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Review

Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon Review

  • Game release: April 30, 2013
  • Reviewed: April 30, 2013
  • X360
Aaron Sampson on Google+

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

by

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.

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."

Given how it can fire lasers from its eyes, a blood dragon will always win this staring contest.

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.

Where base capture is concerned, green is good.

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.

You'll be glad of those enhancements, too, particularly when coming face-to-face with one of the game's titular blood dragons. These beasts are dinosaurs that shoot laser beams from their eyes, and they're a wonder to behold in action. As it turns out, it's not as difficult as you might think to take one down, but the first time you learn of the dragons, you sneak by a trio of them and then witness one zap a bunch of enemy combatants into dust. You might be engulfed by terror the first time you go head-to-head with one, but dragons are only major threats on hard difficulty.

Too many wasted bullets. On this occasion, a well-tossed grenade is the better option.

They're still fun to face as you roam the open-air island, though, even on medium difficulty. They charge toward you when you make your presence known and give you a powerful swat, and then they rear up before firing their eye-lasers at you, giving you a chance to sprint out of the way. Several story missions have you facing one or two of them in closer quarters than usual, which ramps up the tension. The only downside to facing a blood dragon is the actual act of defeating it: the dragon simply disappears into thin air and an explosion of goo follows, but without any animations or effects tying the two events together. It's an anticlimactic end to a hectic battle.

Such battles are made more hectic when you simultaneously confront gunners and snipers, but in this case, you can toss the gooey hearts you collect from downed foes to direct the dragon's attention toward your enemies. It's a distinct pleasure to watch dragons scoop up adversaries with their mouths and chomp away, and in the case of a facility takeover, you might get a dragon to do all the legwork for you. You're just as likely to charge into battle yourself, however, if for no other reason than to enjoy the solid shooting, or to take an entirely stealthy approach. Just like its forebears, Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon makes any approach viable and fun.

In fact, getting all sneaky is more satisfying here than in the original Far Cry 3, in part because you can perform chained takedowns from the very beginning. It's a gruesome delight to stab multiple enemies in a row, and then finish off one final soldier with the throw of a shuriken. Blood Dragon's multilevel bases are larger than Far Cry 3's outposts, and enemies are spaced out in sensible ways, allowing you to move in for the silent kill using a number of different approaches. In a few levels, enemy animations can go missing, or a hulking soldier might unnaturally zoom into a different location, which can trip up your plans. Thankfully, such instances are rare, and aren't likely to dilute the stealthy satisfaction.

Nice bionic eye, Rex!

You could charge through Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon in four hours or so if you are determined, but why rush such a great thing? There's joy in the discovery. Finding all those videotapes isn't busywork for busywork's sake, after all: there's a hysterical film description in it for you, and maybe a weapon upgrade to boot. You could easily double those hours if you go in search of every collectible, perform every side mission, and take down a few dozen dragons along the way. You don't have to love the decade of Rubik's Cubes and Pac-Man Fever to get a kick out of Blood Dragon. But if you do, then all the better: this action-packed shooter will strike all the right synth-pop power chords.

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
8.5
Great
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Discussion

315 comments
SsangyongKYRON
SsangyongKYRON

Great score for an incredible game. Totally worth the money.

I am eagerly waiting for a sequel. Ubisoft, please make that happen.

advocacy
advocacy

The Steam version has issues because of uPlay.  (Check the Steam forums of this game before buying it.) Consider before buying.

cjtopspin
cjtopspin

For those 30-something year old gamers out there this game will dig up a ton of good memories.  This is what Duke Nukem should have been.  Very well done game.

noname696969
noname696969

Not related to this subject... I think it would be absolutely perfect if the new TMNT would be made with this exact 80's vibe...with the same level of grafics and colors. wouldnt that be legendary?

Emerald_Scott
Emerald_Scott

Kevin should've done this review Mark IV style! :)

WillyWynn
WillyWynn

stop complaining and buy this, cost like 10/15 bucks or something loool, for this price is just one of the best deals in the last 15 years for more lol... I beat the game already and i can say, who likes halo or far cry, will like this game. This game is a Far cry when meets halo, some kind of mix from both games in 1. And that is not a bad thing, actually is a awesome thing xD

B_STATS
B_STATS

Yeah whatever Ubisoft. Now can you keep patching and adding to the REAL Far Cry 3 game?

eyematter
eyematter

I think this game looks dumb

hyumbaba
hyumbaba

Far Cry 3 was 2012 game of the year.

dawn on VGA.

3v1LR0n1N
3v1LR0n1N

I loved the original farcry 3 and the 80s/early 90s movies and such.... so i was sure i would totally love this game :) and of course i did i 100% it my first play through  and still want more. i hope it did well enough for a sequel

hordicus
hordicus

the best game ubi soft ever published and the first one i buy from them.

nuff said^^

Godendag
Godendag

Am I the only one who awaits full length game featuring Sgt Rex Power Colt in a year or two.

JoshDPU
JoshDPU

Great value for the content (bought it yesterday). The final story missions are hilarious and an absolute blast!

theblackfrog
theblackfrog

this is the real deal, the duke nukem how it should be!!! one of the best games or shooters i have ever played. im amazed, well played ubisoft, well played. if u are an 80 kid u should grab it but even of not the game itself is very good...nah, its magnificent

" i hate tutorials and this one sucks" :D

Thumbler76
Thumbler76

Bougth this game on the fly, basing on the review and on the comments. I've never been a Far Cry fan, but this hits my curiosity!

