Nostalgia. Nostalgia can be an extremely powerful component in gaming, much like in other forms of media. Whether it is used in the revival of a classic franchise, such as the recently released Tomb Raider, or as a premise, like in Grand Theft Auto: Vice City. Regardless of its use, we humans love to be reminded of fond memories especially from our childhood. Far Cry 3 Blood Dragon does an excellent job overall of evoking a very familiar feeling that instantly brings to mind classic 1980s action movies like The Running Man, Total Recall, Terminator, Escape from New York and Universal Soldier. Easily, Blood Dragon’s greatest strength is exploiting the power that the aforementioned films have over my generation (GenX/Millennials). It’s a perfectly serviceable game on its own without all the neon, VHS scan lines, and cylon-like voices, but without the heavy-handed hook of nostalgia at its core, we would be left with a fairly generic shooter experience.
Blood Dragon’s neon soaked aesthetic goes a long way in defining its over-the-top retro action film tone. The VHS scan lines, which overlay the first-person view of the player, are an expertly nuanced touch that goes even further to highlight the age of the video cassette. The games main humanoid enemy, Omega Force, are dressed in total B-movie style with adapted football shoulder pads and converted motorcycle helmets, all highlighted with various hoses and neon light inlays. Scientists sport an ocular band reminiscent of a certain Star Trek TNG character, and animals are either chromed or mutated versions of their real-life counterparts detailed with neon glowing eyes and mouths. Almost every object in the world is drenched in colored lights of some kind, hell, even trees glow purple because of radiation, I guess. Huge, fiery explosions, bright, blue cyborg blood splatters and laser rounds raise Blood Dragon’s graphical effects to a satisfying plateau. Playing on PC with DX11 and advanced filtering techniques activated make this violent light show even more gorgeous. As a whole, Blood Dragon’s visuals, while not what is classically considered beautiful, are quite eye-catching and extremely well done.
From the Cylon-voiced Omega Force soldiers to the pounding electro bass of the soundtrack provided by the synth maestros, Power Glove, Blood Dragon’s sound design is perfectly in sync with its visual presentation. Weapon sound effects are crisp and visceral and extenuate the corresponding havoc they inflict on enemies. One-liners spouted by the main character, Rex Power Colt (voiced by Michael Biehn), are hit or miss in terms of quality but go hand in hand with the game’ over-the-top tone. The roar of the Blood Dragon, the game’s namesake, a glowing, carnivorous dinosaur with laser eyes, always makes me sit up straight in my seat while I quickly scan the area for the beast. Couple all this with Power Glove’s synth heavy score that lands somewhere between Jan Hammer and John Carpenter, and you have a top-quality, totally in sync sound design that very few games can claim.
Unfortunately, Far Cry 3 Blood Dragon suffers from the same problem I have had with the series as a whole. The actual shooting is just not that good. I played with both the 360 gamepad and mouse and keyboard, and found them to be be pretty comparable with a slight edge in control to the mouse. Not that the shooting is outright bad – it just isn’t on par with others of the genre. It suffers by being somewhat too loose, and even after adjusting various settings, the issue is still there. Constantly feeling too touchy then not twitchy enough at the same time is a problem (not with the settings butwith the way the game handles the input). Driving vehicles in Blood dragon can also be kind of janky. The boat controls are satisfactory, but the jeeps are kind of terrible. The over-taut steering is made exponentially worse by the fact that the first -erson perspective inside the vehicle allows you to see almost nothing. This really does not affect the game much, since a Mark IV Cyber Commando can apparently run and swim almost as fast as any vehicle available. I can’t help but think with these issues, really being my only technical hang-ups, that the series could benefit from changing to a third-person perspective, or at least allow the player to switch a la Skyrim or Fallout. Beyond those two things, Blood Dragon functions admirably on all accounts. Stealth is always a fulfilling option when approaching a combat situation. Take downs are simple and quite rewarding to perform, whether chaining them together with a shuriken throw, or dropping down on an unsuspecting cyborg from a secure perch. Enemy AI is above average. Omega Force soldiers will investigate their missing comrades, and in a firefight will flank and leverage their particular weapon set. Blood Dragon is not a particularly challenging game as far as difficulty is concerned, and it quickly evolves into a playground of destruction on the players part. The leveling system is fairly generic, and results in the more cyborgs you kill, the better you are at killing more cyborgs. Weapon upgrades are unlocked by completing one of the two types of side missions and collecting the hidden items. Even though there isn’t much variation in the tertiary content, it doesn’t hinder the pace, and since total game time comes in at about 12 hours, Blood Dragon doesn’t overstay its welcome.
Fifteen dollars won’t buy much these days, but compared against Blood Dragon’s game time, that price is easily justifiable. This neon splashed alternate timeline of 2007 only features a campaign mode. It could be replayed on a higher difficulty, but for the most part it’s a one-off experience. This isn’t a negative since the developers at Ubisoft Montreal put a lot effort into crafting Blood Dragon’s world and filled in the gaps with a fantastic amount of little details that help bring it to life.
The narrative in Far Cry 3 Blood Dragon is moved forward mostly by ambient dialogue between Rex and Dr. Darling. Spread intermittently through the game’s main missions, players will find wonderfully crafted cut scenes done up in the style of gaming’s 16-bit era. These scenes, while a good length, could have occurred more often and in greater number. It’s not that there aren’t enough scenes to carry the story – I just found them particularly entertaining. The dialogue and plot fit distinctly in the world the designers created and very much pull the nostalgia chain the game reaches for. Include the immaculate sound design, and retro graphical style, and most ’80s kids will feel right at home. Despite the faults of its precision aiming system, Blood Dragon exceeds much of its genre competition in all-out enjoyment. Upon completing all of the side content and the final story mission, I still wanted more, and that sentiment speaks for itself.
- Developer: Ubisoft
- Publisher: Ubisoft
- Platform: PC
- Genre: First Person Shooter
- Release: 4-30-2013
- Timestamp: 5-9-2013