In a terrible future world, after the nuclear destruction of Canada and the fall of Australia, Blood Dragons - neon dinosaurs that shoot lasers from their eyes - roam the wilderness. It is 2007, it is the world of Cyber Commando Rex Power Colt. He has a bionic arm, is sent to an island occupied by an evil cyborg army, and has a special appreciation for modern day high tech wonders like really big guns and doors that slide open by themselves.
Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon is a stand-alone downloadable game available on the PlayStation Network for $27.95. It takes NZGamer.com's Game of the Year, Far Cry 3, and makes it ballsier, stupider, and a whole lot funnier.
Essentially, developers Ubisoft Montreal have modded Far Cry 3 and turned it into the 80's sci-fi action flick you might have rented out from the video store back when they still used to rent videos. The game’s loading screen has a little tracking bar someone’s adjusting to get the picture steady, and visually the game looks subdued and hazy, like you're watching through a filter of degraded video tape and dirty magnetic heads.
But, it all works. The 80s aesthetic is clear and cohesive. The game has the fantastic gravelly voice work of Michael Biehn, a perfect techno soundtrack by Power Glove, heaps of gleeful Schwarzenegger-esque over-the-top violence, and more in-jokes and cultural references than you'd find in a season of Community. Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon is an hilarious homage to the decade of big muscles and big hair.
Fortunately, the gameplay holds up pretty well too. Basically it's Far Cry 3 lite. As you would expect, for a self contained downloadable game (you don’t need Far Cry 3 to play), the map isn't as big as the original game. The faded VHS look means the lush environments, even with all the neon lights, are darker and more subdued. However, while you can appreciate it in terms of the whole 80s schtick, after ten hours the dark and fuzzy graphics do get a bit hard on the eyes.
Blood Dragon tells the story of Colt's hunt for insane rogue agent Sloan. The story, obviously and deliberately cheesy, is presented in 2D cut scenes. Although it's enjoyable enough, it occasionally goes on a bit. Also, the pretty funny training mode can be a bit of a chore. You can’t save during a mission, so when you’re in one of the longer story missions, and have to stop playing, you have to play the whole thing again. In the case of the first mission, this includes the tutorial. That said, replaying missions is a small criticism of the game, especially when you get past the first extended mission and are able to roam around the island freely. A nice moment is when Rex grumbles halfway through the tutorial, "Just let me kill people, damnit"! After my second time through it, I had to agree.
Did I mention there is a lot of killing? Aside from the stealth kills straight from the original game, there are futuristic versions of the weapons (in Blood Dragon, futuristic means putting some neon lights on it) and plenty of cyborgs willing to be shot, flamed, stabbed, and blown up. While you can play it all carefully and sneakily, the best way to go is just grab the biggest gun you can and blast away. Arnie would be proud.
This tactic works perfectly for everything you come across, from heavily armoured cyborg soldiers to all the wild animals you can hunt. The exceptions are the truck sized Blood Dragons which are best avoided in the early part of the game. To distract the vicious beasts you can rip out and throw the hearts of dead cyborgs. But, once you are fully tooled up, even the Blood Dragons become more Rex Power Colt cannon fodder.
Colt is a great lead character. He's funny, angry, and an absurdly remorseless killer. The perfect lead for Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon. Gun shops and ammo are all over the place. All the skills you had to earn, and then pick and choose in Far Cry 3, you get automatically as you level up. There are gliders and jet skis, and you unlock weapon mods by doing the side-missions you get when you clear settlements of cyborgs.
Whether you're playing through the fairly short story, or roaming the open world for hours killing sharks, cyborgs, and laser shooting dinosaurs, the game is just way too much fun. While it hasn't got the depth and detail of Far Cry 3, and consequently has none of the emotional weight of the original game, as an open world FPS it's packed with attitude, style, and a lead with a cybernetic eye who, with the bodies of Sloan's soldiers piling up around him, snarls, "Send for a medic, I'll kill him too".