Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon
Developer: Ubisoft Montreal
Platforms: XBLA (Reviewed), PSN, PC
Release Date: May 1st, 2013
Price: 1200 MS Points (XBLA – Available Here) $21.95 (PSN) $17.95 (PC – Digital) $19.95 (PC – Retail)
Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon, at first, seemed like a well-crafted, committed April Fools’ joke. But, the registration with the Australian Classification Board quickly proved it to be a real title. A standalone game, Blood Dragon is built on the Far Cry 3 base/engine, but provides an entirely different experience… a “VHS reality” set in the “future”; 2007, where “the apocalypse has had an apocalypse”. Blood dragons roam the land, genetic experimentations are the norm and Sgt. Rex Power Colt has been rebuilt into a Mark IV Cyber-Commando post Vietnam War II. Is there any reason why you shouldn’t play this?…
“From the radioactive ashes of North America, a new breed of soldier is reborn!” Sergeant Rex Power Colt – yes, that’s his name – perished in battle, but was reborn million dollar man style (or “10 million credits” man according to Rex) as a Mark IV Cyber-Commando. Alongside his partner T.T. ‘Spider’ Brown, who experienced the same process, Rex is given a mission by their director – HUD – to infiltrate an enemy bunker and download intel of their operations. But not before he goes through some “re-calibrating”. Brown doesn’t need any re-calibrating, exclaiming “I’m damn near perfect. Men want to be me…” to which Rex quips “And you want to be with men…yeah, I got it.”
Soon enough, the team realise the “black sector threat” they’ve been tasked with gathering info on is Colonel Ike Sloan…looks like a Vietnam War II reunion. Turns out Sloan has gone rogue, commanding an army of cyber-soldier called the “Omega Force” – all made in his image, his genetic/cybernetic code being a template for their creation. Things get hairy quick and the infiltrators get captured, resulting in Brown’s death at the hands of the Colonel. Rex vows revenge and finds an unexpected ally in Dr. Elizabeth Darling – a woman working side by side with another doctor (Carlyle) for the tyrant, but who despises him and wants to turn the tables.
Of course, the ante has to be upped to a larger scale with some plan for world domination, and Sloan does not disappoint. The stakes get higher and higher with Rex promising; “It’s Sloan’s bedtime, and I’m gonna tuck him in…under six feet of dirt!”. The main story takes place over 7 missions, each ramping up in its levels of ridiculousness. So many 80s action-film tropes are touched upon during the journey including the “lost memory” and “kidnapped lover”. Even if you’re not a child of the 80s, but are familiar and have an appreciation for those films, you will equally appreciate the hammy brilliance delivered here.
As mentioned, the basis for the gameplay of Blood Dragon is Far Cry 3. Most of the mechanics remain in tact, with a sole, minor omission: the ability to fix your car’s overheated/damaged engine (rarely used it anyway). Now, there are additions in the formula, and it goes without saying that new weapons feature. Many aspects of the game have been altered to fit the motif as well, although mostly cosmetic; you know regenerate health with “nano-meds”, your binoculars have been replaced by your “cyber-eye” and those distracting rocks you carried in your pockets…are now dice. Yes, dice…
Scientists are the equivalent to the Rakyat of Far Cry 3, as are garrisons (huge and walled in, with “mega shields” and the familiar alarm system) to outposts. Some Omega Force soldiers throw “molotoxes” – a high-tech version of the molotov that has the same effect and does the same amount of damage. And the animals have all been mutated to some degree. There are 14 species in total: Black & White Tiger, Blood Dragon, Boar, Cyber-Shark (already sold on that one, huh?), Demon Crow, Devil Goat, Glowing Moray Eel, Mutant Buffalo, Mutated Cassowary, Mutated Turtles, Neon Snakes, Robo-Crocs (icing on the cake) and Robo-Dogs.
There are 12 weapons all up, including throwables: A.J.M 9 (“built and named in honor of a fallen DPD cop who fell in the line of duty fighting the creeps of the Detroit mega-slums and industrial wastelands”), Fazertron (heavy machine gun), Kobracon (sniper), Galleria 1991 (shotgun), Bow (“but a bow isn’t the future!…STOP WHINING! That’s why we put neon on it, because neon is the future. Hence, this is a bow of the future!”), Terror 4000 (gattling gun), Flamer, Killstar (futuristic wrist laser), Grenade, Molotox, C400 and Mine (“someone’s gotta be walking around thinking “legs should start at the knees”, so they invent the mine. Or maybe they just didn’t like people. Either way, whoever made them was a dick”).
Different from Far Cry 3, your skills are now set with each new level reached (up to 30) gaining you an additional ability or health bar. Abilities are the same, such as the Grenade Takedown and Running Reload. And instead of throwing a knife in a chain takedown, Rex throws a shuriken…bad-ass! Predator’s Path and Hostage Rescue missions return with similar stipulations. One Predator’s Path mission was particularly awesome and nostalgic as it quested me with exterminating some turtles in the sewers. I travel below to find pizza boxes strewn all over. I can’t ruin the surprise, but the mission isn’t as routine as you’d expect…your reflexes better be on point.
