The world of video gaming is unpredictable, tumultuous and sometimes it can be downright baffling. I thought, I was done with Jason Brody and his escapades on Rook Island but then Ubisoft Montreal churned out Far Cry 3 Blood Dragon! Now, I am not the one to look a gift horse in the mouth, but this announcement totally caught me off guard and that was perhaps the rationale behind it all along. To my further bewilderment, Far Cry 3 Blood Dragon turned out to be a standalone downloadable game which had no links whatsoever to the original Far Cry 3. Instead, what I got was a la Terminator style 80’s game depicting a future which is run by cyborgs, even the main protagonist is one eyed cyborg named Sergeant Rex Power Colt (quite a mouthful). The word standalone is a clear give away that this game does not require the players to play the original Far Cry 3, just delve right into the futuristic world of 2007 (yes you read that right 2007) and immerse yourself in the game.
After overcoming the initial surprises, I found the game to be extremely zany, wickedly fun and engaging. It’s a throwback to the 80’s and early 90’s era when the idea of a world ruled by half machine and half human hybrids was still novel and exciting. The world in Far Cry 3 Blood Dragon has been ravaged by a nuclear holocaust and is now littered with all sorts of abominations as a result of it. Individual fiefdoms have arisen following the fall of Canada and Australia ruled by equally vicious and dubious characters with their own agendas. Sergeant Rex is sent to investigate one of the unnamed islands along with another fellow American cyborg operative named spider. They discover that the island is ruled by a rouge elite agent called Colonel Sloan (stereotypical 80’s bad guy) who wants to revert the world back to the prehistoric state using missiles filled with blood of the dragons that inhibit the island. What follows is a convoluted yet highly entertaining tale of betrayal, an abused AI seeking revenge and with elements of foraying into a parallel dimension. Of course, 80’s story would not be complete without some romance (read sex scene) and an equally mysterious ending, which reminded me of the late Michael Jackson’s Thriller video ending!
The game is played from first person perspective and pays tribute to the 80’s heydays of having brawny and muscular protagonists with insanely weird hair duos. There’s a detailed tutorial (which is also the first mission) that acquaints the players with game controls and allows them to get used to the look and feel of the game. The shooting is fun with futuristic weapons, which emit neon lights and fancy colored laser beams (another 80’s concept of what futuristic weaponry would be like). However, it can get a bit monotonous with its approach of simply blasting away the enemy until you throw in the behemoth dragons in the mix.
Guns and ammo can be purchased from kiosks all over the island, and the skill tree is lacking the versatility it had in the original Far Cry 3 game, because it automatically updates without taking into consideration player’s choices. Vehicles are aplenty in form of jet skis and you can soar through the skies while raining death on your foes aboard a glider. Side missions are awarded when Rex clears settlements of their cyborg inhabitants; these side missions upon successful completion unlock weapon mods, which bestow different devastating abilities to Rex’s already impressive arsenal (talk about overkill in a fun way!). When fully upgraded and Rex’s abilities on their peak, even the blood dragons pose little danger to the player.
The game does provide the option to kill enemies stealthily using your trusted bow and arrow but who would want to do that when you have some diverse arsenals at your disposal? The laser guns make the cool pew pew sound, which is quite radical!
The developers deserve accolades for giving the game a purely 80’s look and feel when it comes to visuals and graphics. The brilliance of the entire idea is quite evident as the entire game seems like viewing a degraded video tape which results in darker and subdued environments. During the loading time, a “tracking bar” appears to adjust the picture! This gives me a nostalgic feeling as I recall watching movies on my VCR and I am sure others who remember that would surely identify with the zaniness of it. Rex is voiced by Michael Biehn (terminator movie fans would immediately recognize him as the actor who played Reese in the first terminator movie), the soundtrack is a perfect techno rendered by Power Glove which brings to full circle the entire 80’s look and feel. Crucial to the story are the cutscenes which are rendered in all their 2D cheesy goodness and are quite enjoyable to watch.
Overall brilliant and superb, Far Cry 3 Blood Dragons however has some slight shortcomings. The game saving mechanics are a bit out of sorts as players are not allowed to save during missions. This can be bothersome, especially during lengthy missions where reloading from the beginning is a real pain. The world of the game is not as expansive and the proceedings can become monotonous with over the top action and shooting. The first mission is unnecessarily extended but it’s somewhat justifiable as it also contains the tutorial. These slight shortcomings in no way diminish the overall fun and immersive quality of the game.
It’s cheesy, over the top and sometimes downright ludicrous, but that only adds to the fun! It’s very refreshing to see a game which pays tribute to the 80’s while balancing the craziness of that particular era and rendering it with a modern touch. Blood dragons might not have an in-depth story like its namesake’s predecessor or the character development, but honestly it doesn’t require all that. What you do get is awesome one liners muttered by Rex which will definitely etch a mark in players mind, gems like "Send for a medic, I'll kill him too" and "Just let me kill people, damnit"!
The critics are already bestowing upon it very positive reviews whilst the gamers, especially people who grew up during the 80’s, are loving it. I would definitely recommend it for those who don’t know what the 80’s and early 90’s heydays were like! Surely, there would be moments when some cultural references would make the young gamers go “what the heck?” but don’t let that stop you from experiencing this slice of goodness. My only complaint was that the game duration was very short, 7 hours in and you are done with the main campaign and the side quests, which leave you wanting more. But, the consolation prize is that it’s well worth the $15 that you cough up for it. Ubisoft have reaffirmed my faith in them by churning out this game, it may sound like I am overly impressed with Blood Dragons, but just wait till you play! You’d be surely mimicking my reactions. I'd be delighted to give it 8.5 out of 10.