start off by poking fun at lengthy tutorials but it doesn’t excuse it from repeating the same mistake, being self aware won’t get you a free pass so with that in mind, let’s proceed.
Don’t let the name fool you, Far Cry 3 Blood Dragon has as little to do with Far Cry as Metroid Other M does to Metroid. The name implies that you’re playing some kind of Far Cry 3 expansion but nothing could be further from the truth, Blood Dragon has nothing to do with Far Cry, let alone Far Cry 3. It’s a separate spin-off title that happens to borrow the Far Cry 3 engine alongside some of it’s mechanics tell it’s own crazy 80s style “story” and no, you don’t need the original Far Cry 3 in order to enjoy this one.
Blood Dragon drops just about everything we’ve come to expect from Far Cry and instead goes back in time to the 80s. It then jumps to the “future” in 2007 except this isn’t really 2007 we all know, it’s what people in the 80s assumed 2007 would look like therefore it’s the dumbest vision of 2007 you’ll ever encounter.
You play as SERGEANT REX POWER COLT, a Mark IV series cyborg essentially brought back from the dead by going down the “Robocop” route. Michael Biehn provides the voice (who else?) for Rex Power Colt and delivers a performance straight out of the 80s, bad jokes and terrible one liners are everywhere. Rex Power Colt isn’t the same type of character that we see in today’s games where they spend the whole campaign questioning all the killing they’re responsible for, Rex Power Colt is the type of guy who will say “Knife to meet you” after stabbing you. Long story short, Rex doesn’t give a s**t and neither should you.
The game plays very similarly to Far Cry 3, if you’ve played that game then you should be at home with Blood Dragon. It’s still an open world FPS although the map size this time round has been greatly reduced over what you saw in Far Cry 3, likewise the crafting mechanic has been ditched and skills are automatically attained in a preset manner as you gain XP. Blood Dragon isn’t a retail title, it’s a digital download intended to be short and sweet so consider the removal of some of the things we saw in Far Cry 3 as a “trimming the fat” measure. For what it’s worth, the game is better for it and the pacing is tighten up as a result.
Blood Dragon is merely a downgraded Far Cry 3, being a Mark IV cyborg allows Rex to swim underwater for as long as he wants. He can also sprint indefinitely making traversal far less tedious here than it was in Far Cry 3. There’s also the whole 80s theme and blood dragons roaming around so it’s definitely a different beast to Far Cry 3 even if it does borrow many elements from that game. Upon taking damage players can still hold the Y button to restore their health and this usually results in all sorts of cool animations. The weapon animations themselves are also extremely awesome with Rex doing all sorts of unnecessary flips and what not but it’s best if you see them for yourself instead of me explaining them via text.
In it’s basic form here is how Blood Dragon works, you have access to an open world but it’s generally boring with little to do so most players will stick with the main campaign which is comprised of seven missions. You set a waypoint indicator to a mission start point, spend a minute or two running there and then begin the mission which normally tends to last about 30 minutes give or take. Do that seven times, watch the credits and that’s Blood Dragon in a nutshell, it’s a short game although not to the point where you feel cheated by what you paid for it.
Game mechanics were a problem in Far Cry 3 and they remain so in Blood Dragon although the streamlining of the game has made things a little less obvious this time round. The overall game still feel a little on the clunky side, pistols don’t seem to work unless you aim for headshots and the driving still sucks to the point where you’d rather just leg it to your destination. During the heat of the action, restoring your health requires about three seconds worth of animation which becomes rather annoying as you just end up wishing it were more instant. You’re defenseless whilst the animation plays out and it’s usually the main reason why I died, I don’t have three seconds to spare when a blood dragon is on my ass.
Speaking of blood dragons, it may come as a surprise to you but they aren’t all that well featured in the game. Yes they make an appearance and they are rather menacing but I only really encountered them about 3-4 times throughout the campaign. They totally shoot lasers out of their eyes which speaks for itself and throwing a heart at the enemy causes the blood dragon to attack them which is always fun to watch but I wish they played a bigger role in the game. Then again if the longer were longer than naturally they’d be more featured.
Normally I’d focus more on the visual presentation than I do on the audio design but Blood Dragon is an exception. The visuals are usually dark and ugly, the only real saving grace are the indoor environments which look far more interesting and some of the animations which I’ve already touched upon. The audio on the other hand is fantastic, Michael Biehn does a great job playing the role of a typical 80s action star and the voice work throughout is generally entertaining. The star of the show however is Blood Dragon’s soundtrack which sounds very Daft Punk/TRON inspired, it’s a PERFECT fit for the game and really gets me pumped when the action picks up. If there’s even area Blood Dragon completely nailed, it’s easily the soundtrack.
So when it’s all said and done, what do we have with Far Cry 3 Blood Dragon?
It’s Far Cry 3 with many elements trimmed away or removed altogether and instead replaced with a nonsensical 80s theme. The cut-scenes are straight out of the NES era, the menus remind me of MS-DOS and even the credits song that plays at the end has that cheesy 80s feel to it. Far Cry 3 Blood Dragon certainly tries it’s best to relive what we loved about the 80s and to a large extent, it succeeds. It’s not the longest or most replayable game around, it’s still clunky and the minute to minute action can sometimes be a little dull but Blood Dragon means well.
It may sound like a bit of an insult but one of the best things about Far Cry 3 Blood Dragon is it’s price, it’s only 1200 Microsoft points (£12 on PSN) so it would be silly to criticize something too harshly when it isn’t going to break the bank. Don’t forget that there’s bound to be discounts in future so you maybe it’s something to consider later in the year. If you’re interested in trying something different from the military crap that floods the market and have some extra change lying around then you can do a lot worse than Far Cry 3 Blood Dragon.
Ubisoft should be commended for giving the green light to such a wacky project but in the end the risk has paid off, just barely. There’s plenty of untapped potential for a full blown sequel should Ubisoft decide to go down that route. The games industry has forgotten over the years that sometimes we just like to have fun even if the game isn’t perfect, many of our childhood games are terrible yet we are still fond of them. Far Cry 3 Blood Dragon is the gaming equivalent of a one night stand and it’s up to you to decide if that’s a good thing or not.