Far Cry 3 Blood Dragon really shouldn’t work. It feels like a condensed AAA blockbuster with all the bells and whistles one usually sees in a retail release. It is a huge love letter to 80s pop culture that only a small number of people will truly enjoy. It has been released as its own self-contained experience with no connections to Far Cry 3 proper in either narrative or requirement on behalf of the player. Yet, like a giant robot dragon with rocket launchers in its claws, it has so much bombastic charm and explosive energy that it helps you overlook the questionable plausibility of it all.
It is the dystopian future of 2007. Vietnam War 2 has happened. Cyborg soldiers fight on the battlefield completely obedient to their handlers, and one of them has gone rogue. You are Sergeant Rex “Power” Colt, an all American Mark IV Cyber-Commando out to stop the evil rogue cyborg, Ike Sloan, from destroying the world. He has rockets, nukes, and is attempting to weaponize the titular Blood Dragons to help accomplish this… not to mention he is trying to become a machine god.
If that above paragraph has interested you, or in the very least made you chuckle at how dopey it is, then chances are you can groove on the same frequency of Blood Dragon. As mentioned before, everything from the plot, to the characters to the atmosphere just oozes affection for the 1980s. Rex has a wisecracking black sidekick who dies in the beginning. There’s a forced love interest character that sleeps with Rex for no other reason than to have the sequence happen. Ike Sloan is cartoonishly evil because it’s either his plan or “the Reds win.” The list goes on. If any of these elements or the opening’s helicopter sequence which blasts Long Tall Sally as you mow down an evil cyborg base doesn’t make you even crack a smile, then chances are you won’t completely adore Blood Dragon’s narrative quirks as it throws shout-outs to Robocop, Terminator, and Predator.
What really makes this hollistic design work so well is just how deadpan Blood Dragon treats its own joke. Rex Colt consistently acts like a macho action hero while he’s twirling an assault rifle magazine as he reloads his weapon, delivering a cheesy one-liner, or giving evil the finger (which can be done with a button press). Not once does he ever proverbially turn to the screen and wonder if you “get it.” There is no breaking the fourth wall or eye-rolling here. All Blood Dragon is missing is an action-figure line and its own breakfast cereal and the illusion will be absolutely seamless.
As for Gameplay, it is a pared down retread of Far Cry 3. There’s an open-world island for you to explore but it’s a mere fraction of the one in the original Far Cry 3. There are collectibles for you to find like old VHS tapes or bulky televisions because neither will ever be obsolete. You can sneak around and kill enemies with a knife and silenced weapon or run in like a maniac with your laser rifle blazing until everything is dead. Finally, there are side missions such as saving hostages, hunting animals, and taking down enemy bases.
If there is a problem with all of these elements it is that there isn’t much of it. The collectibles can be snatched up in about seven hours if you drop the story mode completely. Gunfights are serviceable but don’t have the same punch in terms of variety or in challenge. The opening tutorial, while hilarious, does a poor job of teaching players who haven’t played the original game. You level up as you fight and get collectibles like in Far Cry 3 but any and all RPG elements have been removed, you simply get new abilities as you keep playing. You can purchase attachments to your weapons but there is not much in terms of customization. The only thing that can be considered original about Far Cry 3 Blood Dragon are the prehistoric laser-eye shooting monsters of the title. The creatures are huge and dangerous to be sure, an entire main story mission makes this very clear, but once you learn how to avoid or manipulate them by using cyborg hearts as bait, they become another element of the overall aesthetic.
As for the aesthetic itself, it comes off aces. There are “tracking” loading screens complete with scan lines. The cutscenes that string the story along are presented in a pixelated letterbox format that wouldn’t look out of place on a SNES or Sega Genesis game. The in-game look is supersaturated in bright color and neon lighting. Loading screens don’t linger on for too long, framerate is consistently smooth, and no real technical hiccups to be had.
Honorable mention has to go to the band, Power Glove and their original music on Blood Dragon. Their replication of the synthesized hits of the 80s is so well-implemented, many auditory double-takes were had. Everything about the score seems familiar despite the pieces being original works. Also, the metatextual use of Michael Biehn, a guy most well-known as his role of Kyle Reese in Terminator, as the voice of Rex Colt, a cyborg protagonist is quite humorous. As for his actual performance, Biehn embodies the machismo of the era as he snarls, swaggers, and swears his way through the profanity-laden script.
Blood Dragon is a textbook example of a game that prizes style over substance. It’s loving rendering of a pulp sci-fi universe is to be credited. The score and voice-acting works in a B-movie sense. On the gameplay side of things, once the synths stop playing and the neon lights stop blaring in your eyes, is bare bones and basic in its implementation. Nothing is bad in any sense. The gunplay works, the stealth works, exploring the island is rewarding, but it doesn’t build up to anything. Still, for a budget price of an XBLA game, Blood Dragon is quite a steal at its asking price.
If you have a thing for cheesy toy commercials, bad fashion choices, synthesizer music and bright colored haze, then Far Cry 3 Blood Dragon is worth a look. If you are expecting gameplay that will set a new gold standard for action, you may be disappointed. Either way, it’s a great way to kill time, relatively cheap, and definitely not boring.
AAG SCORE: 7.5/10
+ Perfect 1980’s Homage
+ Michael Biehn’s Voice-Performance
+ Serviceable Gameplay
– Campaign is Short
– Muddy Tutorial
– Far Cry 3 Lite