At any point whilst playing Far Cry 3 did you ever stop and say to yourself: Gee, I wonder what this game would be like if I were a cyber commando running around in a twice apocalyptic ruined world (that's right, the apocalypse had an apocalypse!) gunning/stabbing cyborg soldiers and hunting all sorts of mechanical and/or mutated wildlife. If the answer is yes, then Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon is the game for you! First thought to be an April fools joke, Blood Dragon is a stand-alone... expansion(?) for Far Cry 3, developed by Ubisoft Montreal.
In a post-apocalyptic future of 2007, where VHS and 8-Track tapes seem to be very much alive and dominant, you are Sergeant Rex "Power" Colt, a Mark IV Cyber Commando sent to infiltrate an island inhabited by a group of terrorist cyborgs led by the now rogue Colonel Sloan, your former commander.
The story to Blood Dragon is pretty straight forward and is really reminiscent of old 80's action movies and is in no way connected to the recent Far Cry entry. You're a testosterone fueled badass who's on a mission to kill bad guys, save the world and in the end win the heart of the girl at the center of it all. Let's put it this way, it's kind of like mixing together Terminator, Robocop, Rambo (or Cobra, take your pick) and Commando into a blender and the end result being something almost similar to Blood Dragon.
Blood Dragon not only shares the Far Cry 3 name, but also shares the same gameplay and controls, as you might have already expected. Everything you were able to do in Far Cry 3 you'll find yourself being able to do once again, with a few tweaks and minor differences. One difference is that since you are now more machine than man, you are now immune to fall damage and drowning. Rex wouldn't be much of a badass if he were to die from just a little swimming or tripping and falling down 50 meters, c'mon now.
That aside, there's also the shooting of guns... in the first person perspective. You're allowed up to 4 weapons and 3 explosives on your person at a time. Weaponry come in familiar forms: you have your pistol, shotgun, assault rifle, sniper, etc. Weapons are there for those who like to channel their inner Rambo and approach every mission in a 'shoot first and ask questions never' manner. I found shooting to be a little difficult at first, as I was mostly spraying bullets all over the place, but once I was able to upgrade my weapons further it became more manageable and easier to hit my targets with better precision. But if you're like me, the option to strike down your foes without them ever seeing you like so much Predator is also present, which is how I spent most of my time with Blood Dragon.
During the comical self-aware tutorial you're given a preview of the many ways you can incorporate stealth into your current mission objective. Just like in Far Cry 3 you can distract nearby enemies to look the other way long enough to assassinate them. Rather than throwing a rock, Rex opts for a d20 dice (Dungeons and Dragons dice) for which he is teased and called a nerd for having. Should there be multiple enemies in your way, you can perform a series of chained assassinations by tilting the left stick in the direction of the enemy you want to see dead. In addition to these chained stabs if an enemy is too far away to be included in said stab party, you can press the right trigger to throw a ninja star right at their head. Seeing this performed in succession is so satisfying, and easily my favorite part when choosing a stealth approach. You can further enhance your stealthy approach by choosing to use the bow you're given later as a way to quietly take out enemies from a distance. It is highly recommended that you give stealth a chance when choosing a play style that suits you, as I found it the definitive way to play.
There's plenty of side missions to be completed and collectibles to be found after you've tucked Sloan away six feet under. I was able to complete the main story in under 3 hours with with some minor exploration done once or twice. It might seem short but I found the campaign to be at a perfect length for the story Blood Dragon had in mind, any longer and it would have just kept dragging on. Some of the side missions have you killing selected targets with specific weapons, saving captured scientist, or clearing out enemy outposts which grant access to the side missions and enable fast travel once occupied. You can also upgrade your weapons from the outposts which unlock once side missions have been completed or when you have found a certain number of collectibles, which come in the form of television sets and VHS tapes.
Wildlife is also present throughout the island much like in Far Cry 3, except these animals are more robotic and neon strapped than what you're used to seeing. From cyber tigers and panthers, to robo sharks and alligators, there's plenty of game here for your hunting enjoyment. Of course, these pose no real threat to someone like Rex, which is why added into the mix are blood dragons. These large Komodo dragon-like creatures inhabit the island and provide a greater challenge when hunting, but the best part is that you can use them as weapons against your enemies. After killing cyborg enemies you can rip out their hearts and use them to bait blood dragons near enemies. It's so much fun sitting back and watching a blood dragon annihilate an enemy outpost for you with it's laser eyes.
Visually, Blood Dragon is extraordinarily different than what you would come to expect in a Far Cry game. In lieu of a sunny tropical island, you are presented with a darker version of the same island with a large emphasis on brightly colored neon lights to help cement it's 80's retro motif. Although I found myself really liking the environment at first, I quickly found myself wishing that the clouded red sky would at least part from time to time to let in a little sun light here and there, but I suppose such a luxury is non-existent when the planet has been brutalized by apocalyptic events. Enemies are also adorned with neon and will change colors when they are alerted of your presence. For a post-apocalyptic island, it sure becomes colorful when engaged in gun battle. It's like watching a neon fueled version of Terminator.
Speaking of which, one of the earlier missions has music that is very much inspired by Terminator. Blood Dragon's soundtrack is composed by none other than Power Glove and, I know I say this a lot, is easily one of the best videogame soundtracks of all time. The music during the closing credits and in one of the 80's montage cut-scenes is especially enjoyable to hear. And if that isn't enough, Rex is voiced by none other than Michael Biehn who played Kyle Reese in Terminator. Even the voice work screams 80's as you hear so many catchy one-liners and puns throughout the games entirety.
Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon is a fun and enjoyable experience filled with many laughs from beginning to end. Far Cry 3 is not required to enjoy all that Blood Dragon has to give, which only makes you wonder even more why the name is even attached to the title at all. I know I've been referencing old 80's movies like Terminator throughout the review, but that's really where this game draws most of it's inspiration from. Blood Dragon really pays tribute to the VHS era in the best way possible. Even the trailer to the game is filled with Saturday morning cartoon nostalgia. If that trailer or this review doesn't sell you on Blood Dragon, I don't know what will.
This review is based on a digital download copy of the game for Xbox 360 provided by Ubisoft.