Platforms: PC, Playstation 3, and Xbox 360 (reviewed)
Blood Dragon is quite the sales pitch for Far Cry 3. While the first two Far Cry games didn’t do much that I felt like latching onto them, I never even gave the third entry a try. After putting in six or eight hours into Blood Dragon, I might have to reconsider that choice.
Blood Dragon is a standalone game that uses Far Cry 3 as its base to build with. What it builds is a dark world with neon highlights, wonderfully juvenile humor, and some over the top action that’s rather hard to resist. I think I’m right in the demographic that this was aimed at: in my early 30’s and grew up loving 80’s sci-fi and action flicks. Hell, the character that you play as is voiced by and resembles (the little you see of him in the NES-era Ninja Gaiden-esque cutscenes) Michael Biehn (Kyle Reese from Terminator and Corporal Dwanye Hicks in Aliens). He’s got a little of that gravel voice that’s become fairly prevalent for protagonists in both games and movies lately, but that might have more to do with age than any sort of artistic choice (or it’s another tongue-in-cheek choice).
Instead of dropping you into a lush, huge world like Far Cry 3, you’re set in a large, but much more compact island that’s perpetually dark and stormy and full of neon highlights. It’s not the prettiest of worlds, but there are some ruins sprinkled throughout to give the world a little more flavor. Grass is also flammable, making for some rather impressive and, at times, dangerous brush fires.
When you begin the over the top action, you’re dropped into a rather humorous tutorial, literally freezing you in place making you perform actions before being allowed anything resembling control. Even the onscreen prompts and loading screens that give you progress cues are snarky and fairly self-aware that this is a ride not to be taken with any amount of seriousness.
Once you go through the introduction, you’re stripped of all but the most basic of your abilities and quickly introduced to the enemies that bear the game’s name, the Blood Dragons. The Blood Dragons look like a cross between a dinosaur, a crocodile, and the terror warning color system that the US used to use. While these things are ferocious looking, their weak spot is highlighted quite obviously, making them more easily taken down as you regain your abilities and upgrade your weapons. Their attacks are quite deadly, either thrashing at you with their claws or mouths or shooting lasers out of their eyes.
Blood Dragons are best avoided early on, which is fairly easy to do by crouching when near them, as they have poor eyesight and you can be right on top of them and they’ll mosey right by you. You can also use them to your advantage by throwing cyber hearts, their favorite food, and they’ll quickly run after them. This also turns out to be a fairly useful attack strategy, as your enemies don’t seem to have figured out they can avoid them.
There’s other wildlife to be found in the world aside from the Blood Dragons. While ranging from docile, only attacking when provoked, or downright aggressive, there isn’t too much need to interact with them. You won’t gain anything beyond a very small amount of experience and credits for killing them, so passing them by is normally the best option.
Aside from the story beats that lead you, Sergeant Rex Power Colt, on your quest to take down Colonel Sloan before he nukes the world, there are side missions to do. Sadly, their variety is quite limited as you’ll only find yourself hunting either certain enemies or animals with specific weapons, rescuing hostages, or liberating command posts (which act as fast travel points). There are also TV sets, VCR tapes, and notes to be found as the game’s collectibles (which is a point vocally mocked by Colt).
Completing the side missions and gathering the collectibles do allow access to more upgrades for your weapons. There are your basic upgrades like bigger magazines and a better scope for your sniper rifle, but the more ridiculous upgrades are where it’s at. You can upgrade your assault rifle to shoot lasers, your sniper rifle to shoot explosive rounds, and your shotgun to have up to four barrels and shoot incendiary rounds. While none are necessary to complete the game, you’ll have a hell of a lot more fun with these weapons.
The only thing I can really fault Blood Dragon for is its length. To nail everything down, including the achievements/trophies, you’re looking at around eight hours. You’re free to wander around the world once Sloan is taken out and finish up stuff you missed, but there’s nothing really driving you to go beyond the main story aside from clean up.
The story is ridiculous, but intentionally so. The writing is either going to grab you or repulse you, as it stays juvenile and crass throughout your playthrough. The gunplay starts out serviceable and evolves to downright fun as you upgrade your weapons. The world does get a little tiresome to look at as the variety is minimal. Piece by piece, Blood Dragon doesn’t seem like anything special. Roll these elements up and you’re looking at one of the most enjoyable and fun titles I’ve played this year. If the humor doesn’t grab you when you play the demo, you’ll probably be better served moving on. However, if you enjoy what you play in the demo, it’s a perfect slice of what’s to come. If you fall into the latter category, you’ll be well served buying in, because once the ride is over, you’ll wish there was more to it. And that’s the only thing holding it back from getting a five-star rating. As it is, I can’t recommend Blood Dragon enough, even if it does leave long before its welcome has worn out.