There are numerous collectibles that, once a certain number are found, will unlock weapon upgrades available for purchase in Science Vending Stores. Kill one of each of the 12 specified types of animals to periodically unlock unique ammo rounds. There are 32 TV Sets, 10 of Carlyle’s Notes and 12 VHS Tapes from “a different era of action films” that adopt the same reward system. The latter two types can be read, with the notes providing humorous diary accounts of Carlyle’s work in the field, and the VHS Tapes holding made-up movie synopses. Even the “Story” description in the pause menu’s User Manual tab is of a fabricated film, and not the game itself! Nice, cheeky touch.
Finally, I must detail the Blood Dragons’ gameplay implications/involvement. They are pretty much as blind as a bat, but react to noise so you must stealthily crouch-walk past them if you intend to avoid them. They are deadly; think Big Daddies in Bioshock. They shoot lasers from their eyes and no one knows why! That purple streak on their underside in the image above is their weak spot, although it is fairly hard to hit unless they rear up. And they are the source of Sloan’s enhanced cybernetics; more specifically, their blood is the key. He drank their blood like a vigor, and ordered his enslaved scientists to synthesis it for use on human foot-soldiers…
Those experiments didn’t work out so well, which is evident in later encounters with “the running dead”; botched experiments that effectively turned the human guinea pigs into mad zombies (Chargers in Far Cry 3). So obviously, these dragons’ blood is a powerful commodity. Sloan’s men figured out how to control the beast with “brain cages”…but they can be shot off. They are attracted by “cyber-hearts”, which you “pilfer” from dead enemies and throw ala the dice. Mega Shields keep them out, but not their laser attacks. And those shields can be deactivated in a strategic move to attack and capture a garrison. As long as you don’t cross them, they are potentially great allies, specifically the one met in the final story mission. Let’s just say Skyrim isn’t the only recent game where you can ride a dragon.
Bathed in neon blues, reds, purples and greens, Blood Dragon‘s colour scheme immediately reminds of a film like Tron. But graphically, the game is detailed and rendered realistically, like Far Cry 3. There are many visual tropes to note that tie into the retro/post-apocalypse theme, such as the developing mushroom clouds in the distant backdrops, the constant lightning strikes and moody, burgundy skies. Colour is also heavily involved in identifying good vs evil – even parts of the blood dragons glow to display their current state: blue meaning docile, yellow meaning aware and red meaning aggressive.
The menus/text boxes that pop-up (for tutorials and such) are very reminiscent of old MS-DOS text interfaces. Loading screens are presented in 4:3 aspect ratio with vertical black bars filling out the rest of the screen and say “Tracking” at the bottom with a meter that moves left to right as the image’s white noise factor changes, much like a VHS/Television being tuned. Cut-scenes are presented almost in a cinemascope ratio in the centre top half of the screen (artistic choice). There’s also a filter in place in-game that overlays scan lines – although subtly – as if the game were recorded and being played back on a VHS tape. It’s like being transported back in time; the team at Ubisoft Montreal did a great job here.
Unbelievable on all fronts; I can not gush enough about how amazing the voice work by Biehn and the supporting cast and the soundtrack by Melbourne duo Power Glove are. The dialogue had me in stitches at times for how cheesy and schlocky it was. “Doc, I’m at the Dam…God DAM it’s big!” is a good example, along with this cutscene conversation between Rex and Dr. Darling when she offers to inject him with a super-powered serem: “I swore an oath to a special lady… (“Your wife?”)… No, Lady Liberty! And she taught me winners don’t take drugs!”. Rex also has a propensity for a few choice four-letter words; I lost track of how often he swears – the reason for the games R18+ rating.
Power Glove should be on everyone’s radar after this. This must have been a sort of dream project for them to contribute to as the style is exactly within their wheelhouse. The heavy electronic drums, pulsing synthesisers/base and electric guitar hit the right note and tone throughout the game. The prologue cut-scene music, that I discovered is called Warzone, opens with a Terminator-esque drum-pattern that gets the blood pumping. It’s easy to assume Blade Runner, Escape from New York and the like were large inspirations to Power Glove. You can still tell it’s a modern production though. The general combat music also calls to mind Mortal Kombat (there’s even a reference to the series in-game at one point with “Test your might!” being spoken by an ominous voice).
Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon is 8 hours of kick-ass, nostalgic entertainment for less than $20! What else needs to be said? 80s action star Michael Biehn? Check! Awesome retro music? Check! Neon? Check! Dragons that shoot lasers from their eyes? Check! Robocop‘s Auto-9 pistol? Check! Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles reference? Check! Need I go on? I think not…buy the game. If you don’t, then in the words of Sloan by way of Vaas; “Now, that right there is the definition of insanity.”
Capsule Computers review guidelines can be found here.