GAME NAME: Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon
DEVELOPER(S): Ubisoft Montreal, Ubisoft Shanghai
PLATFORM(S): Xbox 360, PS3, PC
GENRE(S): First Person Shooter
RELEASE DATE(S): May 1st, 2013
We all thought it was an April’s Fool Joke. It was known via a leaked list of achievements, and then some quirky promotional material. We assumed that Ubisoft’s messing around with one of their popular franchises, but this latest spin-off of Far Cry 3, IS INDEED REAL. Go check it out on some online marketplaces, as FarCry3: Blood Dragon is unleashed and currently being played in several households. So for the real question, is this 80’s parody game totally rad, or is it some sort of a neon-coated banana?
The first thing you’ll notice from Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon is that it comes with a radically different setting. Not only it looks like a game on the NES, but it’s also layered on with 80’s cartoon and movie gimmicks, neon lights, and an utterly sweet soundtrack from Powerglove. As such, it comes with a completely new story and new characters. Also remember that it’s a standalone title, so you do not need to own the original Far Cry 3 in order to play this game.
insert the cartridge in and boot it up, you’ll be introduced to some NES-style screens and our hero ‘Sargent Rex ‘Power’ Cult’ (kinda rhymes, huh?). He barely survived the nuclear apocalypse, as he is fitted with cybernetic parts and turned “part-man, part-machine, Cyber Commando!” Now he is ready to storm down the robotic army ‘Omega Force’ and its berserk leader ‘Colonel Sloan’.
It starts off with a cool sequence, where Rex and his pal ‘Spider’ crashes into a big base, and blowing up everything in sight. That’s all before the fireworks finish and see ourselves thrown into the classic Far Cry 3 environment. Those who played the original before will notice the roaming animals to hunt, thugs patrolling around (now as ‘Foot Soldiers’), and some outposts for you to capture. But they’re not just outposts; these bases are built to the teeth, bordered with thick, tall walls, and simply named ‘Garrisons’. They are quite discreet, making it harder for you to plan their moves, so you may either have to go gung-ho on them, or sneak through tight corridors like a boss.
There are a few new features on this game’s island, which happens to be 3-4 times smaller than the original. The most obvious is the addition of Blood Dragons. They are not like those flying fire-breathing creatures from Skyrim; they are in fact large mutant dinosaurs, with powerful strength and can shoot lasers from their eyes. No, really, they can seriously shoot lasers from their eyes, which is something you have to be extra careful about! You’ll start with some basic weapons, which can do little damage to these beasts. If you don’t act quickly, these dragons will slice you apart, blow vehicles up, and even make a toasted sandwich out of you! Thankfully – as a cost of their laser eyes – they can’t see much, so they rely on their hearing. So unless you got your player character some life insurance, your best ways to avoid picking fights with these reptiles, is by flinging the cyberhearts from killed-off foot soldiers, in order to lure them out, and by taking advantage of omega shields (surrounding landmarks) and the crouch button. So in short, logic is the most effective solution. What’s even better is that blood dragons can appear on radars, has their health bars appear on the top-right of the screen, and can change their neon lights from green to red, based on their alert level.
Apart from that, there isn’t anything much new. Most objects, mechanics and characters in the game have been taken from the original, and got themselves re-skinned for the environment. Even the exterior terrain is almost the same, apart from fluorescent lighting, neon lights, and some strange VHS effects on the screen. It’s quite ironic, because when I tested it on the 4:3 Standard Def. resolution, it’s always displayed as letterboxed widescreen, which happens to be the same for retro-styled loading and dialogue screens. It’s a shame, because that would otherwise provide that perfect retro experience on CRT TV’s, at least for consoles.
But away with those retro perfections as the game is still fun! You can sprint very fast through a large open-world, doing quests, taking out enemies and predators, and even saving the world! It takes at least 6 hours to beat the core part of the game, which involves progressing through a really funny story. But most of your time spent in the game is in taking over garrisons, which totals up to 13. It’s not much, but you can still try out different ways to flush all baddies out (in order to convert them to your faction). You might even destroy a bright white power generator, causing the shields to vanish and make a Blood Dragon magically appear in front of them; that would make the whole job much easier, that is if you know how to get rid of the dragon afterwards!
Capturing garrisons come with some merits, including a fast travel location, and a store to buy ammo, attachments, goodies, and maps, which each can reveal locations of some of the chests and collectibles in the game. They even come with some side-quests, which they can be completed to earn money and attachments for your weapons. Attachments – also earned from collecting things and performing miscellaneous tasks – can make your weapon more powerful and much cooler. You can even make a sniper rifle shoot explosives, which feels like an equivalent to a combined toaster and an alarm clock! You can also level-up with experience, in order to achieve extra moves and some improvements to your health.
However, FC3 veterans will notice that Blood Dragon is watered-down, as it’s got fewer weapons, a low level of customisation, and a reduced amount of much-loved features. So those expecting radio towers, tattoo selection and leaderboard challenges can kiss bye-bye to them. Skinning Animals is not gone though, except it gives you money instead. Co-op and multiplayer modes are even out of this equation, so this game really feels like it’s a ‘lite’ version of Far Cry 3, only with a single player campaign…and in neon colours.
There is one strong incentive in buying this game, and it’s for the bizarre 80’s makeover. Ubisoft has clearly made a brilliant effort, as they threw in specular laser fights, an amazing soundtrack, and more homage references than you can shake your stick at. There are even some golden moments to see in this game, from the ridiculously funny tutorial sequence, to facing robo-sharks in the dam and Dr. Darling’s strong speech about the good stuff from video games. The game even has a strong sense of humour, which is filled with funny descriptions, in-jokes during gameplay, and Rex sprouting cheesy one-liners every time he kills an enemy. It’s really a splendid parody of the 80’s culture; however, it could mean a bad thing, as the game can feel overly inane and garish for some. A couple of hours in and one dumb punchline are enough to make one serious gamer rage quit and seek out some more sensible ventures.
Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon is not going to agree with everyone, but in my opinion, it’s a brilliant fix for a silly, daft and wonderful gaming experience! I so loved the amount of humour in this game, which compliments well with the classic formula of the original. Killing predators, outsmarting baddies, and exploring an open-world environment never gets old, and the blood dragons lay down the bacon for some extra entertainment! I want to see more out of this game, and I’m hoping it would inspire others to create more games of this kind. Buy it, and you’ll be so glad that this didn’t turn out to be an absolute joke!