Packed with entertaining action and hysterical writing, Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon is an ’80s-inspired blast.

The Good

  • Hysterical dialogue and collectibles
  • Lots of smart references to 1980s pop culture
  • Taking on blood dragons is always a delight
  • Smart levels and missions make for rewarding stealth
  • A lot of terrific open-ended action for a great value.

The Bad

  • A few enemy behavior quirks
  • Some crass jokes land with a thud.

Great 1980s movie montages featured plucky underdogs, perhaps played by Sylvester Stallone, or maybe Ralph Macchio, demonstrating their determination to triumph over the forces of communism, bullying, or stodgy adults who don’t believe in the power of young love. They were accompanied by properly cheesy pop hits, possibly performed by Joe Esposito, or maybe Deniece Williams, creating a wonderful audiovisual time capsule that could have only originated in that fabulous decade. Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon understands the power of the ’80s. When its inevitable montage comes, you probably won’t know the music, but you’ll know the type. It’s the kind that would have been sung by Michael Sembello, or Kenny Loggins, or Foreigner. If you’re a child of the decade, you’ll be glad that Blood Dragon knows you so well.

Here there be blood dragons.

  • Comment on this video
  • Watch this video in High Def

Don’t worry, though: if the 1980s are before your time, or if you don’t retain any nostalgia for the decade of parachute pants and the Brat Pack, Blood Dragon stands on its own without relying on references, though it packs in plenty of them. This downloadable spin-off of 2012′s Far Cry 3 is a fantastically entertaining first-person shooter with more clever dialogue and action-packed hours than most full-priced games. At $15, it’s a better deal than every Cabbage Patch Kid you ever loved, every Tears for Fears record you ever spun, and every Muppet Babies episode you ever viewed. Combined.

Well, perhaps Blood Dragon isn’t quite that valuable. Nevertheless, it’s hard not to be charmed from the moment it begins. Low-resolution cutscenes introduce you to Rex Colt, cybercommando. Rex is voiced by ’80s mainstay Michael Biehn, better known for appearing in films like The Terminator (as Kyle Reese) and Aliens (as Dwayne Hicks). Biehn’s forced rasp is the perfect complement to Rex’s nationalist badassery, and his sincere line delivery makes several scenes all the more hysterical. Consider this dialogue: “I swore an oath to a special lady. Lady Liberty. She taught me that winners don’t use drugs.” It’s a corny line right out of a War on Drugs-era public service announcement, but in the context of an offer to have dragon blood injected into Rex’s veins. Meanwhile, you “rent” (that is, collect) VHS tapes of movies with titles like Bourne to Dance; this particular film features a special teacher showing his student “the kind of love he’s never known before…the love of dance.”

So. Many. Teeth.

So. Many. Teeth.

You don’t need to know the ’80s to get Rex’s repeated oral sex gags, of which there are far too many. Nor do you need to know the past to understand that calls of “no” during a consensual sex scene would have been inappropriate in any decade. Luckily, most of the jokes aren’t so juvenile, including video game cracks that make fun of red exploding barrels, game-violence controversies, and even Ubisoft’s own games, like Far Cry 3 and Assassin’s Creed. (Listen for bits of throwaway dialogue about girls with tribal tattoos and feather collecting.) The tutorial sets the tone straight away, telling you to press a button “to demonstrate your ability to read,” and loading screens helpfully inform you that if you need a hint, perhaps the next loading screen will have one for you. Not every joke is so obvious–you may not notice or get nods to erotic artists and prison documentaries–but the gags are there, making Blood Dragon one of the funniest games in recent memory.

Of course, an ’80s-focused game wouldn’t be complete if it didn’t look the part, and Blood Dragon certainly makes proper homage to its inspiration. Cutscenes look as if they could have been ripped right out of the original Metal Gear, or Shadow of the Beast, complete with the muddy reds, purples, and blues that characterized them. The same color scheme, in turn, infuses the first-person gameplay, as if you’re traversing the game’s medium-size island while wearing dark magenta sunglasses. Small audiovisual touches, such as the way Rex sometimes takes a blowtorch to his cybernetic arm when healing, and buzzing sounds to indicate Rex’s part-mechanical nature, enthusiastically sell the roboapocalyptic setting. And by the final hour, which lends a sly twist to common action-game power trips, you’ll appreciate how Blood Dragon uses nostalgia and humor to say something about the state of modern shooters.

It's dark and spooky enough to be another sequel to <i>The Howling</i>.” />
<p class=It’s dark and spooky enough to be another sequel to The Howling.

Blood Dragon isn’t just an homage to great memories, however, but a terrific game in its own right. If you played Far Cry 3, you will recognize the structure. Enemy bases are strewn about the island you explore, and by annihilating all of the enemies that patrol them, either silently or forcefully, you convert them to your cybernetic cause. Meanwhile, you move from mission to mission, infiltrating dams and rescuing endangered trash-talking scientists, using semi-futuristic variants of familiar weapons–a sniper rifle, an assault rifle, a bow, and so forth–that handle like their standard Far Cry 3 counterparts. In time, you upgrade most of these weapons; your sniper rifle’s bullets gain an explosive charge, your shotgun gets a flaming kick, and so on. You earn access to weapon upgrades by finding collectibles and performing side missions, and you earn other enhancements, such as the ability to perform silent takedowns on heavies wielding flamethrowers, by leveling up. There is no skill tree or anything like that: when you cross the necessary level threshold, you gain new skills automatically.

Packed with entertaining action and hysterical writing, Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon is an ’80s-inspired blast.

By Kevin VanOrd