Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon for XBLA, PSN and PC
I think when people were guessing where Ubisoft would go with Far Cry 3 DLC, no one would have guessed this. Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon isn’t technically DLC; it’s a standalone download, but for all intents and purposes that’s what it is, and as a piece of DLC it’s remarkably ambitious. That ambition doesn’t quite transfer into a great game, but I’d like to see more DLC releases as audacious as Blood Dragon.
Blood Dragon has nothing to do with Jason Brody and his violent island adventures, and instead takes place in the desolate nuclear wasteland of 2007. The protagonist is Rex Powercolt, a ‘Cyber Commando’ who is sent to an island to investigate the rogue Cyber Soldier Colonel Sloan. Blood Dragon is a parody of 80s action sci-fi cinema, as well as gaming in general, with an overblown and ridiculous story wrapped in 80s cheese and nostalgia.
Sadly, the setting, so full of promise, doesn’t really work. The post apocalyptic nuclear wasteland is thoroughly unconvincing, largely achieved by placing a haze-y red fog over the existing tropical islands of Far Cry 3. I understand that a complete overhaul of style is a big ask, but it does lead to the open world of Blood Dragon being no fun to explore at all. Far Cry 3 motivated exploration by being beautiful, but it is possible to inspire exploration through desolation (just look at the Fallout series). Blood Dragon does not succeed here, with the red haze simply making everywhere feel this same, as well as providing an abominable draw distance. Still, I’m optimistic for the future of this setting; the lead voice actor Michael Biehn has implied that Blood Dragon may trigger its own franchise and get away from its Far Cry roots, which is exactly what it needs to do.
I wasn’t expecting a complex or nuanced story, but I was hoping for an entertaining one, and Blood Dragon is thoroughly lacking in that department. There’s that saying that any parody must be distinguishable from what it is parodying, and Blood Dragon really doesn’t succeed there. It doesn’t help that the majority of the story is told through, initially charming, 16 bit cutscenes. These gave a nostalgic kick at first, but they’re far too long and thoroughly outstay their welcome. The plot of Blood Dragon isn’t even funny; there are lots of laughs here, but they’re largely in moments unrelated to the plot, in amusing codex entries and a hilarious tutorial.
Happily though, Blood Dragon is a lot of fun to play. The mechanics of Far Cry 3 are subtly tweaked to create a fresh feeling experience; the main difference is that Rex Powercolt is much faster than Jason Brody, leading to a more ‘run and gun’ feel to Blood Dragon. Stealth is still an option, and generally nets greater EXP rewards for the linear levelling system, but running and gunning is just as viable an option. The most obvious gaming addition are the titular Blood Dragons themselves, which are essentially dinosaurs which fire lasers out of their heads. They function like a souped-up version of the predators in Far Cry 3, and can be lured into enemy encampments to wreak havoc. Although they’re not particularly well implemented, it’s hard to complain about any game which lets you summon laser dinosaurs to kill your foes whilst you watch on and cackle with glee.
Blood Dragon looks like it should be a decently lengthy release, but it really isn’t. The handful of main missions are fun, but it’s otherwise packed with short, underwhelming side missions. The side missions were weak in Far Cry 3 too, so perhaps I shouldn’t be surprised, but it’s disappointing nonetheless. There just isn’t nearly enough bang for your buck here, although this package does show surprising value in other ways.
Although as I mentioned before I through that the physical setting was weak, almost every other element of the presentation is excellent. Michael Biehn’s rasp serves as a great double parody of both his own 80s film career as well as other videogame protagonists, and the voice acting is able enough for the supporting cast as well. The real highlight of this game for me had to be the soundtrack, filled with pumping synths and the odd hilarious power ballad. The music was provided by the videogame metal band Powerglove, and it’s their contribution which really sets this release apart.
Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon is fun whilst it lasts, but it doesn’t live up to its potential. Still, you’ve got to respect a release as audacious, and even if Blood Dragon doesn’t work, I still respect the effort and care which went into this release. Blood Dragon feels like a prototype for something better, but as a product in itself I can’t really recommend it until it gets a price cut.