May 12, 2013
America needs a winner, and winners don't use drugs. You are
Call me old fashioned, but the premise of playing a privileged preppy white kid who survives a harsh pirate wilderness never appealed to me. Needless to say, the original Far Cry 3 didn't really appeal to me. But a chance to play as a cyber commando in a sci-fi '80s B-movie fueled badland with a rockin' soundtrack by personal fave, Power Glove (not to be confused with the game cover speed metal band PowerGlove)? Chances like these happen only once in a gamer's lifetime.
Blood Dragon pulls out all the stops in maintaining its campy retro vibe and that means doing everything over-the-top from the action, the dialogue, to the loading screen jibber jabber . The plot is even structured similarly to any other '80s action flick where despite having a straightforward foundation, the peppering of oddball events makes the flow convoluted, but in this case, purposely executed.
As a cyber commando, Rex is outfitted with everything an action superstar would be expected to flaunt. An array of the standard firearms is at your disposal, but a cyborg can do more than the direct approach. Stealth has its place. In fact, striking from the shadows at times feel like it has more precedence versus a head-on assault. Aside from being able to tag adversaries with the Cyber Eye, you can come down on an unsuspecting target from above, drag them into the waters, draw attention with D&D dice, or chain together some throat slitting and shuriken takedowns. The numerous options in dispatching enemies unseen is almost similar to Arkham Asylum, which perhaps makes it a bit forgivable that the only side quests available are hostage rescues and game hunting.
Side quests open up as you free up the garrison amongst the mini-sandbox island. While these motions do not play an integral part in the main story they reward you in weapon upgrades that eventually turn you into a cybernetic death god, so you more than likely would want to oblige in saving the occasional nerd as often as possible. In fact, you want to keep yourself busy to net experience (labeled as Cyber Points), allowing you to level up and learn new skills. Although a skill tree is absent, barring control over what kind of character you want Rex to become, the menu screen does reveal what is learned at each level.
While the action-based side quests are in abundance, the island is laden with pointless features. Driving is a pain, and often times you might find yourself smashing into things or running your jeep into the water until you're struck with the realization that there's no hassle in just going on foot - the best way to maintain the initiative when confronting adversaries on the road. There's the option to fix broken TV sets (causing Rex to openly express his chagrin)and collect VHS taped lab secrets which only procures text to be read in the menu screens. You would think that these two elements would be unified for an experience of popping open a VCR to watch some amusing footage, but that never happens. Other than achievements and a secret message, nothing grippingly important is unlocked so thankfully the chore is just something to consider in your next playthrough.
Next to the absence of any boss battles, perhaps the most disappointing aspect to Blood Dragon is its lack of multiplayer. Forgoing an '80s mania single player campaign is already tops but being able to go head to head with others in this retro killing field (with maybe the option of customizing your appearance) was a feature that would've been greatly appreciated.
If you swear by the relevance of campy B-movies, Blood Dragon is a must have on your hard drive. In addition, there's the meta game of testing how much of an '80s film buff you are through the recognition of references from classics such as Terminator, Predator, and Commando to the obscure such as Eliminators and a true test provided in the end credits song. There's much that could've been improved on, but there's enough to lure you back in for another few skirmishes. If you want an experience that consistently attributes to the old saying of "You can't have manslaughter without laughter" this is a title that won't let you down.
Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon was reviewed on the PlayStation Network. You can read more about GamingUnion.net's scoring policy here.