Monday, 3 June 2013

PC Game Review: Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon

Platform: PC (UPlay)
Released: 2013
Genre: First Person Shooter
Developer: Ubisoft Montreal
Publisher: Ubisoft
Buy on Steam

How can you go wrong with a version of Far Cry 3 featuring a cyborg Michael Biehn fighting a horde of giant neon-glowing Blood Dragons spewing lazers out of their eyes and an army of cyborgs who all sound like Microsoft SAM on crack while wielding futuristic-looking weapons and a flamethrower in a landscape filled with neon colours to the thumping awesome beat of one of the best retro 80's soundtracks ever heard in a video game?
Short answer: You can't. Long answer: Look below.

From what I understand, Blood Dragon started out as somewhat of an April fools joke. Far Cry 3 done as a retro-futuristic shooter influenced by 80's sci-fi thrillers and action movies. However, at some point, somebody probably thought this idea was way too good to waste on an April fools so they went ahead and made it. The game was thought to be a DLC for Far Cry 3 but instead was made into a standalone game that does not require Far Cry 3 to install and run, which is a good thing as in many aspects, I vastly prefer Blood Dragon to Far Cry 3, even if the latter has a longer campaign and multiplayer. The game features the voice talent of famous action star Michael Biehn (Terminator, Aliens, The Abyss, Navy Seals) who does his best Snake Plissken voice, of course sounding endlessly badass. It really feels like he was always meant to be in a video game and this is further proof for it, and hopefully he will be more remembered for this role than his reprised role as Hicks in Aliens: Colonial Marines.

In an 80's dystopian version of 2007, where the world is suffering from the aftermath of a nuclear war between the United States and Russia,  Biehn portrays sergeant Rex Power Colt, a Mark IV cyber commando sent on a mission to investigate an island where colonel Sloan, an elite agent, has gone rogue. Confronting the colonel, it turns out that Sloan wants to take over the world (of COURSE) using the lazer-firing blood dragons as his weapons, from which he has taken blood and injected himself with it, giving him extraordinary cyber powers.
The story is pretty straight forward and never gets in the way of the gameplay, and is quite enjoyably cheesy, with all kinds of 80's clich├ęs, such as a training montage and the cutscenes are portrayed in a wonderfully done 16bit style, similar to games you'd see in arcades or on the Sega Mega Drive back in the late 80's/early 90's.

Gameplay wise, Blood Dragon is near identical to Far Cry 3, but with its own twist on the game. Instead of choosing which powers you want to unlock, they are pretty much unlocked for you every time you level up, giving you time to focus on the game and making it a more streamlined experience. Tutorials are always popping up (to Rex' annoyance) to give you information about your skills and weapons, with the occasional PSA popping up to humorous effect. Also, due to Rex Colt being a cyber commando, he has no limited sprint and there is virtually no falling damage at all (which is used to great effect in a memorable scene in the game). This makes Blood Dragon a much more fun and enjoyable experience than the original Far Cry 3 in a lot of respects, since it's faster paced and you only need to worry about dying from getting your stupid ass shot instead of falling off a cliff. The controls are also identical to Far Cry 3 and if you've played pretty much any first person shooter or something like Crysis before, you'll most likely slip right into them.

The world map is notably smaller than in Far Cry 3, and Blood Dragon is indeed a much more bite-sized experience, and the gameplay elements remain mostly the same. You'll spend the majority of the game liberating Garrisons, slaying enemies and animals for XP and other bonuses, and doing side missions to unlock new weapon upgrades. There are however some interesting twists to Blood Dragon as the eponymous blood dragons are some of the most terrifying enemies I've ever faced in a game as they can kill you easily with their lazer blasts. Thankfully, they are near blind and moving slowly near them you can often avoid them, and they have an affinity for the hearts you rip out of the enemy cyborgs, so throwing them to distract them often works well. There are other minor additions but I'm sure you'll find those out on your own. The campaign itself is rather short and solves itself quickly. I played through the game in less than 2-3 days while I can usually spend a week or so on a game, though if you do every side mission and try to max yourself out, it will take a while for you.

Takin' down da choppa!
The graphics are gorgeous in Blood Dragon, everything is more or less oozing (sometimes literally) with a neon retro futuristic 80's influenced style that doesn't really remind me of anything from the 80's but still has that style to it. There's a lot of glowing lights used and it's really a feast for the eyes. Textures are pretty good and I especially like the details on Rex' arm. The music and sounds match the visuals perfectly as the soundtrack, composed by Power Glove, is a retro synthfest that perfectly captures the dystopian sci-fi 80's cyberpunk feel of the game. The main theme is extremely catchy and I found myself humming it long after playing the game. Thankfully the version I bought came with a soundtrack CD and I've already put the music on my mp3 player as I just can't get enough of it. It really is one of my favourite soundtracks this year, if not THE favourite soundtrack!

Those dam puns...
So all in all, is Blood Dragon worth the money? Gods yes, this is by far my favourite game this year. It has an amazing style that a lot of people have compared to Duke Nukem Forever and I have to agree, it's probably why the game appeals so much to me. There's just nothing like playing a character like Rex Colt that really makes you feel like a superhuman and gives you the ability to just have fun with a game instead of limiting you like a lot of modern games tend to do. The game also never takes itself too seriously, there's a loose humorous tone to it and I'm sure anyone who grew up in the 90's and 80's are going to love this game. It's a shame the game feels way too short and there is no multiplayer as I would've loved to play this co-op with a friend and it seems like there would be opportunities for it at times. I also had slight performance issues on my PC though that could just be my PC. Otherwise, this game is a must-have for fans of shooters and 80's retro futurism, and I highly recommend it!

Gameplay: 8/10
Graphics: 9/10
Sound: 10/10

Average Score: 9/10

- Alyxx

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