Also On: PSN, PC
Developer: Ubisoft Montreal
When I was a kid I’d spend every other weekend over at my dad’s house. Every other Friday when he picked me up we’d stop at the video store and comb through rentals, often letting the cover of the box sell us on our selection. And for a while this was a visit into the world that Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus built via the production company Cannon. The Cannon logo that popped up at the beginning of films like Over the Top, Cyborg, and Masters of the Universe is as iconic for me now as Paramount, Fox or Universal.
Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon feels a lot like a game Golan-Globus would have produced. It’s not nearly as rough around the edges, clearly benefiting from the Far Cry 3 framework it’s built off of. But the plot, dialogue, soundtrack and emphasis on action really nail that mid-80’s to early 90’s vibe.
Despite the differences in visuals, this is clearly Far Cry 3 with a brand new layer of paint. Neon paint, sure, but the core mechanics remain the same. Rex will clear garrisons, unlock side missions, buy weapon attachments, hunt rare animals, zipline across structures, and occasionally hang-glide from one location to the next. Random enemy encounters persist across the map, and there’s a number of collectibles scattered about. You can opt to take out Omega Force with stealth or sheer power, either option remains viable throughout the course of the game.
The big differences come from the retooled weapons, featuring one of the best FPS shotguns I’ve had the pleasure of using this generation. Other changes involve the streamlining of certain features from Far Cry 3 to Blood Dragon. You’ll still gain experience for kills and completing missions, but there’s no skill tree to customize. Instead every level either nets you a new health slot or a new ability. Crafting is gone completely, as is skinning animals. You’ll still encounter animals across the island, but outside of the Predator’s Path side-missions, they don’t serve much purpose.
The other big addition comes from the titular Blood Dragons, neon colored beasts resembling smaller T-Rex’s that roam the island. They’re pretty much instant death early in the game, but can eventually be used as tools against enemy forces. They’re also as ridiculous as their name implies, not only able to attack and devour anything up close, but they can also shoot a giant laser beam out of their mouth. That’s right, laser breathing dragons. Let that soak in for a minute.
While just about everything Blood Dragon does lights up my inner-child, it’s not a flawless retro effort. There’s an over-reliance on phrases culled from pop culture during the 80’s and 90’s, often ham-fisted into dialogue delivered by Biehn. Everything feels pretty self-aware, and I’m sure some awkward line delivery is intentional. But at times if feels like the writers are winking their eyes at us too much. We get it, the 80’s had memes too. It makes me dread the thought that in 20 years I’ll be playing a game that forces I Can Haz Cheezeburger lines down my throat over and over again. There’s enough about Blood Dragon that works in delivering that retro feel without the need for constant spoken reminders.
I also found Blood Dragon’s ratio of collectible hunting and map exploring to actual missions and worthwhile content to be a little low. Part of my complaint stems from tying in a lot of gun attachments to collecting the three different item types scattered around the island. In Far Cry 3 I could balance my time between tackling missions and side-missions, and then hunting down some collectible trinkets as a distraction. Here it feels like you’re intended to hunt down all the collectibles, complete side-missions and liberate all the garrisons first, before really delving into the story missions.
That collectible hunt can get a little tedious, because Blood Dragon lacks some of the clever hiding spots for caves and underwater locations contained in Far Cry 3. And because you really just want to lay waste to everything with a quad-barreled shotgun spitting fire rounds, but first you have to find 12 T.V. sets that serve no other purpose. And then once you get those attachments and plow through the story missions, you’ve got nothing left to do than take out the occasional three man enemy squad that randomly spawns, or hunt down Blood Dragons for fun.
Other more minor complaints stem from the looting system, which earns you credits but also sees you pulling the heart from Omega Force cyborgs that you kill. The heart is used for bait to lure Blood Dragons towards enemies, but you rarely need more than a 5 or 6 at a time. However, every cyborg you kill seems to yield one, and you'll grow increasingly tired of seeing the same animation over and over again. I also found Blood Dragon's checkpoint system to be a little odd. It has a tendency to checkpoint before cutscenes, but thankfully those can be skipped. But all in all, these are really small issues that didn't detract much from the experience.
There are two ways you know you’ll like Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon before picking it up off of your digital platform of choice this week. Did you like Far Cry 3? Do you like 80’s retro revivals? If you answer yes to both, you’ll like Blood Dragon. It doesn’t make a lot of significant changes to Far Cry 3, outside of streamlining some of the light RPG concepts in favor of something even more action-oriented. And it does a really great job of capturing that kitschy, hyper-stylized wave of 80’s nostalgia that few manage to get outside of the recent Hotline Miami. Blood Dragon hits you over the head with references a little too much at times, but there’s enough right about the experience that it’s certainly worth checking out.