I've always looked at the Far Cry series a bit skeptically. To me, it's always seemed as though Ubisoft didn't really know where they were going with the titles. The first Far Cry follows a lone mercenary as he commits genocide on an army of guns for hire in the tropic. Far Cry 2 was more or less “Driving Simulator, Malaria Edition”. Then last year, Far Cry 3 was released. A title where you got to decide if you wanted to be a socially detached modern-day Vietnam veteran, or get stabbed in the chest by an extremely hot island warrior. Honestly, they're titles that I've always wanted to like, but they've always disappointed me.
I was ready to write off the Far Cry series as something not worth putting on my Christmas wish list until the announcement of Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon. A standalone downloadable game that was set to make a mockery of 80's sci-fi, Blood Dragon seemed oddly different from the series. It took itself a bit less seriously than previous titles and genuinely seemed bent on having fun. This was something I could get behind as one of my guilty pleasures are games that don't take themselves seriously. Knowing off the follies of the previous Far Cry titles, I approaches Blood Dragon with a bit of hesitation. I wasn't ready for my young maiden's heart to be broken again.
OH COOL, A DRAGON
A Shooter For Those Tired of Shooters - I've been giving up on shooting titles as of late. The vast majority of them seem to revolve around diving from cover to cover between bursts of regenerating health, and blasting through waves of human enemies, with minimal variety. Blood Dragon would appear to be designed for gamers like me, because everything is fresh. Yes, it's a shooter, but it's a GOOD shooter. The entire game is designed around the aspect of being a good shooting game with limited flash. The campaign is not just a showcase and baseboard for the multiplayer as it is in Call of Duty or Halo, Blood Dragon’s campaign IS the game’s focus. This makes sense as there isn’t a multiplayer. Yes, it's VHS sci-fi comedy, but at its core, it's a legitimately good shooter.
Not Serious - It seems with games these days, you get one of two options. You get a hilarious, but bad game like Impire, or you get a well-designed game that lacks personality, like Metal Gear Rising: Revengance. Blood Dragon seems to have found a happy medium between the two as the title is both funny and well designed. The humor compliments the game incredibly well, and the satire is fresh. There were multiple occasions where I had to pause the game because I was laughing too hard to aim straight.
What cracks me up the most about this story is that I could see this being an actual plot for a 1980s sci-fi action movie. A cyber commando with the latest technological specs is sent on a mission to bring a terrorist to justice. When he arrives, he gets ambushed and has to then make up for his mistake, helping a local resistance, and ultimately fixing his first screw-up by bringing this villain to justice. Seriously, if Schwarzenegger had found time in his busy 80s schedule of making movies like Predator and Running Man, and Kurt Russell wasn’t busy making the best sci-fi movie ever, Escape from New York, this game could very well have been a movie.
Sparkly - At first glance, it's perfectly clear that this title pokes fun at sci-fi movies like the original Tron and The Running Man. These graphics are spot on and don't get in the way of the gameplay in the slightest. The random lasers and neon jumpsuits are a fresh break away from realistic armor and modern weaponry. To put it simply, these are the kind of designs that Isaac Asimov has dreams about.
Retro, with Modern Controls - It's always nice when a company does controls right. Sure, it's pretty standard for most games to understand WASD makes your character move, and left click shoots things, but it's just refreshing to play a game that understands that. Blood Dragon doesn't try to be special with its control scheme, it simply says “Here you go pal. This is like every other game you've ever played.”
FREAKING DRAGONS! - It may be a silly gimmick, but super powerful neon dragons is one of the selling points to this title, and it's pretty interesting to see how they were implemented. These blood dragons are on no one's side, and invoking them to assist you is a double-edged sword. On one hand, they make quick work of security. On the other, getting them out of the base after their rampage is done can be a bit of a nightmare. It was a pretty interesting move to have super powerful neutral enemies, and it's definitely paid off.
IT ATE MY HAND
Useless Guns - It took me all of two hours to disregard all the guns in the inventory and stick to the knife and bow. The guns just aren't that powerful, and I quickly grew tired of entering entire clips into enemy's motorcycle helmets. The wisest solution quickly became using the recyclable bow ammo to go about murdering everything, while my knife handled the up-close-n-personal work for me.
Where's the Multiplayer? - Perhaps my only fond memory of a Far Cry title before Blood Dragon was the ridiculous multiplayer from the first title. Getting together with a couple of friends and designing completely ridiculous maps was a great way to spend a night. Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon, while an amazing single player game lacks any multiplayer whatsoever. Maybe asking for multiplayer for a $15 standalone game is being too greedy, but I would rather have a Blood Dragon sci-fi multiplayer than the CoD-esque multiplayer of Far Cry 3.
I can honestly say that I was pleasantly surprised by Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon. As a standalone expansion pack, it's better than Far Cry 3 in almost every way. It's hilarious, fun, and overall well designed. Sure there are some issues, and I wish there was a bit more content, but seeing as it's a $15 title, I can't really complain. A great game for someone who still doesn't want to drop money for the full Far Cry 3, and a perfect choice for someone who wants to play a great shooter.
*This review was based on the PC version of the game with a review code provided by the publisher.*