For a game that’s selling itself to be more RADICAL and BADASS than MC Hammer
doing a kickflip while wearing wrap-around sunglasses and listening to Turtle Power,
Blood Dragon plays things pretty conservatively. If you saw the marketing and
wondered just exactly what Far Cry had to do with Tron-style future-shocks –
apart from just using the name, like using someone elses’ ID to buy Predator on VHS
– you’ll know after a few minutes play. For all of the impact the new visuals have –
and there’s no denying they’re as atmospheric as they are stylish – underneath this
is still Far Cry 3, just remixed, rejigged and streamlined to accommodate a faster
pace and smaller island.
In Blood Dragon, you ARE Sgt Rex ‘Power’ Colt, and THIS SUMMER, you WILL kill
everyone and everything, in a moody, post-apocalyptic America that has been
reconstructed using only ’80s action movie tropes and GI Joe levels of morality. In
this version of 2007 the US and Russia have nuked themselves silly, and now only
Rex can stop a rogue US soldier creating a new world order. With dragon blood and
The game starts with a helicopter-based minigun deathfest to the strains of
Predator’s Long Tall Sally, the first of many, many movie references. If it came out
in the ’80s and featured a man with a body bigger than a Buick firing a gun bigger
than his body, then it’s here. Anyone who grew up on a filmic diet of steroid-addled
MurderDeathKill will feel right at home, with a terriffic soundtrack rounding it all off.
As befits an ass-kicking cyberwarrior from the future, Rex couldn’t be more different
to that communist Brody, and as such while the core of the game is the same –
travel around, hunt animals, liberate bases, sometimes actually do a mission – the
way in which Rex levels is different. There’s no time to be wasted crafting wallets
and backpacks here. Instead, the (cyber) animal hunting, item gathering and
hostage rescuing elements of the open world all feed into a weapon/skill unlock
system. It has to be far more linear than Brody’s tattoo tree, and it is.
In fact, I’m tempted to say that I prefer the way it’s done here. Your XP bar fills
with every radical thing you do, and your new weapon set (which includes a
minigun) lets you wreak havoc in a way that wasn’t really possible before.
Exploration, too, still has the same OCD-bothering appeal as before: I found myself
trekking around, attempting to track down VHS tapes and TV sets to boost my
stats and unlock cool new gear for my weapons.
So: it’s Far Cry 3, but with Terminator/Aliens star Michael Biehn spouting one liners,
8-Bit graphics panels telling the story and everything exploding all the time. Which
is wonderful: Ubisoft’s open world is a great template to work from, and Blood
Dragon is a lot of fun. If anything my main concerns come from the fact that
Ubisoft doesn’t go far enough with the nonsense. The developer has pulled
inspiration from dozens of movies, each of which are little more than bullet strewn
set-pieces of increasing intensity. So it’s a shame that in Blood Dragon you’ll be
repeating the same general mission loop from the start until the end: go to place on
the map, liberate samey looking environment, repeat to fade.
Given the sheer silliness of its inspirations, Ubisoft could have done anything here,
and bar a late-game change of pace (which is underwhelming) the decision to rinse
and repeat the mission structure is a bit of a blow, especially in a game so over-
the-top. For all the lip service paid to how spectacularly stupid the game is, this is
still Far Cry 3. You still have a bow, and weapons still run out of ammo (has Ubi not
seen any of these films? Weapons never run out of ammo.)
Speaking of your guns, why is there still a weapon limit? Anyone that has seen
Commando will know that one man can carry every gun ever made about his
person, as long as he believes in America. Similarly, why do defeated goons just fall
over when shot? Why aren’t they pirouetting and backflipping like an episode of the
A-Team where the bad guys are the Russian Ballet supporting Diversity on tour?
Other issues compound this problem. The perma-dark nature of the world offers
little variety and the Blood Dragons themselves are pretty boring, both in design
and combat, which is a sentence that should never be written.
It’s slightly disappointing, but I found myself returning to Blood Dragon after I’d
finished it. The compulsive appeal of the parent game carries over, and it’s nice to
play a sci-fi shooter that’s not trying to tell a so-called ‘epic’ story. Here you shoot
people, a lot, and for most of its short running time that’s good fun.
Version Tested: Xbox 360
Finished the campaign and half the side missions in around 4 hours.