When a game released in 2013 has the tagline 'The year is 2007. It is the future,' you know it's going to be crazy, absurd and insane. That's exactly what Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon is. Developed by Ubisoft Montreal, Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon has absolutely no relation to the game Ubisoft released last year. Instead, it takes the mechanics of the game but wraps them in something completely different. It's worth pointing out that Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon is a standalone downloadable game and doesn't require Far Cry 3 to play.
In Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon, you take on the role of Sargent Rex Power Colt, a Mark IV Cyber Commando who is voiced by Michael Biehn, best known for playing the roles of Kyle Reese in the first Terminator film and Dwayne Hicks in Aliens. In the game, Rex is tasked with stopping Colonel Sloan and his Omega Force from launching missiles fueled with the blood of the Blood Dragons. Blood Dragons are creatures in the game which mysteriously appeared after the world was ravaged by nuclear war at the end of the 20th century.
Like Far Cry 3, the game is a first person shooter and set on an island. Only this time the island is infested with mutated animals and cyborg soldiers, as well as the Blood Dragons. The game is open-world in that you can explore the island at your leisure. You can find collectibles in the form of VHS tapes, TV Sets, and diary entries while you explore the land. The collectibles unlock different weapon attachments that you can use to upgrade your weapons, while the weapons themselves are great to use as they have an excellent feel to them. The shooting in Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon is one of the most enjoyable games in recent times in terms of shooting.
There aren't many weapons though, but each one is unique and has their use. A number of the weapons are references to late 80s/early 90s sci-fi movies. For example, the AJM 9 pistol is a reference to Robocop, as the initials of AJM stand for Alex J. Murphy, who was Robocop himself and the gun looks identical to the one he uses in the movie. The description of the gun in the game mentions a fallen cop in Detroit as well. Another example is the Galleria 1991 shotgun, which is a reference to Terminator 2, as Galleria is named after the arcade in the movie, 1991 is the year the movie was released and the look of the shotgun and reload animation where Rex spins it is the same as when the Terminator does when riding the motorcycle.
Moving around in FC3: BD is faster than in most FPS games as Rex can run pretty fast and he never stops to catch his breath; it's the same when swimming as well, unless you end up being attacked by a cyber shark. Oh yeah, those exist. There are also vehicles in the game, all of which appear to have come over from Far Cry 3; boats, jeeps and jet skis make an appearance, along with a hang glider, which feels out of place as it doesn't really fit with the sci-fi theme. They can be useful but aren't that necessary thanks to Rex and the speed he can move at. Also in the game is a mini-map as well as a full blown map. On the map you can place Waypoints on certain things, namely objectives or Garrisons, which are bases which can be taken over. To take over a Garrison, you simply have to kill all of the Omega Force cyborgs who reside in it. You can also press up on the d-pad to scan the area for enemies or animals, which are then marked on the mini-map. This is handy for going stealth in the game.
Killing enemies nets you Cyber Points, which are basically experience points and level Rex up over time. CP is earned by killing enemies and completing missions, with bonuses awarded for headshots, explosive kills as well as stealth kills too. Leveling up increases Rex's health bar or boosts his damage resistance, among other things. There is no skill tree or anything like that, so the levelling process is pretty rudimentary. When you kill an enemy you can pilfer it, which gives you money to spend as well as cyber hearts. Cyber hearts can be used to lure Blood Dragons to a Garrison where they will attack the Omega Force, allowing you to conserve ammo and clean up afterwards. The tricky part can be getting rid of the Blood Dragon, especially early in the game when you haven't unlocked the powerful weapon attachments because the Blood Dragons do massive damage as they fire lasers out of their eyes. They can be evaded easily however, as they have poor eyesight and crouching can easily prevent death. To know what state the Blood Dragon is in, it glows a colour: green is calm, yellow is cautious and red means full fury and chaos. If you do get attacked then you can heal yourself, even if you have no meds. Healing takes time while Rex does something, whether it be fixing his robotic arm or extracting a bullet from his other arm. These animations can be strange because you often see the same one twice in succession, which takes you out of the experience sadly.
After you have taken over a Garrison, side missions unlock as well as a shop where you can buy ammo, weapon attachments as well as items such as medikits or body armour. To unlock attachments to buy you have to complete the side missions or find the collectibles in the game. The side missions unlock the best attachments except for the shotgun, which come from the collectibles. The side missions are pretty repetitive as there are only two types of them which are hunting animals and rescuing the scientists, who are referred to as cyber nerds in the game. This is probably the most disappointing aspect of Blood Dragon as more variety would have made things less monotonous and with the crazy theme and setting I feel more could have been done here. Some of the missions are fun though as one of them directly references Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. This mission sees you going down into a sewer, where you see pizza boxes and have to kill four mutated turtles. They don't wield weapons or say 'Cowabunga,' they are just ordinary turtles which have coloured eye masks mirroring the ones the famous turtles have.
When completing side missions you can go back to the Garrison and purchase attachments, which range from bigger ammo magazines to explosive rounds and laser rounds for different weapons. When you get these the weapons become overkill and makes the game a bit too easy but are extremely fun to use. Outside of using guns and a bow, dubbed 'the bow of the future' in the game as it is neon blue, you can take down enemies by going up behind them and stabbing them with a knife. You can also chain kills if undetected by pressing the analog stick in the direction of the next enemy in line. If they are too far away, you can press R1 to fire a shuriken at another enemy after taking one down. No idea why it's a shuriken but that's Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon for you.
The game is essentially a love letter to TV shows and movies of the era which it is not-so-loosely based on, as the atmosphere with neon lights everywhere which contrasts with the dark sky, which is always either red or blue. It looks great but always being night can make things in the distance hard to see. The style of the game is still excellent with great looking weapons and environments, though a lot of it is the same blue walls with bright lights. This style is matched with a sublime electronic soundtrack which is very reminiscent of the ones found in the movies of the era Blood Dragon is referencing. The music adds to the atmosphere of the game and is one of the best gaming soundtracks of recent memory -- it's worth buying on it's own.
Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon is a wonderful experience but it isn't without fault. Aside from the lack of mission variety there is also a lack of enemy types, only eight in total, and one of those doesn't even appear until late in the game. The story itself isn't long and can be completed in just a few hours but you will want to complete some side missions to unlock the meatier weapon attachments. The story itself isn't anything special but does contain numerous references, some of which are easier to see than others. The story missions are connected by cutscenes which look like they came from games which released in the late 80s. The great thing about these is that they are purposely cheesy. They also have a quirk where the characters' limbs don't move so when they walk it's just a static character moving forward.
If you grew up in the era of TV and film that Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon is taking many cues from then it is something you must play. With all of the references which bring back memories, the game is incredibly fun to play and has a great soundtrack to go with the craziness. However, it isn't perfect and lacks replay value but at quarter of the price of the average retail game, it is still very much worth the price of entry. If you don't like cheesy stories and even cheesier one liners after pulling off headshots then this may not be for you. Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon is essentially an 80s retro futuristic first person shooter for today and that alone is refreshing after all the serious, contemporary shooters we've seen in recent years. This game is loud and proud of what it does, and it does it well.
Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon was reviewed using a downloaded copy of the game purchased by the reviewer from the PlayStation Store.
When not killing giant mutant dragon creatures who fire lasers out of their eyes then Paul Kelly can be found on Twitter at @Paul_Kelly1 or at his blog.
-The Final Word-
Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon has its flaws but overall this 80s-inspired shooter packs more than enough bang for your buck.