Review: Far Cry 3 Blood Dragon
Nostalgia for the 80s is unique in how it has evolved into something wholly unique and almost separate from its source. It’s less Breakfast Club and more Cobra, less hair metal and more synthwave, less Thunder Cats and more weird anime movies that played late at night. In the gaming world this retro-futurism didn’t start with Blood Dragon but it was definitely fueled by it, scattering outwards from the neon scanlined action of this stand-alone expansion to racing sims, arcade shooters, and more. And while this one is limited by its scope and ambition, there’s no denying that it’s a damn good time so long as the nostalgia holds.
In the far-flung year of 2007, nuclear war has led to the rise of a new breed of soldier, the Cyber Commando. Sergeant Rex Power Colt and his wise-crackin’ partner Spider have been dispatched to a remote island where their old commander, Colonel Sloan, is cooking up a classic world-threatening plot. The mission goes to hell and Rex finds himself stranded on the island, facing legions of cyber soldiers and the massive, ravenous blood dragons, with his only support being the turncoat Dr. Darling. Fortunately for the world, Rex is the only dude bad enough to blast his way through Sloan’s forces and put an end to the threat of the blood dragons for good.
That probably sounds like one of the fluff pieces you used to get on the back of G.I.JOE packages, because that’s exactly what Blood Dragon is going for. This is a send-up of every 80s action trope you can think of, from training montages and awkward sex scenes to riding into battle on the back of a cyber-dragon. It’s not reverent in the least, mind you; Blood Dragon is a full-on parody, poking fun at over-dramatized cutscenes and unnecessary violence. Rex cracks cheesy one-liners constantly, and when he isn’t he’s playing genre-savy with the neon action.
As a retro parody, Blood Dragon has its ups and downs. The biggest up is easily the aesthetic, with everything coated in neon, over-saturated with color, and lightly scrambled with a VHS filter. It goes deeper than that, though, with a sparsely-covered island and ominous crimson skies that call to mind early attempts at computer graphics. The game feels like an 80s fever dream, like a synth mix album cover, though the action is pulled straight from Far Cry 3 as the name implies. It loses something in the transfer, though, limiting your weapons to just four and streamlining the gameplay to just a few plot missions, a handful of strongholds to topple, and a fraction of the collectibles to find. The sparseness of the island isn’t just aesthetic, there’s very little to do and you can easily 100% the game in around six hours.
The combat is still top-notch, though, giving you all the takedowns and gunplay you’ve come to expect with a few little tweaks thrown in. You can run and jump much faster than in FC3, which helps speed up combat and travel significantly. Chaining takedowns is something you can do right from the start, and the throwing knife is replaced with a neon shuriken in case you doubted the commitment to the joke here. There’s also a neat mechanic with the mighty blood dragons, where you can rip cyber hearts out of soldiers and chuck them to summon the beasts on a rampage, a preview of the animal chaos you can sow later in the series.
It’s not the smartest or the deepest game, but Blood Dragon is a great way to extend the action of Far Cry 3. Don’t expect too much from the parody aspect, as it’ll probably have you smirking the whole way through as opposed to belly-laughing. Expect everything and then some from the look and feel though, because the visual design is killer and the combat’s as good as ever, if a bit limited. I’m not sure this would have worked as a bigger game but it’s fine just the way it is, a bit of retro-futuristic silliness propped up by solid gunplay and the best neon money can buy.