Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon
RRP: $19.95 ($US17.95 on Steam)
Platforms: Xbox 360, PS3 and PC
Reviewed on: Xbox 360
Reviewer's rating: 8.5/10
Laser dragons. I'll let that sink in for a second. Dragons that shoot lasers from their eyes. This is truly the world of the future where even the dragons can shoot lasers.
In Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon more or less everything has lasers, and if it doesn't it's probably neon. That makes it future-tech, you see.
Blood Dragon is Ubisoft's vision of a dystopian 2007, after a nuclear apocalypse. The whole game is a unsubtle wink to cheesy, action-filled '80s films with manly men chewing gum and kicking ass.
For the keen-eyed fan of the genre, Blood Dragon crams in a surprising number of references to popular '80s films, some easily missed and others totally on the nose.
Having a game in this era feels perfectly right; the over-the-top action, dialogue and characters is so appropriate for a video game I'm surprised we haven't seen this more often.
In Blood Dragon, you take the reins of Sgt Rex Power Colt (voiced by Michael Biehn), a cyborg commando with a vendetta. You're dispatched to a mysterious island teeming with cyborg soldiers and nefarious villains to save the day and prevent the release of a world-ending bio-weapon.
Last year's Far Cry 3 was a blast to play and found a brilliant balance between story and addictive gameplay. Blood Dragon runs off essentially the same engine but the story has absolutely no relation to Jason Brody's descent into sweaty, tropical madness.
This is probably the best route Ubisoft could have taken with DLC for their game. Brody's story is finished at the end of FC3 and a completely alternative universe means the game feels fresh, even with the multitude of similarities.
Blood Dragon's greatest achievement is something many games seem to forget. It's just plain fun. It doesn't try to be overly serious, and knows exactly what it intends to be. As a cyborg commando, you're far faster and stronger than Jason Brody and this really helps you feel like a commando instead of a beleaguered vacationer.
I recommend playing the game on hard, but even then you're still the second most dangerous thing on the island apart from the dragons. Almost all of Brody's unlockable upgrades from FC3 are made available at the outset and soon you'll be getting stuck into some high-octane robot killing without worrying about such pesky things as reality and morality.
From a game design perspective, one of the best and most surprising decisions in FC3 was to encourage players to unlock all the best guns and abilities well before the end of the game. This meant that players already felt like a predator by the second island.
Blood Dragon has the same appreciation of overpowered mayhem and the weapon you're given during the game's last few missions is easily the best of the game. The KillStar sits on your wrist and shoots a beam out at anything in front of you, taking a small amount of health each time but destroying everything with a delightful fury. It is totally over the top and totally fantastic but by the time you get it, the game is essentially over.
The unnamed island of Blood Dragon is considerably smaller than the map of Far Cry 3, which is understandable as the game is downloadable.
The map has some interesting features to keep you occupied, which mostly tie into the story. Apart from these areas though, the map is pretty much empty. There are the garrisons, much like Far Cry 3, that require you to liberate them, and some side missions to upgrade your guns and collectibles for the completionists. There isn't as much filling out the island though, so much of the space between these spots feels quite barren.
Still, the game keeps you laughing for the most part. When you're not laughing, you're probably cringing as the jokes range from laugh out loud to painful - often in the same sentence, which is a feat in itself. It might be Ubisoft's attempt to copy the painful, ham-fisted jokes of the '80s movies being referenced and if this is true then well done, you've succeeded.
One of the funniest and unexpected situations is the reason Blood Dragon is rated R18+ - a supposedly “high-impact sex scene”. While there is a sex scene in the story it's laughably terrible, on purpose. It is rendered in a jagged eight-bit style, and watching Rex Power Colt and Dr Darling discover the painful realities of cyborg sex is a perfect parody of over-the-top '80s movie love-making.
Blood Dragon does have its downfalls, but for the most part they won't affect your enjoyment too much. But there are only seven story missions in the game and they can be finished in one setting if you avoid the garrisons.
The fact the game is downloadable is obviously the cause, but you beat the plot right when you're hitting your stride and a longer game would have been appreciated.
There also doesn't seem to be any way to reset the garrisons yet (as was added to FC3 in an update), so once you complete everything there is very little reason to return to it.
Speaking of the finale, considering how much fun the game has putting you in outrageous situations, the final boss is a great disappointment.
While I won't spoil the specifics, it's an on-rails turret sequence then a cut-scene. As the game spends so much time ramping up your confrontation with the leader of the cyborg army, Sloan, the lack of any real fight is a wasted opportunity to say the least.
Blood Dragon also has some persistent glitches that niggle in the background. I found enemies would disappear and teleport around occasionally and the dragons had their moments of weird behaviour too. None of it is game breaking but when it gets in the way of your killing spree, the bugs can ruin your immersion.
Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon is a great downloadable game. As far as alternative universe DLC goes, it's up there with Red Dead Redemption's Undead Nightmare. It's not perfect, but considering the $20 price tag, there is very little reason not to give it a try.
Blood Dragon feels like the kind of DLC that deserves a sequel, or even a full game down the track. Even if you've never lived through the era in real life, now you can experience the legacy of terribly fantastic neon madness as it really happened. Laser dragons were a real thing, right?