Blood Dragons is a love-letter to b-movie sci-fi films from the 1980s. It is genius in its satirical take on the iconic sub-culture of the material itself as well as video games in general. Fans of action movies, the 80s, satire, or just goofy action games in general will fall in love with this game before the tutorial is completed.
+Great sense of humor.
+Sense of loyality its inspiration (80s action films).
+Same great gameplay of its predecessor (Far Cry 3).
+Stunning visuals (both the neon in-game, and the 16-bit cut-scenes).
-Character customization has been almost completely removed to make way for a straight forward leveling system (earn a level, get a new game-choosen ability).
Far Cry: Blood Dragon is a perfect, or rather the only, example of what fans of the 80s sci-fi/action b-movie genre have been hoping for out of video games for about the last 30 years. Of course that’s a pretty ridiculous standard for Ubisoft to try and live up to… but it was refreshing to see how serious, or rather not-serious, the team building the game took the project.
The game was primarily thought to be a hoax, when the first images were revealed, especially due to their proximity to the first of April. To be completely honest, I wasn’t sure myself. Years of being hurt by seemingly awesome video game ideas, expansions, or even products for sale and the subsequent “April Fools!” has taught everyone that loves/follows/has a passing interest in our industry to take any news released around the beginning of April with a TRUCKLOAD of salt.
However, Blood Dragon is actually a thing. A notion I was still skeptical up to the point where I was dropped into the actual game for myself via the release version. Why were we all so skeptical (or why was I at least)? Well, primarily because it is the stuff of an awesome April Fool’s joke at first glance: A gritty super-serious action game turned 80s nostalgia overdose, themed with bright neon, over-the-top hero one-liners, and ridiculous plots of global domination via cybernetic enhancement programs. The pictures looked striking, in their bright neon-edged motif, and everything about the production was far, far over the top.
But enough about my disbelief, the question now is “Is it a legitimate game, or just a hilarious joke?” Well, in full honesty, it feels a bit like both.
The game play is solid, as anyone that played Far Cry 3 can attest to. The engine is the game, the combat is as fluid and satisfying as ever. You still have all the same options to approach your raids/missions with either stealth or random acts of destruction, but everything has been tweaked slightly to accommodate for the 80s cyber-punk theme. In example, instead of using your camera to gain insight into the military installations (a key feature of Far Cry 3) you’ll use your cybernetic-eye which offers all the same abilities (zoom, enemy tagging) but with a different reasoning now (enhanced super-soldier abilities due to the fact that you’re assuming the role of a cyborg). And, of course, perhaps most importantly, is the name-stay of the game: the Blood Dragons. Basically giant neon versions of the Komodo Dragons from Far Cry 3 (now the size of a small house) which have a taste for human (and cybernetic) flesh, which you can lead around via a carefully laid trail of cyber-hearts (collected from the corpses of your fallen foes).
Other parts of the game have been modified as well to fit the 80s action-film style of the game. Because you have robot limbs and cybernetic implants you no longer have to worry about fall damage. You can run much faster than you could before, and your HUD/inventory/leveling-system are now all based around your mechanical upgrades. As opposed to Far Cry 3’s mythos of magic and tribal/animal powers via tattoos, you now gain levels via a software protocol in yourself that tracks your progress as an incentive program (basically gamifying 80s action heroes… in a game).
This leads to some of the best examples of the game’s sense of humor. Because your character is a cyborg, you can have your systems remotely enabled or disabled, providing a reason for a ‘tutorial’ at the beginning of the game to make sure all your ‘systems’ are functioning (at the behest of the main character who complains about not being able to run out and shoot people). The tutorials, menu windows, loading screens, and virtually every bit of text in the game lends to this mentality of a AI controlling program by keeping everything ‘in character’ and a bit goofy. For example: “To jump. Jump” is one of the requests of the AI during your ‘boot up’.
Honestly there are far too many jokes to get into, and they are something I would honestly prefer people to experience on their own (yes, I am recommending you to run out and buy this game immediately and if not sooner). There are a couple I want to offer though in order to further sell fans of the 80s (such as myself) on the concept of the game, and how far down the rabbit hole Ubisoft has gone for this bonus piece of awesome that they’ve decided to throw under their stellar Far Cry 3 banner:
Loading screens are in 4:3 format, and represented as though played on a VCR (complete with tracking).
Cut-scenes are rendered in 16-bit animation.
Menu systems are all black/green computer terminals.
Everything in the game is edged with bright neon in a dull dark blue/grey world (think Tron).
Along with the previously noted AI/tutorials, this game is just the sweetest slice of nostalgia that anyone who grew up watching b-movies/action serials in the 80s or early 90s could ever hope for. I mean, by god they even have the option to flip off enemies (by pressing the melee button in the direction of one of them at a distance) and mission completed indication is shown via metal devil horns on your robot hand (which you throw out, and then immediately generate a bolt of electricity between).
So we have already award winning gameplay, taking the platform of last year’s stellar Far Cry 3 game (nominated/winner for game of the year by many outlets including this year’s Canadian Video Game Awards) injected with just, overwhelming amounts of 80s nostalgia/humor/awesomeness and wrapped up in something that defies every known staple of our current gaming industry (no more brown-washed landscapes, just bright vibrant colours!) and backlit by the most ridiculously over-the-top b-movie action flick premise.
Far Cry: Blood Dragon is set to be a nomination (at minimum) for downloadable game of 2013. If you haven’t had opportunity yet, I strongly encourage downloading at least the demo for the game. If you don’t fall in love with the introduction to it, then chances are it wasn’t made for you and you don’t deserve it anyhow.
Review based on a download code for PS3 provided by the publisher.