Grizzly Gaming

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Review: Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon - A neon soaked vision of the distant future of 2007

If you remember the 1980s, you’ll remember that its vision of the future was slightly different from the way it has turned out. Neon saturated everything and we seemed pretty sure that robots would eventually become a part of our daily lives – that is, if they didn’t rise up and overthrow humanity first.

Well, a time traveler from the 80s might be pretty disappointed at how bland the future is. Luckily for said time traveler, there is “Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon” – a loving tribute to an antiquated idea of the future. But don’t be thrown by the term “antiquated,” because Blood Dragon is absolutely soaked in neon, robots, lasers and all the cheesy one-liners you would come to expect from a vision of the future from the 1980s.

“Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon” is a stand-alone spin-off of Ubisoft’s spectacular first-person shooter, “Far Cry 3” Though Blood Dragon shares the same engine and a vaguely similar setting, almost every other aspect of this title is different from Far Cry 3 proper. Also, Blood Dragon is a stand-alone title, not an expansion pack, so you don’t need to have played or own Far Cry 3 to enjoy this title.

An action game in every sense of the word, Blood Dragon stars cyborg super-soldier Sergeant Rex “Power” Colt. Set in the distant future of 2007, Colt and another soldier infiltrate the island compound of Colonel Sloan, a former military man who has lost it and threatens the world with an army of cyborgs and only Rex Colt can stop him. It’s the typical “one grizzled badass versus the world” scenario we saw played out countless times in movies in the 80s and 90s. But what makes Blood Dragon so special is that it genuinely feels like it could’ve been produced in that time period and isn’t just a collection of nods and references.

Though the final product might come off as pseudo-ironic, Blood Dragon sticks to its themes so closely and so well that its over-the-top grandeur is more charming than annoying. Every ounce of the game is slathered in shades of neon and a sweeping synth score accompanies everything from exploration to cutscenes. There’s even a montage late in the game! But perhaps the best part of Rex “Power” Colt is that veteran actor Michael Biehn lends his voice to the character, adding a depth and life to the character that no one else but Biehn could have pulled off. His voice acting will consistently put a smile on your face as he rattles off hilarious one-liners and references. For instance, the first time Rex picks up a powerful weapon, he shouts, “I’ve got the touch…I’ve got the power!” And just like any great example of 80s nostalgia, there’s a message underneath the neon sheen and retro style that believing in yourself is powerful enough to conquer anything.

To say that Blood Dragon doesn’t take itself too seriously in an understatement – it embraces its inherent cheesiness to the maximum and uses its setting and characters to lampoon popular action movies and stars. Video game tropes aren’t spared either, as Colt makes his views on tutorials and gathering collectibles very vocal over the course of the game.

If you’ve played Far Cry 3, you already have a pretty good idea of how Blood Dragon is played. After a linear introduction sequence, you’re free to explore the island, gather collectibles, clear out garrisoned strongholds as well as engage in story missions, which, like Far Cry 3, are more directed experiences. Though there is one major difference between Jason Brody and Rex Colt – Colt is a undeniably more badass than Brody. Aside from being a cyborg with incredible physical prowess (I don’t think I stepped foot in a jeep once – I just ran everywhere), Colt has access to much more powerful weaponry than Brody. Colt’s arsenal at first is fairly standard at first but eventually turns into full-blown sci-fi madness with laser guns and handheld miniguns.

Being that this title is only an Arcade game, many aspects of it have been streamlined from the original version of Far Cry 3. The map is smaller and there are fewer enemy outposts to take over. There are no more skill trees. While you do still gain XP (or as they’re called in this game, cyber points), each new level has a specific skill tied to it such as another health bar or a new ability.  Blood Dragon is a fairly short title, overall, but fun enough to be played multiple times.

For all that I loved about Blood Dragon, there were a few aspects that threw me a bit. Though I absolutely loved the style of the title, from the visuals to the incredible soundtrack, the cutscenes took me out of the action a bit. Instead of being rendered in-engine, the cutscenes were created to look like animated sequences from an 8-bit game. Rather than adding to the overall ambiance, the switches from 3D models to 8-bit cutscenes and back again is more jarring than anything else. What would have worked well, and even played along with the knowing cheesiness of Blood Dragon, would have been to do live-action cutscenes, the type that were popular in video games from the late 80s and early 90s.

On top of those odd switches, I found the game’s intro to be a very poor representation of the game as a whole. The opening segment of the game is incredibly linear and without any kind of framing, is both confusing and not much fun to play. Those unfamiliar with Far Cry 3 may even be so off-put by the opening sequence that they don’t bother to play the rest of the game. I played through the entirety of Far Cry 3 and the opening of Blood Dragon was so poorly put together that I almost put it down completely.

As you can see, “Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon” is incredibly well-realized but isn’t without its flaws. The stunning visuals and synth-heavy soundtrack perfectly set the game apart from any other shooter on the market, but the overdose of neon and electronic music may be just a bit too much for some. The mechanics of the game work as flawlessly as they did in Far Cry 3 and are aided by the superb voice acting of Michael Biehn, though the overall game itself is a good deal shorter than Far Cry 3. But since Blood Dragon is an Arcade title, you can safely download a free demo and see if it’s the right game for you. But trust me, if you’re a fan of over-the-top action movies or pine for the simple, neon-coated days of the late 80s, Blood Dragon will be right up your alley.


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An avid gamer and long-time pro wrestling fan, stay tuned to Grizzly Gaming and the Delco Elbow Drop for game reviews and pro wrestling news.

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