Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon (PC)
Developer: Ubisoft Montreal, Ubisoft Shanghai
Released: May 1 2013
Just a note before we get started: I don't normally review games so soon after they come out, but damn, this game. I couldn't help buying and playing it so soon based on how awesome it looked. Does it live up to the ads? Let's find out.
A first-person shooter in Far Cry 3's engine but entirely standalone, Blood Dragon is set in the year 2007 after the U.S. has preemptively nuked Canada to prevent the communists from taking it. Cybercommando Rex Power Colt is sent on a mission to investigate a defector but finds more than he bargained for: enemy cybersoldiers, powerful monsters called blood dragons, a familiar face, and a plot to destroy the world in this parody of 1980's action movies and games.
Reviews for Blood Dragon averaged scores of 80%. Most critics loved the over-the-top 80's theme, references, and humour, as well as the soundtrack. Some critics felt that gameplay was weak, with much of Far Cry 3's variety and more complex elements cut for the smaller title, and citing inconsistency in tone. Opinion was divided on the neon graphical style and the mostly monotone dark purple.
Nothing yet. As I said above, this is much sooner than I normally review games.
The Best Tutorial Ever
Blood Dragon's tutorial is, in my opinion, the best video game tutorial made so far. As Rex lands on the island, his cybernetics are knocked out and reboot, automatically loading the tutorial sequence. Rex's body is locked up and he's forced to go through the tutorial, telling him how to look around, move, crouch, etc. At every instruction, Rex groans and swears, clearly annoyed with this stupid tutorial. Towards the end, Rex's HUD is telling him his options on how to take over a base - stealth assassinations, destroy the shield generator, shut down the shields from inside, head-on assault - Rex just shouts "I DO WHAT I WANT" and then you do what you want. For FPS veterans it's a hilarious mockery of the tutorials they have to play every time they start a new game.
The 80's jokes are perfect and are a core element of every part of the game - the neon aesthetic, the excellent soundtrack featuring electronic music and echoing snare drum, the ridiculous Cold War scenario, the punny catchphrases, the action movie references and callouts... there are even collectible VHS tapes. But like all the best parodies, Blood Dragon has its own original humour that stems from the characters and the situations. I laughed at every cutscene and most of the incidental dialogue.
Insane Weapon Upgrades
Like many games, you can upgrade your weapons. Unlike most games, those upgrades make the assault rifle fire lasers, the sniper rifle gets explosive ammo equivalent to other games' rocket launchers, and the shotgun becomes a 4-barrel incendiary monstrosity.
Short & Sweet
Like Portal, Blood Dragon knows not to overstay its welcome - it took me 7 hours to 100% the game. A longer game might have stretched too thin or gotten old, but keeping it short allows the 80's atmosphere and references to be constant non-stop hilarity. If you shoot for 100% it's almost long enough to become repetitive, but not quite, in my opinion.
Visually, Blood Dragon is often monotonous, featuring a landscape in monochromatic dark purple, red, or blue. The neon stuff provides good contrast, and the story missions tend to have variety and look pretty good, but exploring the island is very boring visually, with only one or two colours and almost nothing to see.
This is a minor complaint. Each cutscene image lasts just a second too long, often creating pauses or breaks in the dialogue where there probably shouldn't be. Regardless of whether it's a reference to old games, it gets annoying after the first cutscene.
More Points for Less Awesome
I have a problem with the way Blood Dragon awards CP (experience). You get more points for headshots and cool environmental kills, which is fine. The problem is that the maximum amount of points is earned by stealth assassinations. Blood Dragon presents itself as a crazy action game, and it gives you more than enough health and firepower for a badass direct assault. But head-on attack is the worst way to earn experience - a bodyshot kill is the lowest amount of CP you can possibly earn. If the game wants me to be a crazy action hero, why does it reward stealth most highly and badass action the least? Maybe it's just a carry-over from Far Cry 3's point system (which I haven't played yet), but it should've been tweaked a little.
A Little Crashy
The game locked up and crashed on me a couple of times. Since it's short you won't experience too many crashes, but it's something annoying to be aware of.
Recommendation: play it.
Blood Dragon is absolutely hilarious and I loved every minute. Well, almost - the crashes were annoying, and roaming the island started to get old with the lack of variety. I don't know if I'd recommend going for 100% completion, but do yourself a favour and play through the story. The comedy is non-stop, and the deliberately bad writing and acting are cheesetastic fun. Very few games have ever made me laugh as much as Blood Dragon did.