Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon Hands-On Preview – The Definition of Insanity
Written Thursday, April 11, 2013 By Richard WalkerView author's profile
We wonder if Michael Biehn knew what he was getting himself into when he starred in The Terminator back in 1984. Do you think he had any sort of inkling that one day he'd be the star of an insane 80s sci-fi video game parody, in which he plays a cyber commando called Rex 'Power' Colt? Almost definitely not. Yet here we are, playing Far Cry 3's incredibly bizarre spin-off, Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon, and we're confused.
Not because Blood Dragon doesn't make any sense, as when you think about it, as a standalone game for digital download, it does make quite a bit of sense. You don't have to own the full version of Far Cry 3 to enjoy Blood Dragon, and who doesn't like a bit of completely mad and off-the-wall riffing on excessive OTT 80s action? What's confusing is that after an explosive opening section, a humorous tongue-in-cheek tutorial and some pleasing shooty bits, Blood Dragon starts to rely on stealth. And not like in Far Cry 3 where stealth was one of several options. Here stealth is essential at certain junctures. It doesn't make a whole lot of sense given the game's themes.
Set among the ashes of Vietnam War II in 2007, wherein the apocalypse has had an apocalypse, Blood Dragon opens with fantastic 8-bit style cut-scenes (or rather static images) that are brilliantly evocative of the 1980s era. The action itself kicks off by placing Sergeant Colt at the controls of a helicopter minigun with nothing but Omega Force goons to shoot and large gas tanks to blow up to the strains of “Long Tall Sally” by Little Richard, the very same song that the platoon from Predator fly into the jungle to, remember? Sure you do! You love 80s action flicks as much as we do, right? Yes.
The movie references don't end here either with Colt himself being a gruffly-voiced composite of Rambo, a T-800 and of course, Kyle Reese, voiced by Biehn himself, obviously. Spouting one-liners, the funniest of which pop up during the tutorial - “Just let me kill people, dammit!” - Colt possesses many of the same abilities Jason Brody acquired in Far Cry 3, so being able to chain together takedowns, throw shuriken stars at a second enemy during a takedown (instead of Brody's knife), drag Omega Force enemies with a Takedown Drag (it has nothing to do with cross dressers one loading screen notes) and heal yourself is all available from the off, without having to level up.
As you progress, you'll accumulate CP (cyber points) that automatically boost your abilities as you gain levels, and you can tear still-beating cyber-hearts from the chests of your fallen enemies that can be thrown to distract the eponymous giant reptiles. Yes, Blood Dragon features actual massive blood dragons, oversized neon lizards that'll kill you dead in a second. This translates to an agonisingly slow stealth section during our hands-on, as you sneak your way past the beasts. You can use blood dragons to your advantage too however, throwing cyber-hearts towards an Omega Force base for instance, inviting them to lay waste to the troops patrolling the compound.
Brody's core abilities also remain, albeit in a different guise for Blood Dragon. So, the camera is replaced by Colt's cyber-eye, throwing stones is replaced by throwing nerdy d20 dice and the weapon wheel is, well, still a weapon wheel. The controls are identical, as you'd expect, but Colt's speed, jump height, melee proficiency and damage threshold is far greater than Brody's. His healing animations are funny too, with a welding torch available to repair Colt's cybernetic left arm and a set of those squeezy hand grips for the right arm. Blood Dragon is full of neat, silly touches like this that manage to raise a smile, especially if you're familiar with the kind of source material the game pokes fun at. Even the 80s synth soundtrack is totally on the money.
Our hands-on demo takes us deep into an Omega Force base to disarm a nuclear 'red spear' missile with our buddy Lt. TT 'Spider' Brown, a chest-pounding cyber ninja, leading to waves of Omega Force to shoot down with Colt's Robocop-style pistol, his Fazertron assault rifle, Galleria 1991 shotgun or Kobracon sniper rifle. Soon the duo have a run in with the rogue Colonel Sloane (complete with chainmail vest a la Bennett from Commando), who's been drinking dragon's blood to augment and supercharge his cyber powers. There's no use in trying to make head nor tail of Blood Dragon's story, based on what we've played so far. It's utterly mental.
With a striking neon-drenched 80s art style and its own line in daft humour that plays upon nostalgia for action movies of the time, Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon clearly doesn't take itself too seriously. Far Cry 3's core gameplay mechanics are still strong here too, which means you'll already know by and large how this plays if you've played through Jason Brody's story. Still a baffling over-reliance on stealth sections for our hands-on demo has us a little bit worried. Will Sergeant Rex 'Power' Colt be forced to spend most of Blood Dragon hunched in the crouch position, tiptoeing past enemies when he should be shooting them right in their faces? We don't remember Arnie or Sly adopting much in the way of stealth tactics. Hopefully, the rest of Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon will be more in line with our loud 80s action movie fantasies and less about going quiet, or else, we ain't got time to bleed.
Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon is coming to the Xbox Live Arcade (and presumably a tape cassette or floppy disk) on May 1st.