OK. You’re Ubisoft, you’ve just released a critical and commercial success known as Far Cry 3, and you need to produce some DLC. You see other companies doing the usual boring (yet insanely bankable) map pack DLC, so what do you do? You release a standalone title set in the far future of 2007, and turn the map of Far Cry 3 into a neon soaked, laser washed, dragon infested, 80′s movie referencing, synthesiser powerhouse of destruction. Yeah. And who said gaming was unoriginal nowadays?
Developed by Ubisoft Montreal and released this year, Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon is a standalone expansion to Far Cry 3. Set in the aftermath of a nuclear war, Blood Dragon places you in the role of Rex Colt , an American super solider that has been fitted with a cybernetic eye and limbs, voiced wonderfully by Michael Biehn. After Colonel Sloan- another super soldier and an almost father figure to Rex- goes rogue, it’s up to Rex to seek and destroy Sloan before he achieves his goal in bringing the world back to a prehistoric era through destruction. This set up is simple yet effective. There’s a bad guy and you need to kill him, basically.
Upon arriving on the island that Sloan is using as his base of operations, the player can explore it freely. It’s quite large, and is littered with enemy garrisons. There’s seven main missions to complete which are quite diverse, and have some stellar stand-out moments that make Blood Dragon an overwhelmingly positive experience. Whether it’s exploring the underground labs that house undead-like experiments, or making your way through a Mortal Kombat parody, Blood Dragon’s main missions deliver in almost every way possible. While the main campaign may be a little short, it nicely pulls itself together in the end. This is cemented by the great, cheesy story that runs through Blood Dragon, which is only further perfected by the excellent cut-scenes, which play out in 16-bit style. Outside of the basic main missions, you’ll find yourself mostly occupied with liberating garrisons. These garrionso are huge, and usually contain inside areas to explore too. Liberating them basically involves wiping out all enemies inside. Now, while at first this may sound like it could get a little repetitive- seeing as there is quite a few of them!- thanks to the excellent open play style and somewhat impressive A.I, each take-down of a garrison plays out quite differently in many ways.
Liberating even your first garrison will then in turn open up even more side missions. These come in the form of Predators Path and Hostage Rescue. Predators Path sends the player off to hunt down the islands various and often deadly fauna, all the while limiting their weapon usage. These missions are a nice change of pace from the usual cyborg enemies, particularly the mission “Turtle Killer”, which is a hilarious take on the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Hostage rescue, compared to the Predators Path missions, is a far more straightforward affair, yet not a boring one. These missions force the player to hone their stealth skills in order to rescue a hostage. It’s easier said that done, and for a game that is incredibly gung-ho, it’s a little tricky at first to acclimatise to the slower stealthy gameplay. Completing any of these types of missions give the player various upgrades, both for Rex himself, and his arsenal of weapons.
Gun-play is excellent. Rex is armed with a typical array of weapons expected from any FPS, but they’ve been given a sci-fi/futuristic upgrade; Rex’s pistol resembles something out of Robocop, his bow that has been decked out in a TRON-like colour scheme, while his sniper rifle is an ultra high powered weapon that will easily decimate a head upon impact. There’s a great selection here that will quench any combat option, which is all topped off by a blade and shuriken take-down mechanic that, if mastered, can be highly effective.
Visually Blood Dragon is glorious, and it’s visual appeal is one of its high points and most endearing qualities. Quite notably is the fact that despite Blood Dragon’s island technically being nothing more than a re-skinned location from Far Cry 3, it works wonderfully well, and feels insanely different throughout. It’s an 80′s wet dream- the island is utterly drenched in neon, the sky is a thick lavish red, structures are coldly blue, while enemies and animal designs are steeped in classic sci-fi/action film influences. These influences run deeper through the game however, through the dialogue and into the missions. There’s loads of movie references here, from the great opening scene that has the player in a chopper as “Long Tall Sally” plays in the background, to mission names such as one called “I must break you”. If you didn’t get those references there, the rest that are in Blood Dragon may be lost on you. However, if you pick up on these hints to classic movies, you’ll find yourself loving Blood Dragon rather quickly. The game itself is a Frankenstein of 80′s action flicks, so these nods to what came before it are hilarious, fun and expertly done. Loved them.
Additionally, the music- which again, is heavily 80′s inspired- is incredible. Composed by Power Glove, it’s a masterclass of synthesiser based tracks and contains some impressive tunes that will remain with you.
While some may see past it’s neon soaked veneer quite easily, and find it to be nothing more than Far Cry 3 re-skinning, it’s genuinely more than that. Ubisoft could have gone for the usual DLC that accompanies games nowadays, but instead they have gone for something completely different; a rip roaring action adventure through the 80′s and back, complete with Michael Biehn, beautifully realised visuals, cracking set pieces and a soundtrack that will melt your ears. It could have been run-of-the-mill. It’s not.