Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon Review: A Neon 80s Acid Trip
Phil Owen takes experiences the post-apocalyptic nuclear world of 2007 in Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon.
It's a novel concept, taking a game's template and making something completely new and different out of it. You'd think that, when you're literally reusing the framework of one game for another you'd get something similar to the original. But in the case of Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon, well, the result is pretty unique.
Blood Dragon is at its heart the Far Cry 3 experience. You are on an island. You can roam around that island at will. That island is littered with enemy outposts that you can take over. Each of those outposts has a bounty board of sorts that launches sidequests.
Beyond that, Blood Dragon has nothing to do with Far Cry 3 or its plot. This game is not about Jason Brody. It is not Super Serious Art trying to make Some Profound Statement. It is, instead, a video game version of what Ubisoft believes to be an 80s-ish vision of the present, one in which North America is a nuclear wasteland in 2007 after the US nuked Canada to prevent a Soviet Invasion. Also, Michael Biehn is the hero. Of course.
But Blood Dragon is certainly today's vision of an 80s version of today, and that's never more evident than in the color palette, which is all neon blues and greens and pinks. Even enemy blood is a light blue color. It's all quite pretty, and it crafts a presentation that is quite appealing, particularly in its contrast to normal game color palettes. Though all of Blood Dragon takes place at night, it's all bright and colorful.
This game is, first and foremost, a joke. At the start of the game, you are presented with this prompt:
I don't know how any game could set a tone more clearly than that, and everything that follows stays true to that. There is not a serious bone in this game's body; the entire tale of this lone cybercommando taking on a renegade soldier trying to launch missiles loaded with the blood of the titular Blood Dragons (which litter the island) is positively covered in winks and nods. And Michael Biehn's hero manages to be an even better macho comic hero than Duke Nukem or Serious Sam ever were. I say that as a testament to Biehn's performance and the lines written for him more than a slight against those iconic characters.
Though during gameplay nobody is going to mistake Blood Dragon for a game built on the Doom engine, it does share one very important aspect with its forebear Star Wars: Dark Forces and many other early 90s story games – the plot is told through rudimentary semistatic drawings with voice overs. Anybody with a 20+ year gaming history will see these primitive cutscenes and feel right at home.
Since Blood Dragon is a game that is only $15, you should keep your expectations in line as far as how much content this game will provide. If you're intent on liberating all the outposts and completing all the side missions to earn all the weapon modifications, you'll have plenty to keep you occupied. But if you stick to the main path, you'll discover the story only contains seven missions, and you should be able to beat those in about three hours. But I can't bring myself to complain about that, seeing as how the experience is remarkably entertaining, so much so that I might actually play the damn thing again.
But it is clear in some spots that the development team was working within some strict budget and time constraints, and that fact is never more obvious than in Blood Dragon's ending. This is a game that is quite directly about one soldier taking on another, but there is no climactic battle, as the final confrontation takes place only in cutscenes. The final mission builds its momentum to a wild peak, only to not pay it off. Gameplay just ends rather abruptly.
Even so, Blood Dragon is a fine, polished, utterly entertaining piece of work, and it doesn't wear out its welcome in the least. I would say, indeed, that the result here is ultimately more satisfying than that of the original game.
Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon: 8/10