If you’re feeling nostalgic for some retro 80’s action movies, filled with cheesy one-liners and over-the-top action, then you’re in luck. Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon is now available on PC, XBLA and PSN and is the first downloadable content to the highly successful Far Cry 3. With a punchy soundtrack, futuristic weapons and mutant dragons which shoot lasers, what’s not to love?
Developer: Ubisoft Montreal/Ubisoft Shanghai
Platform: Xbox LIVE Arcade (Reviewed), Playstation Network, Windows PC
Genre: First Person Shooter
Released: (INT) May 1st, 2013
Actually, Blood Dragon isn’t precisely an expansion but a stand-alone title instead, which I personally think is a good thing. This means that gamers who missed out on the main game can still access this cyber shooter without having to splash out on the original release as well. Very few sacrifices have been made as it still feels like Far Cry 3 in essence. The game world is naturally smaller than the two islands in the original game and the main storyline is short, but these seem to be the only major differences between the two games, many of the other aspects remain the same.
The story is set in the post-nuclear world of 2007 (remember, this is inspired by 80’s sci-fi) and is told in comic book style cut-scenes after each mission. The plot follows Sergeant Rex Power Colt (fittingly voiced by Michael Biehn), a cyber-commando and one-man army. Sent in to take down his old commanding officer, Rex must battle through an island packed with cyborgs, mutant wildlife and of course, Blood Dragons to foil an evil plot. It revels in the majority of 80’s action movie clichés (most notably with a training montage cut-scene) and portrays the patriotic soldier sent in to save the world once more, winning a girls heart and defeating the villain in the process. It feels like playing through a film.
Humour is one of the games strongest points, which is refreshing given that many modern releases sometimes take themselves too seriously. On the contrary, Blood Dragon does not take itself seriously at all, and is packed full of pop culture references and quotes, with nods to Aliens, Predator, Terminator, Star Wars and even Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Even the tutorials and loading screen text are tongue in cheek, and the game will keep you chuckling until the end.
The game features bold and memorable set pieces, and can be played in a stealthy fashion or by making as much noise as possible. It is also apparent that the main focus of the gameplay is to be fun. The outlandish enemies and powerful weapons really make the player feel like a super soldier. Also, a lot of the mechanics from Far Cry 3 no longer have limits. Gun turrets do not have a cool-down, the player has unlimited breath underwater and there is no fall damage, encouraging fast paced fun. Given that Rex is a cyborg, faster and more agile than a human, the player can manoeuvre around the island with incredible dexterity and this helps keep the pace fluid and smooth.
There are seven story missions, and time can be passed between these by taking over enemy garrisons, much in the same way as in Far Cry 3. There are also side quests akin to those in the original game, which consist of either hunting down a rare form of animal or a certain soldier, or rescuing hostages. Through these, upgrades are unlocked for weaponry and xp is earned, enabling Rex to use more types of takedowns and gain more health bars, similar to how the player levelled up previously.
The enemies themselves are effectively cloned from Far Cry 3, just with a new look. Cyber Soldiers are the standard targets, and many of the animals from the original game now return in mutant or robotic form, though for the most part they remain the same except for aesthetic changes. The main difference, obviously, is the addition of Blood Dragons. These hulking beasts shoot lasers from their eyes and are capable of taking out entire garrisons by themselves. Defeating a single one can be difficult without certain weapon upgrades, and going against two at once can be punishing. Fighting these creatures adds a tactical element to the game, as the player can lure them with cyber-hearts into explosive traps to soften them up before aiming at their weak spot.
Blood Dragon also does a good job with the weapons and upgrades. There are not many guns in the game (only 4 of which are upgradeable) and some seem to start off weak and somewhat ineffective. However, after a few side missions have been completed or collectibles have been found, upgrades will become unlocked. This then morphs the sniper rifle for example from being a slow firing and clunky gun to a semi-automatic, anti-vehicle cannon which shoots explosive rounds. This means that taking down the tank like Blood Dragons becomes a breeze by the time the game finishes.
Animations are another strong point in the game. Healing Rex’s damaged bionic arm looks fantastic and reloading guns looks stylish. The environment for the most part looks great too. The lightning in the sky and the surrounding fog create the correct atmosphere of a post-apocalyptic island in the tropics. However, this is pretty much the only type of environment in the game, with the exception of some sections in indoor facilities. Therefore staring into the fog does become slightly bland and liberating similar looking outposts also gets repetitive after a while.
The game is unfortunately not without flaws, though many of these are problems which persist in Far Cry 3 anyway. For example, trying to open containers or loot corpses does not always cause the correct prompt to appear on screen, meaning that the player sometimes has to crouch and walk around the object to trigger it. This prompt issue can be particularly annoying when completing hostage rescue missions, as sometimes the prompt to talk to the hostage to end the mission does not appear, resulting in a mission restart. Also, the triggers occasionally become unresponsive, but this does not affect the gameplay a great deal.
Despite these trivial bugs, Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon is an exciting adventure from start to finish. There are numerous moments of genius and although it is short it can take a committed gamer 6-8 hours to 100% complete, not a bad length for an arcade title. It is not difficult to complete, even on the hardest setting, so this is an accessible challenge.
8.0 – Great. Although it may be over too quickly, Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon does not lose momentum along the way and the soundtrack, visual style and laughs create an experience which many can enjoy and will remember.
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