Game Review: Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon
Pros:It's Far Cry 3, but better: Funnier, better paced, more explosions and one-liners, with a beautiful neon aesthetic all its own.
Cons:Uh... It won't make as much sense to anyone born in the 90's? It's a bit short? Sorry, I got nuthin'.
Ciarán plays this hyper-cheesy, badass homage to the whole of the 80′s and declares it the Best Thing Ever, in list form!
Some games take a couple of hours of play time before they grow on you. Some only take 10 minutes before you enjoy them. I think it’s a testament to Blood Dragon’s quality that I gleefully proclaimed it to be The Greatest of All Things before the intro had even finished. Loath as I am to talk about spoilers, they’re not really spoilers when they’re ripped off wholesale from 30 year old films, so I think maybe instead of the typical review, I’d go with a list, in no particular order, of some of my favourite aspects of the game:
1. The intro:
You and your Best Buddy are flying to this mysterious island when enemies attack. You grab the minigun, muttering “I’m gonna have me some fun…”, and the music breaks out into Little Richard’s Long Tall Sally, from the iconic chopper scene in Predator, as you’re given control and mow down hordes of troops, jeeps and enemy choppers before the cut-scene resumes. This tongue-in-cheek reference sets the scene perfectly for the rest of the game. Don’t worry folks, that’s only the last half of the intro. The other half is similarly humorous and cheesier than underneath a slovenly cheddar-golem’s foreskin.
2. The soundtrack and story:
Far Cry 3, as you might recall from our Colm’s review, was really rather good. If there were any gripes to be had, it was that the story was a bit all over the place, and the music was on the whole rather uninspiring. Blood Dragon improves upon its parent game with the style one would expect of an 80′s homage. The music is a sublime mix of every action film you can remember, with military staccato drums (and plenty of electronic tom-toms, naturally) blending with wailing guitar solos and cheesy synths. It absolutely nails the 80′s soundtrack. There are bits you’ll swear were lifted straight out of Predator, or one of those awful scifi films Michael Douglas starred in that you’re ashamed to admit having enjoyed.
The story is much more focused too, being rather more direct than Far Cry’s rambly pseudo-mystical bollocks. In the distant future of 2007AD, nuclear war has engulfed the planet. You’re Cyber-commando Rex Power Colt, sent to investigate an island invasion, and what you thought was a terrorist force turns out to be your old unit, led by your old commander General Sloan. He’s gone rogue because apparently nuking the whole of Canada to stop the Russians invading wasn’t going far enough. He mops the floor with you and leaves you for dead in a nest of radioactive dinosaurs that shoot lasers from their eyes, because why the hell not? These are the titular Blood Dragons, and apparently drinking their blood made Sloan’s cybernetics super-powerful. You decline to enhance yourself similarly, because Winners Don’t Do Drugs, and set out with what few allies you have left to reclaim the island and finish Sloan off. As far as I can tell, any plot holes are absolutely deliberate, and referenced all the time with characters saying things like “Oh, did I not mention the mega-cyber-death ray? I could have SWORN I did…” It’s gloriously cheesy method of driving the game along.
3. The nods to the action movie greats:
Every time you enter zoom mode to tag enemies you get the Predator Vision sound. The villain General Sloan is pretty much Bennet from Commando with some robot bits. He even has the same string vest. The Path of the Hunter quests from Far Cry are now called Path of the Predator (and their plots are generally quite silly: ‘Cyber-soldiers are causing trouble on that hill- and they’re LITTERING! Take ‘em out!’). Rex Colt himself is voiced by none other than Michael Fucking Biehn, who you’ll all remember as Corporal Hicks in Aliens and Kyle Reese in Terminator. And if you don’t remember, hang your head in shame, youngster.
The missions and areas are plenty different, requiring new tactics almost every time. As a result, it never gets dull. And most of them reference a classic film. One moment you’re planting C4000 (As the game says, ‘it’s like C4, but we added some zeroes’) on a massive hydroelectric dam, the next you’re racing across the island in a jeep, or descending into the bowels of a Blood Dragon nest with a flamethrower and the dreadful suspicion that there will be a load of Aliens references. And the game does not disappoint. It even throws in a bunch of dreadful puns. Within the first hour of play I’d simply lost count of how many movie references had been made. Even though these ‘homages’ are blatantly transparent, the game manages to pull off its wholesale plagiarism in an utterly respectful, even loving fashion.
4. The sense of humour:
Close to the start, Sloan expresses amusement that the US sent you after him. he exclaims “Now that right there is the definition of insanity!”, a lovely nod to Vaas from Far Cry 3. The game breaks the 4th wall quite often. Troops are regularly ordered to guard the Incredibly Vulnerable Maguffin. Facility announcements frequently give away gaping security holes or the positions of powerful weapons. All the Far Cry animals are in there, but they’re CYBER-animals now. Possibly because the devs couldn’t pass up the chance to have someone exclaim “Release the cyber-sharks!” On that note there’s a moment in the game where you’re fleeing an underground lab in a jeep, and you must leap over a broken bridge with a giant cyber-shark-monster at the bottom. Your on-board AI says ‘Objectives updated – You must jump the shark.” I must also mention the helpful loading-screen hints, such as ‘Buy ammo, or you can’t shoot’, or ‘hints on the loading screens will give you hints’, or ‘We spent most of our budget on awesome green text‘.
5. The Tutorial:
In-game tutorials usually assume you’re a total fucking idiot who never before encountered a control pad or a mouse/keyboard, and that you’ve no idea how to use either to play a game. Blood Dragon highlights how big publishers have a crippling fear of giving their customers a shred of credit by providing the most amusing starting tutorial ever devised by humankind. All the way through it, poor Rex keeps complaining that he bloody knows that running is faster than walking, and that he just wants to kill things already for fuck’s sake. Watch it above, in all its patronising glory.
I could have gone into detail about the mechanics, but if you’ve played Far Cry 3 or read a review, you already know how the game actually plays. Actually, the Blood Dragons themselves bear mention. They’re gigantic, they’re very tough, and they shoot frickin’ lasers from their eyes. Their eyesight is terrible but their hearing and smell are great, so it’s very possible (and on the harder settings sometimes necessary) to lure them into enemy bases to soften up the defences. Of course the bases have Mega-shields that stop the Dragons getting in, so you still have to turn them off from the inside, while avoiding the massive firepower of the enemy and any dragons that wander by. They’re a welcome addition to the mix.
In conclusion, Far Cry 3 itself is an excellent game, and Blood Dragon refines it, mostly by throwing in a cheesy mish-mash of classic action flicks and turning everything up to 11. Sure, it’s shorter than FC3, but it’s also way cheaper, more focused, punchier, and lacking in any of the samey dull parts that got in the way of the original’s fun. Blood Dragon is probably the most fun I’ve had with my pants on. And I’ve had sex with my pants on. It is easily worth the €15 or so asking price. A tongue-in-cheek, balls-to-the-wall, utterly shameless (and very proud of it) explosive romp through the greatest decade of action film mankind has ever known. Daddy likes.