The Nostalgic Insanity of Far Cry 3 Blood Dragon
Far Cry 3 Blood Dragon is nothing like I expected it to be. For starters, don’t let the “3″ in the title fool you — there’s no sign of Jason Brody, Vaas Montenegro, or tropical islands to be found. Unless Blood Dragon turns out to be one of Dr. Earnhardt’s LSD trips, this game is in no way related to FC3. What the Ubisoft Montreal team has created here is a downloadable, kinetic ball of ’80s nostalgia that exists within in the confines of Far Cry’s mechanical skeleton.
You’re bombarded with Reagan-era references the moment you load up Blood Dragon. Cutscenes come across in 8-bit fashion, neon lights ripped straight from Miami bombard your senses, and the theme of mechanically-altered super soldiers absolutely screams “Terminator.” Hell, the main character is even voiced by Michael “Kyle Reese” Biehn. I’d be willing to bet that an “All Your Base…” joke pops up at some point, and honestly, I’m not sure how I feel about that. Like 2012′s Retro City Rampage, it’s clear that the team behind Blood Dragon grew up with their hands glued to NES controllers and their eyes fixated on cheesy action movies. The question is, can Ubisoft back up their pastiche with any real substance?
Blood Dragon begins with a shockingly linear sequence which made me immediately fear that Far Cry’s iconic expansive environments were going to be replaced with claustrophobic corridors. The opening is a limited and confining series of tutorials and dry encounters. Admittedly the self-reference in the tutorial points to Ubisoft’s willingness to make fun of themselves, but the opening 30 minutes left me fearing the worst. Thankfully this prologue is merely an entryway into a much more compelling world. Once you get past the disappointing opening, Blood Dragon bares its teeth and reveals just why it deserves to be called a Far Cry game.
With your hero stranded in a neon-tinted prehistoric wasteland, the experience becomes a familiar open world affair with one major addition: the titular beasts that roam the environment are simultaneously a grave threat and your most useful weapon. If you don’t tread carefully near the laser-firing lizards, you’ll quickly find yourself torn to shreds. But using the various cybernetic hearts that you cultivate (read: rip out) from the bodies of your enemies, you can take control of the beasts and use them in a variety of tactical ways.
…you can take control of the beasts and use them in a variety of tactical ways.
There’s a ton of potential to be had in using the Blood Dragons to your advantage while raiding a garrison. In the brief time I spent in the world, I managed to lure a pack of the critters to the walls of an encampment, where they proceeded to wreak havoc eye-laser-style on my enemies. This gave me the perfect opportunity to slink in through the back, take out some distracted guards with stealth kills, and eventually gain control over the entire compound. This skirmish could’ve played out in dozens of ways, and I can’t wait to dig in and start playing around in Ubisoft’s sandbox.
While I’m absolutely on board with Blood Dragon’s mechanics and systems, I’m still not completely sold on the unrelenting homage to the ’80s. The over-the-top 8-bit cutscenes start off as charming, but I quickly grew tired of the sheer bulk in which they were delivered. It felt like half of the game’s first hour was dedicated to exposition, which quickly became overbearing. Their presence seemed to only exist as a reminder that the ’80s were once a thing, as opposed to the homage and nostalgia adding anything substantial to the final product.
We’ll have to wait and see if Blood Dragon’s familiar mechanics, self reference, and nostalgic madness are able to maintain their posture throughout the campaign’s entirety.
Marty Sliva is an Associate Editor at IGN. He really hopes that the next Prince of Persia is directly inspired by Purple Rain. Follow him on Twitter @McBiggitty and on IGN.
By Marty Sliva