If we’d done an expansion for Far Cry 3, it would’ve been called ‘Somalian Showdown’ and featured the main protagonist taking on an entire army of pirates who’ve hijacked a Saga cruise ship. They’d be ‘proper’ pirates, who say ‘arhhh me hearties’ and ‘shiver me timbers’, and they’d all have parrots on their shoulders for no good reason. And their leader would be Uncle Albert from Only Fools and Horses, except in a big hat. With a harpoon gun for an arm.
Thankfully we weren’t in charge of creating the Far Cry 3 stand-alone expansion, ‘Blood Dragon’. The nice folks at Ubisoft Montreal were, and they’ve got a lot more imagination than us, for while the underlying game mechanics are essentially the same, the overall look and feel has massively changed. Gone are the sun-kissed tropical setting and beach bum hero: instead, you’re plunged into an alternate reality where atomic war has ravaged the Earth and seemingly killed off everyone except for biomechanical super-soldiers and scientists.
If you enjoy schlocky sci-fi from the 1980s and 90s, you’ll be right at home with Blood Dragon. Terminator is heavily referenced from the off, from the familiar bass-heavy theme tune to the fact that Michael Biehn actually voices the new protagonist, Sergeant Rex ‘Power’ Colt. Rex is half-man, half-cyborg, with all the advantages that brings. He can take a good few hits before he cops it, and he has a cool ultra-vision mode that allows you to visually zoom in and track enemies – something that comes in very handy when you’re surrounded by twenty of the buggers. He also has a robo-penis that can cause earthquakes. Maybe.
Blood Dragons’ vibe is straight from the VHS/Amiga era, and we immediately fell in love. The cutscenes are hilarious 16-bit static cartoons, filled with ridiculous explosions and sweartastic dialogue, while loading screens are a haze of static as if you were rewinding a video. Even the story is pure 80s filth, basically boiling down to Rex versus a horde of expendable minions led by the uber-evil Colonel Sloane, another semi-cyborg who’s been doping himself up with dragon blood. As you do.
Let’s start over again
After a brief but mental Vietnam-style helicopter segment, where you destroy an entire island base with a Gatling gun, you land on the outskirts of the island to infiltrate the remains and take out the survivors. Cue a hilarious tutorial, where Rex is forced to jump, crouch and look around while cursing out his instructor. “Let me just ****ing kill someone already!”
The first mission acts as an introduction to the game, and is a linear get-from-A-to-B effort. Despite this, you’re allowed to approach your task in one of two ways. The first involves stealthily sneaking up on opponents to take them out: your cyborg vision allows you to stalk them from afar, before creeping up for a silent take-down or even jumping on their heads to execute them. The second, of course, involves charging out with your assault rifle blazing. You get the usual complement of grenades and explosives to cause maximum damage, and even at this early stage the guns feel suitably beefy. We recommend spouting Arnie one-liners as you rip enemies to shreds: “You’re coming apart” and “Rest in pieces" will do the job nicely.
As in the original Far Cry 3, enemies will raise the alarm if they spot you. However, it’s easy enough to dodge down and sneak away, and as long as you remain out of sight, the grunts won’t know where you’ve gone. The handy radar in the corner of the screen tells you when they’re alert to your presence.
Open world mischief
Get past the first couple of missions and Blood Dragon’s world opens up to you (and you’re also allowed to save the game at last, which is a massive relief – do not switch off your console before this point, or you’ll be chucked right back to the bloody beginning!) It’s here where Blood Dragon finally reveals itself as an expansion of Far Cry 3, as the mechanics are much the same. You have bases to conquer and side-missions to complete (including the usual rescue and assassination efforts), in addition to the seven-mission story mode (which by itself lasts a good few hours, if you aren’t rushing).
The world is suitably expansive, and thankfully can be swiftly navigated via vehicle or using the quick-travel feature. It’s also well designed, with enough interesting buildings, camps and other bits to discover by roaming around, without ever feeling like too much has been crammed in. Best of all is the local wildlife: rather than coming up against lions and bears, you’ll be taking down enormous robotic dragons that look like cyborg T-Rexes. These scaly tyrants also come in remarkably handy when storming enemy bases. Tear out an enemy’s heart and you can throw it into their base to lure a dragon, who will then chomp up everyone in sight. Ahhh, it never gets old.
Don’t think of Blood Dragon as an expansion to Far Cry 3 as, despite using the same underlying mechanics, it’s very much its own beast. The schlocky story and presentation, neon-flushed visuals and witty script make it an entertaining and surreal experience, and it’ll more than satisfy FPS fans who’ve completed the original and are looking for something new.