Before I begin this review, I have to apologize to seebaruk for stepping on toes. He already submitted a perfectly fine review of Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon. However, this game so perfectly exemplifies a great deal of the pop culture that helped make me the weirdo I am today that I could not sit back silently.
I refused to believe this game was real until I was actually playing it. I was so afraid this was some sort of meta-prank. Come May 1, Ubisoft would sit back laughing at Generation-X gamers so desperate to relive childhood memories as a big box popped up on their desktops that said, “HA! You wish!”
Or, more appropriately, “Psych!”
Blood Dragon’s plot is simple, and proudly so. As described by Ubisoft, the player must “get the girl, kill the baddies, and save the world.” The game takes place in a futuristic (or what 1980’s filmmakers might have thought of as futuristic) 2007, where warring factions of cyber soldiers battle across a landscape decimated by nuclear war. It’s a lot like the flashbacks from the Terminator films, sans skulls crunching under robotic feet. You play as a Mark IV Cyber Commando named Rex “Power” Colt… typically, that’s all I would have to write before every male over 35-years-old would begin asking where to get the action figure.
Rex and his cyber buddy, Spider, are sent to a tropical island to investigate whether or not much-vaunted military commander, Colonel Sloan, has gone rogue (spoiler: he did). Along the way you hook up with Col. Sloan’s head scientist, Dr. Darling (yes, her name really is Darling), who helps you fight the cyborg and blood dragon menace. Did I mention there are giant lizards in this game that shoot lasers out of their eyes?… they shoot lasers of out of their goddamn eyes!
Blood Dragon is one gigantic love letter to the kind of 1980s sci-fi brummagem that 12-year-old boys stayed up late at night watching on HBO, or played over and over again on VHS until the videotape itself began to resemble tissue paper. If you played with G.I. Joe action figures and/or first-generation Transformers, remember when there was once an East and West Germany, made mix tapes, or can recall when Michael Jackson was black, you will “get” this game. If, however, you consider Nirvana to be “classic rock,” cannot remember a world without The Simpsons, and have no clue what this is, you should still play Blood Dragon; just be prepared to be confused by a few things.
Blood Dragon has much in common with its big brother base game. You wander around a tropical island (albeit, a much smaller one this time), run through some story missions, liberate outposts, hunt animals, etc. Except, this time everything is viewed through a lens of neon awesomeness. There are vehicles, weapon vending machines, and a skill point upgrade system that allots character improvements automatically instead of allowing you to choose upgrades. This is fine with me, because Blood Dragon is a far more efficiently paced game than its namesake. Far Cry 3 took me an exhausting 49 hours to complete, and there were more than several occasions that I consciously forced myself to keep playing despite an overwhelming desire to chuck it in out of mind-numbing boredom. “In for a penny, in for a pound,” was my logic. Blood Dragon has just the opposite problem; really stretching out the experience to see and do everything, you’re looking at 10 hours, max. I would have been in Heaven if I could have spent 50 good hours in Blood Dragon instead of the extremely derivative and torturous treadmill of Far Cry 3.
When you break it down, Blood Dragon’s gameplay works so well because of its style. As much as I despise and resent the base Far Cry 3 experience, Blood Dragon really is the same game with an entirely new body job. This emphasizes two important points. First, as competent as Far Cry 3’s mechanics were, its theme was not only fatally repetitive, but also boring as all hell. Second, as thematically repetitive as even Blood Dragon can be, it works so damn well because it’s completely unique. Game publishers, up to this point, have either (incorrectly) assumed no one would want to play a corny 1980s sci-fi parody, or none of them were brave enough to attempt it. Thank God for Ubisoft Montreal. I doff my backward baseball cap to you.
Do you like neon? Then you’ll love Blood Dragon. Everything glows in iridescent blues, reds, pinks, yellows, and greens. It’s like the game’s visual designer was on a strict diet of glow sticks with lava lamp chasers.