Joedgabe
Joedgabe

Good bye zombie era.. hello!!! dinosaurs!  I'm glad a game is finally showing how awesome they are!! reminds me of the old turok games... ohh good times!

toshineon
toshineon

I love this game, it really gives you a shitload of content for only 15 bucks. Played through this game and loved every second of it.

001011000101101
001011000101101

Not really my style. I respect it as an excellent piece of DLC though, don't get me wrong. This is how it should be done. Not just 3-4 maps, where two of them are remakes.

Vambran
Vambran

This looks better than Far Cry 3.  I only played Far Cry 1 and lost interest in the sequels. But this is a buy for me.

OuroborosChoked
OuroborosChoked

What's up with Montreal lately?  That city has been pumping out nothing but awesome in the past few years: Deus Ex: Human Revolution, Watch Dogs is coming soon, this, Eidos Montreal is working on Thief 4...

Is there LSD in the water supply or something?

ilantis
ilantis

My reaction after playing the demo: "this game........................................................................................................................... 

IS FUC**ING AWWWEEEESSSSOOOOOOOOOMMMMMMMMEEEEE" 

*starts jumping around and bashing the head against the wall*

quakke
quakke

To be honest. Im very supprised in a positive way that this game managed to get such good score. Maybe now those POS fps's like CoD will finally die extinct.

This is game actually shows to other devs what is a real DLC.

clockworkengine
clockworkengine

This reviewer must never have listened to The Seeds of Love, a record from Tears For Fears.

NTM23
NTM23

@shadow_MetroidIt's one of the funnest and funniest games of the year with one of the greatest soundtracks as well, but its 8.0 is warranted. It doesn't have many problems (certainly for the price), that's not why it's an 8.0, but it could be more, and not every great aspect hits the highs every time. 

Anyone that's into a mix of '80s and FPS' should definitely buy this, and hope for an eventual sequel that excels even beyond what the first did. I should mention, just because a game gets an overall score, doesn't mean certain aspects don't reach the line of being superb.

NTM23
NTM23

@B_STATS Meh. Honestly, this game's better, to me at least.

NTM23
NTM23

@eyematter You need to play it, you're missing out, unless you hate FPS' and the '80s.

quakke
quakke

@eyematter 

Yeah, because having lame concrete setting that is only grey colored with some "too much already seen" enemies is soo much better?

 Yes. CoD indeed.

 BURY CoD

quakke
quakke

@hordicus 

I don't think this is best (most creative definately), but best title goes to either Splinter Cell Chaos Theory or Far Cry 1.

theCCyberDDemon
theCCyberDDemon

@GodendagBut thats exactly the problem i think. A full length game demands a lot of the audience's tendencies and since the most players of today are young, the 80s look may work with older dudes like me, but fail with their corporate target (our kiddos)  Honestly, the game is fun so no matter what age the gamer have, it may work well. Anyway for the non-80s i can only say that the exaggerated cyber-square-looking can look a bit ridiculous, but it isn't. I want Sgt Rex on his own, the faster the better.

Verenti
Verenti

@Godendag No, my potentially Dutch speaking friend. I want Michael Biehn to star in every science fiction game I play from now until the end of time. Also Blood Dragon 2: The Revenge of Sloan. I've already dreamed up a ... dream plot involving a Richard Crenna like character, Rex being forced into action to deal with a platoon of rogue Mk.V Cyber Commandos, who have been hijacked by a Soviet robot, who came back from the future and has kidnapped the president and is holding on an island in the Canadian wasteland. Rex Power Colt is pressed back into service, and he has 48 hours to rescue the president before MAD sets in.

poster012
poster012

@Thumbler76 I never played the first Far Cry. I didn't really care for the second one, but I liked Far Cry 3. Blood Dragon, however takes the cake. It has many of the same mechanics as Far Cry 3 (which I thought were solid), and injects it with liquid 80's awesome. As long as you don't hate FPS or humor, then this game is a pretty good buy.

Doc_Fulk
Doc_Fulk

@green_scorpion You have NO idea how right you are!

"Class of 81"!

49 years young and still gaming on!

:P

theblackfrog
theblackfrog

@quakke its not a DLC, its a full standalone title, thats a difference. but you are right, u get a lot for 15 bucks.....a full game

WowCanUNot
WowCanUNot

@kbzon312 @refusedairwaves Wow...You must really be crucial with people.
What ever happened to "Friendship is magic" or whatever that little girl TV show has been teaching?

Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon More Info

First Release on Apr 30, 2013
  • PC
  • PlayStation 3
  • Xbox 360
Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon is a spin-off that contains around eight hours of original content and features a single open-world island to explore, with many of Far Cry 3's gameplay systems and mechanics making a return.
8.1
Average User RatingOut of 591 User Ratings
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Developed by:
Ubisoft Montreal
Published by:
Ubisoft
Genres:
First-Person, Team-Based, 3D, Shooter, Action
Content is generally suitable for ages 17 and up. May contain intense violence, blood and gore, sexual content and/or strong language.
Mature
All Platforms
Blood, Nudity, Sexual Content, Strong Language, Violence