Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon Review — Biehn There, Gunned That
Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon is set in the the barely conceivable, far-flung future: 2007. Nuclear war has turned most of the world (and particularly Canada) into a smoking, radioactive ruin. Underemployed action vet Michael Biehn plays hero Sergeant Rex “Power” Colt, a grizzled cyborg commando with the Terminator’s hand and Kano’s eye. He’s on a mission; it goes bad. A madman threatens what little life is left on Earth. There is a sexy scientist with perfect ’80s hair. That’s all you need to know.
Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon
Platforms: PC (Reviewed), Xbox 360 (XBLA), Playstation 3 (PSN)
Developer: Ubisoft Montreal
Released: April 30, 2013
Well, almost all. Blood Dragon is Far Cry 3 as imagined by way of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s polo shirt at the beginning of Predator. If you know Far Cry 3, you’ll recognize an open world with many similar elements, including side-missions to complete, strongholds to assault, vehicles to drive and even rogue animals to fight. Much like Red Dead Redemption’s “Undead Nightmare” DLC, you might think of Blood Dragon as a different movie on the same set. Or in this case, a different set but with the same open-world first-person shooter mechanics.
With one eye glowing purple, Rex Colt’s got some mechanics of his own. Biehn’s voice-acting has improved since his wretched outing in Aliens: Colonial Marines, and here he’s clearly in on the joke, poking fun at his macho ’80s persona. Most of the dialogue is deliberately terrible, though some of Colt’s one-liners — delivered in a Snake Plissken-style whisper-growl — are genuinely funny. The problem when trying to review Blood Dragon is the way the developers have managed to lodge their tongues so far and so firmly into their cheeks. You’re never sure when the game’s failing on purpose: was that line reading stilted by accident, or by design?
It’s a handy defense mechanism for a title to have, even if it does recall the way that writer Jeffrey Yohalem deflected every criticism of the original Far Cry 3 with grand statements about “meta-commentary.” This time, at least, the audience isn’t in danger of missing the joke.
There’s that logo, glittering pixel-chrome and lipstick-pink paint. Instead of a “loading” screen, the game opts for “tracking,” sputtering static like an ancient VCR. Cut-scenes shrink the game to an obsolete resolution, filling the reduced space with lovingly hand-drawn cliches and hilarious, cumbersome animations.
Too often, though, the game’s humor is trying way too hard. Hyper-literal tooltips (“Handguns are guns small enough to fit in your hand”) take aim at conventional game design behavior for which developers have only themselves to blame. Shouted references to popular ’80s movies (“I must break you!”) begin to take the place of actual jokes.
Running and gunning in this neon-noir fantasy land still feels fantastic, at least at first. During gameplay, the color palette is a riot of mauve and magenta, split by neon tracers, electric blue blood, and the crack of lightning in the night sky. If you gave Michael Mann Tony Montana’s desktop pile of cocaine and asked him to direct a gun battle inside a rave inside the the end of the world, it might look a little like Blood Dragon.
After a while, though, it all starts to feel a little repetitive. The original Far Cry 3 had a similar problem, with an endless supply of lush tropical forests and crystalline waters, but little else. Blood Dragon mostly provides grassy, nocturnal hills and identical, interchangeable lairs (bases, research stations, missile silos). The cliched hideouts may be part of the joke, but the joke’s returns diminish quickly.
One exception is the garrison system, which preserves the original game’s most popular feature. Thirteen cyborg strongholds dot the map, putting Far Cry 3′s boring (albeit heavily armed) shantytowns to shame with a variety of striking designs. Kill the garrisoned troops inside, and Colt can fast-travel to that location, restock items at the store, and pick up side-quests from the amusingly named “adventure cabinet.”