Blood Dragon retains all of Far Cry 3’s visual niceties like vivid textures and advanced lighting. The difference is Blood Dragon is a far more enjoyable experience, from a technical standpoint. Blood Dragon natively supports SLI and seems to have had far more care put into its optimization. In Far Cry 3, I could go from 125 FPS while simply walking about, to an immediate and sudden slowdown to around 30 FPS when combat started (even with minimal anti-aliasing). It was quite jarring, and wreaked complete havoc with the controls. Far Cry 3 also loved to crash to desktop, but this did not happen with Blood Dragon. I get a steady 75-100 FPS with Blood Dragon, no matter what is occurring on screen, and this is with 8x MSAA!
Blood Dragon’s audio might be the best part of the entire experience. It is sublime in every respect. The music is absolutely spot-on. A group called Power Glove was responsible for the music, and they nailed it perfectly. The synthesizer soundtrack recalls some of the most memorable scores from 1980s sci-fi staples such as Terminator and Blade Runner. What’s more, the music has a subtly compressed, just slightly bass-heavy characteristic as if it were coming from an analog source (like a videotape).
While Blood Dragon’s music is vital in setting the mood, its sound effects are killer. The firearm reports, specifically, sound like they were ripped directly from the sound libraries of the movies that inspired the game. The automatic pistol sounds (and looks) exactly like the one featured in RoboCop, while the combat rifle (with the laser upgrade) sounds exactly like the laser rifles in the flashback segments of the Terminator films. The shotgun is identical to the famous lever-action model used by Ah-nold in Terminator 2.
God bless Michael Biehn. Biehn rose to fame in the ‘80s, and starred in a couple of the films Blood Dragon parodies. He was featured in Terminator, Aliens, and the so-terrible-it-goes-past-the-point-of-being-so-bad-it’s-good-back-to-being-bad-again Navy SEALs. Biehn voiced Rex Colt, and he was a good sport about it. Biehn injected so much ham into his performance of Rex, you could’ve opened a deli in the recording booth. He obviously understood the role completely, as he pulled out all stops and made the character as over-the-top as he could.
One last note on the audio: Ubisoft should have acquired the rights to use the 1980 song “Dragon Attack” by Queen – an ideal song from the ideal ‘80s band. What’s more, Queen composed the music for Flash Gordon and Highlander, both of which were terrible 80s movies many Generation-X’ers remember fondly. I cannot imagine a more apropos band for a game like this. Oh, well… it’s an idea for the sequel (hint hint).
As noted above, Blood Dragon is a very stable experience. The only glitch I ran into was in reassigning keyboard controls. I remapped everything before starting the game, and once the game began, it forgot all of the mappings. After remapping, it reversed a couple of key bindings for some reason. I eventually got it right. I remember having similar problems with the base Far Cry 3 game; I’m not sure if this is a code bug or an interface inefficiency.
If a sequel for Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon is not developed immediately, I’m going to start taking my Star Wars figures hostage and removing their body parts until I get my way (you're first, Zuckuss, you bug-eyed freak). When I first began playing this game, I was sitting in my office giggling like a little boy on Christmas morning. Blood Dragon simply gets it. Ubisoft set out to create an homage to the films that defined the 30-something gamer, and they could not have turned out a more perfect product.
Screw Far Cry 3. Screw Vaas. Screw Jason Brody and Citra and Dennis. If I never see a “regular” Far Cry game every again, I would not lose any sleep. Far Cry 4 needs to be 50 hours of Rex “Power” Colt.
Get the girl, kill the baddies, and save the world. Do it with lasers and a cybernetic robot arm.
Shoot cyborg soldiers and watch their heads explode in a spray of blue goo; avoid the giant lizards that shoot lasers out of their goddamn eyes!
Like Far Cry 3 if it were designed by a hair metal band.
Pew! Pew! Pew!
FINAL SCORE: 800,000,000 / 10