Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon knows its target audience: they were the ones who woke up early on Saturday mornings to get their dose of cartoons and messed with the tracking on their VCRs to play back taped TV shows. They’re the ones who grew up with low-budget action flicks set to campy power rock. They wouldn’t think twice about an action hero using shurikens against badly dressed foot soldiers while fending off cyber-dinosaurs (because why the fuck not). Blood Dragon is an unabashed homage to the action films of our childhood, and even though it’s a short-lived experience, Ubisoft gets it right.
Sergeant Rex Power Colt, a “Mark IV Cyber Commando”, is tasked with taking down the evil Colonel Sloan and his personal cyborg army Omega Force. The game is as good as it sounds: it has all the hallmarks of a quality B-grade movie with cheesy one-liners, Eastern influences, synthesized 80s-inspired tunes, and even a training montage.
Blood Dragon is built on the skeleton of Far Cry 3, and while the vehicles and world assets feel familiar, the thick neon sheen is enough to make it all feel somewhat fresh. Force fields shimmer around outposts, fluorescent spotlights pierce the sky with giant omega symbols, and the soldiers look like they’re all attending a Daft Punk appreciation meeting. Even the animals have been given a makeover, either mutated or shown as cyber-creatures.
But what would Blood Dragon be without, well, Blood Dragons? These giant lizards roam the island and attack anything that moves, but are offset with poor eyesight. What’s novel about them is that you can move them to targets using cyber hearts (which are torn out of your enemies’ bodies, naturally). Shut down the shield generator for an occupied garrison, and you can lure a couple of Blood Dragons inside and let them wreak havoc on your behalf, laser eye-beams and all. Their inclusion also makes for a more interesting landscape, instead of simply travelling from garrison to garrison with the odd firefight in between.
The weapon count is greatly reduced from Far Cry 3, but the changes are fairly satisfying, especially after unlocking modifications such as exploding sniper rounds and quad-barreled shotguns. Character progression is also simplified to experience points, and special abilities are doled out with each new level (although gaining levels in Blood Dragon is much faster compared to the original game).
The beautiful thing about Blood Dragon is that it never takes itself too seriously. The in-game text is a mix of patronising comments and fourth-wall breaking descriptions. The ridiculous dialogue put a smile on my face, and the ability to flip off dead enemies was icing on the cake. It all gets a bit too much even for Colt; his disbelief at the menial side-quests and finding collectables makes him question the very meaning of his existence.
As a standalone product, Blood Dragon is a curious offering. It’s a fun distraction, and the mix of childhood references and plentiful action is a good one. However, there’s barely enough content in Blood Dragon for it to simply stand on its own; there are only a handful of story missions, and I managed to clear out the garrisons and scoop up all the collectibles within a few hours. Having said that, if you’re up for some cheesy laughs, I recommend picking this one up at a deep discount.