Developer: Ubisoft Montreal
Review Platform: Xbox 360
Review Copy Provided By: Ubisoft
Release Date: April 30, 2013
Twelve-year-old boys from the 80’s and early 90’s are pumping their fists in the air because they know in 2013 they will get to play a game that represents their childhood that is still burnt into their retinas via cathode ray tubes. A period that can easily be summed up as the VHS-era had a particular style in action movies. Robots, cyborgs, lasers, nuclear holocausts, and more neon than a red light district was the norm. The future was always in the year 199X or early millennium and the stars were one man armies of mayhem.
Tired of action games taking themselves so seriously, Ubisoft has brought forth Far Cry 3 Blood Dragon which calls back to that bygone era of action. Blood Dragon is filled with tongue in cheek references, spoofs, and parodies of all the fan favorite quirks that fill that very special genre. If 12-year-old boys think it is cool, then by god it is probably in Blood Dragon creating an adrenaline infused wet dream and a standalone downloadable title based on the Far Cry 3 game. Think of it as a reskin that basically has the same mechanics and underlying systems powering it but more condensed and with a whole bunch more neon, smoke, and testosterone.
Players report to duty in the year 2007 as Sergeant Rex “Power” Colt — one of the last two Mark IV cyborg soldiers and voiced by action star Michael Biehn (Terminator, Aliens, Navy Seals) . Rex is 85% machine but 100% man where it counts. His mission is to infiltrate the island stronghold of his former mentor Colonel Sloane and his Cyber Soldiers while stopping their plans for world domination. Cyber Soldiers aren’t the only opposition Rex will face on the island. Wildlife has mutated and been manipulated. Cyber sharks and robodogs are a thing in this post-tropoclyptic paradise not to mention the island’s indigenous species, Blood Dragons.
The island of Blood Dragon is much smaller than Far Cry 3 but still very open giving a Mark IV Cyborg plenty of area to explore. There are 13 enemy bases to liberate. The concept is very similar to outposts in Far Cry 3. There are several ways to approach base liberation such as sneaking around, all out assault, and dropping the protective shield allowing Blood Dragons to do your dirty work.
Blood Dragons glow neon and shoot lasers out of their eyes. Their neon color depends on their state of aggression –Green when things are all chill, yellow when they start to get twitchy, and Red when you better get the hell out of the way because the laser eyes are coming. They have an affinity for cyber hearts which explains their draw to bases filled with Cyber Soldiers. One useful way to manipulate Blood Dragons is to take the hearts ripped out of Cyber Soldiers and throw them so the dragon will chase it down much like a dog playing catch. When it becomes time to take down a Blood Dragon yourself, hitting a glowing weak spot on their chest is the way to go.
Once a base is liberated it becomes available to fast travel to and be used as a hub of sorts to buy ammo, weapon modifications, and consumables. Base liberation usually comes with a side quest or two unlocking. These quests follow two styles called Predator and Rescue. Predator missions have the player going to a location and killing something specific with the required weapon. These somethings range from animals to Cyber Soldiers. Rescue missions send you to rescue a scientist from a group of Cyber Soldiers. Completing these missions unlock modifications that can be bought for the weapons.
Modifications can also be unlocked through the various types of collectibles. There are television sets, VHS tapes, scientist notes, and a list of animals to kill. There aren’t many of each type of collectible but even for players that hate collectibles with a passion the game throws you a bone with maps at certain bases that will show every collectible in that region. It then becomes cake to just map your path from base to base grabbing collectibles on the way. The modifications are what make the gunplay of Blood Dragon “badass”. A couple of collectibles and you can have a quad barrel shotgun with explosive rounds.
If you played Far Cry 3 recently, you will feel right at home with Blood Dragon’s controls and gunplay. It feels exactly the same. Vehicles handle exactly the same and Blood Dragon will feature turret jeeps, boats, jet skis, and hang gliders. The leveling system has been streamlined removing any kind of branching and leaving Rex to unlock set skills as he levels up with Cyber Points. One of the more interesting features in Blood Dragon is the ability to chain together stealth takedown attacks. While you are in the middle of taking down one enemy, you can hit the left stick towards another enemy to rush them and take them down too. There is also the option to throw a ninja star during this sequence for another takedown in a totally badass 80’s style. The leveling system unlocks a couple of other variations for this system like grenade takedowns. The takedowns help give Rex that one man army feel.
The aesthetic of Blood Dragon builds on the style of the VHS era with a lot of neon, smoke, and explosions. Graphically the game is on par with Far Cry 3 but stylistically it could not be more different and that is a good thing. Ubisoft expertly crafted a world that very much felt like a nostalgia trip. The trip includes adding VHS tracking lines and blur to the load screens and using NES style 8 bit cut-scenes. Dialogue is delivered with the same gusto and camp found in the movies that were inspiration. Attention to detail was paid in every way possible so that it feels like you are walking through how the 80’s viewed our dystopian future.
Blood Dragon delivers on humor throughout the whole package. From stopping a missile launch by punching it to a Rocky style training montage, references and absurdity fill Blood Dragon. Even the in-game tutorial takes a tongue in cheek look at itself with Rex complaining after his tutorial AI is triggered and he is forced to go through the look left and right and jump sequences we all hate. Load screens that are usually filled with advice are instead used to display redundant messages like “A liberated base is liberated”.
Powerglove, a instrumental-only metal band known for covering classic video game themes, produced the soundtrack for Blood Dragon. The music captures the exact same aesthetic quality of the rest of the game and feels authentic to the time period with guitar riffs, synthesizers, and drum kits. It is easily comparable to the incredible job that Daft Punk did with the critically acclaimed Tron Legacy soundtrack.
Normally there is a bit of shock on nostalgia trips when the source of your nostalgia is viewed without those rose tinted glasses. Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon was crafted with such a labor of love that it is those rose tinted glasses and provides the experience of how we want to remember those late nights watching cheesy movies rather than how we would feel seeing them nearly thirty years later. I do get a little sad though while playing because it is hard not to be constantly reminded that this game is what Duke Nukem Forever should have been. Hopefully developers are taking notes and we will see more games like Blood Dragon in the future.