Right, first off: apologies for the large gap between the “Injustice” demo impressions article and this; as a university student I have a lot on my plate besides this blog and I got caught up for a while. However, things have calmed down now, and normal service can resume.
“Blood Dragon” is a stand-alone, downloadable title that takes the same basic environment (a large island), engine and gameplay mechanics of “Far Cry 3”, but rather than concerning itself with a douchebag who apparently gradually sheds his normality to become a psychotic killer despite the fact he’s good at killing people since the start of the game (if you haven’t read my “Far Cry 3” review, I didn’t like the story nearly as much as most people did), it involves killer cyborgs and laser-shooting dragons. The game is a loving send-up to cheesy 80s action films and everything that makes them enjoyable: there are explosions, cyborgs, loads of guns and silly one-liners. Everything is neon. The protagonist is called “Sgt. Rex Power Colt”. His middle name is “Power”. Power. POW-ER. That’s the single best name I’ve heard in a video game since “Garcia Fucking Hotspur”. Sgt. Colt has to infiltrate said island and massacre said killer cyborgs in an attempt to stop an old colleague of his who has gone rogue, cyborg Colonel Kurtz style. The plot is of little importance though. What stands out here is how wonderful the tone and sense of humor is. Put simply, it immerses you in the 80s-esque, dystopian world of the near future (2007) perfectly from the off and doesn’t let you go until the very end. The references range from the obvious to the subtle and it’s clear that a lot of effort has gone into making it look and sound the part. Michael Biehn (Kyle Reese himself) was a brilliant choice for the character and he delivers every line in a husky, sincere tone that sells even the sillier parts.
So the story and tone of the game work well, but what of the gameplay? Well, not much has changed since “Far Cry 3”, but the tweaks that have been made serve in the games favour. Between the limited story missions you can engage in side quests involving rescuing a scientist from a group of cyborgs or hunting various animals for a variety of entertaining reasons (some of them threaten the very future of humanity), there are occupied garrisons to liberate (which are now larger, more complexly structured and feature multiple entry paths and methods to clear) and collectibles to find scattered around the map. The exploration is kept fun largely by the fact that certain weapon upgrades are tied into finding collectables and that traversing the island is now a lot more fun because Rex runs faster (and infinitely), jumps higher and takes no fall damage- making it far more entertaining to travel everywhere on foot. In terms of the core combat mechanics, they’re pretty much the same, with two main changes: a lot of the skills from “Far Cry 3” are unlocked from the start (the chained takedown, for example), and leveling up now brings a certain skill each time- removing the skill tree and magic tattoo that Jason Brody had. The shooting is fun and responsive, but is sometimes made too easy due to Rex having such a large amount of health after leveling up enough, and having four weapons available from the start. It doesn’t take long before large groups of enemies pose very little threat at all, but that does fit the “lone hero” look they were going for, so it does make sense, even if it does remove a lot of the challenge.
“Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon” is fantastic: a great example of downloadable games (it’s good value for money), homage-filled parodies (that stay funny) and original ideas for games that seem to come completely out of left field. The story campaign is short, but the exploration and side quests make up for it. It’s got good shooting, rewarding exploration and genuinely funny jokes and above all it’s just bloody entertaining. If this and the utterly awesome “Hotline Miami” are an indication that the 80s are making a comeback in video games, I for one welcome it with my arms as wide open as they can be.
By James Lambert