Blood Dragon is the testosterone fueled, male-power fantasy of 80s action movies turned up to eleven. You can run faster, jump higher, murder every bad guy, wrestle an alligator, and kill a dinosaur with a bow all while repeatedly making jokes about ejaculation. Yes, I know that probably sounds great to most of you, but it has its positives and negatives.
The narrative within Blood Dragon follows Sergeant Rex Colton in a dystopian, alternate 2007 in which the world has been destroyed by nuclear war. Rex is a cybernetic super-soldier with enhanced human abilities. After the first mission in which things go awry, Rex makes it his mission to seek out and destroy the evil Dr. Sloan with the help of Dr. Darling. Rex quickly finds himself in unfamiliar territory as the landscape is covered with Blood Dragons that will not hesitate to quickly kill our simple-minded protagonist.
The game wears its retro-futuristic, neo-80s influence on its sleeve as anything and everything is highlighted in blindingly vibrant neon; so much so that enemies are often detected around corners by their glow. Even loading screens take the 80s inspired tone to a great degree with VHS tracking footage. The in-game art is matched by the cutscenes that consist of hand-drawn, slow-developing animations with comic book style framing. It’s a great art direction and adds plenty of style to the design; although it could be argued that whoever was in charge of the color palette may have seen the intro to 2011’s Drive (a la, 1981’s Thief) a few too many times.
Blood Dragon is a single-player, stand-alone expansion to Far Cry 3 and this is clearly evident in nearly every aspect of the gameplay. Everything from tagging enemies, stealth abilities, in-game UI, the feel of the weapons, driving and hang gliding to get around, etc. are all the same as Far Cry 3. If you’ve played and understand the mechanics of Far Cry 3, you’ll know how to play Blood Dragon.
In case you’re not familiar with Far Cry, the game is an open-world first-person-shooter that emphasizes moments of both action and stealth. There’s autonomy within the way a player can approach a given situation. The open world structure allows players to choose their next objective. There is always a marker indicating your next story mission although you can do side missions when desired. These side missions consist of taking over outposts by killing every enemy in the outpost before terminals provide you with other types of missions. In Blood Dragon, the other side missions consist of rescuing hostages, identifying and killing a specific target, or hunting a particular animal. There are also several collectible items in the form of TV sets, VHS tapes, and Notes scattered throughout the world that lead to weapon attachments/upgrades.
Although I would classify the gameplay as fun, it certainly gets repetitive. Most encounters played out the same for me. Be stealthy for as long as possible before finding it necessary to blow something up and then shoot your way out of the situation to kill every enemy and proceed to the next checkpoint. Story missions, side missions, and taking over bases all play like this. There is certainly variety in the gameplay as you can choose your means of killing but these options are limited in scope when compared to Far Cry 3.
This also expands to weapons, collectibles, upgrades, and skills. These concepts are still here, but in a much more streamed lined fashion. For instance, instead of having multiple skills trees to customize your character’s abilities, as in Far Cry 3, upgrades are automatically applied to your character in Blood Dragon as you gain XP and level up. Other concepts have been stripped away completely. Where hunting previously lead to great rewards before, nearly all incentive to hunt outside of side missions has been removed from Blood Dragon due to the lack of crafting or meaningful rewards.
This is one of the biggest problems I had with Blood Dragon. Much of Far Cry 3’s content has been removed in one way or another. It’s not that big of a deal as this is clearly meant to be a smaller game, but it would have been nice to be able to upgrade things further or use more equipment. This would have added to the depth of gameplay and could help with things feeling repetitive. There are also far fewer means to traverse the environment in this game as you fewer vehicles and no wing suit. To be honest, I actually rarely used vehicles at all in the game. I typically just ran as this seemed faster, added more maneuverability, and you don’t have to wait for animations of entering or leaving vehicles. Overall, it’s less cumbersome and more convenient.
One of the biggest things missing from the game is random encounters. Among my favorite things about Far Cry 3 was coming across a group of guys, starting to take them out, and the experience then being interrupted by something such as an elephant. I’ve seen many videos where someone randomly gets mauled by tiger while doing side tasks. This is almost completely absent in Blood Dragon and it makes the game more mundane. Traversal became more about getting from point A to point B as quickly as possible rather than engaging with the environment or coming across entertaining experiences. This is something I missed a lot in my time with the game.
One aspect of that game that I believe changed the formula a bit in a positive way were the blood dragons themselves. These massive neon covered, cyborg-esque, t-rex creatures are the highlight of the wildlife. The game introduces the player to the blood dragons early on and quickly emphasizes their size, strength, and menace. They are large, quick, and intimidating, especially during the first few hours of the game. On top of their typical bite attack, the blood dragons have a laser-beam attack that can do plenty of damage to the protagonist. They are fun to attempt take out and will provide moments of heart-pounding action.
The sound design in Blood Dragon is implemented well. Some guns possess a blaster sound as they shoot lasers, explosions are given a great audible boom, and animals each have their unique noises and grunts. The blood dragons in particular have been given special treatment with their intimidating roar. But the star of the game is the soundtrack. The music is heavily inspired by 80s action and horror. Synthesizers and electronic beats are abused and tend to pick up at the right times inciting a desire to execute kills with style. These tracks match the tone and visuals perfectly.
It is impossible to critique this game without discussing the writing. The story is exactly what you would expect from an 80s action movie and doesn’t deviate from that direction. As a result, it’s too straight forward, bland, and not worth discussing. What is worth mentioning, and what remains at the core of the writing, are the numerous cheesy and often corny one-liners. Most are simply dumb and fun, such as puns or lines like, “I swore an oath to a special lady… Lady Liberty. She taught me that winners… don’t do drugs.” These are funny as a result of their absurdity. Using “campy” as a descriptor doesn’t quite cut it as the game’s writing typically stays within the range of ridiculous to over-the-top.
The game does possess a few too many sexual references within the dialogue. Although I found many of these phrases, particularly the countless jokes about fellatio, to be painfully immature and pubescent, these types of jokes only make up a fraction of the humorous lines in the game. Things like this help indicate that there’s nothing subtle about Blood Dragon. This fact is proven within the aesthetics as the colors are either pitch black or distractingly bright, in the gameplay as explosions and charmingly unnecessary animations are plentiful, and throughout the writing as sexual innuendos are rampant.
In all honesty, this is the charm of Blood Dragon. It’s been designed to be simple, “stupid,” and light-hearted. Nothing is to be taken seriously and everything is over-the-top. The problem is this is where the game highlights its faults; its story and gameplay suffer because they are overly simplistic. Although I understand that this is more of a “budget” title and was released for a cheaper price, much of the depth, features, and fine-tuning of Far Cry 3 that made the game great are absent. As a result, I believe this makes Blood Dragon an inferior game.
In saying this, I also must recognize that the game is worth playing. It’s a lot of fun, especially for those who enjoy campy humor and explosions. It’s mindless and should be enjoyed in such a manner. If you haven’t played Blood Dragon, go ahead and spend the 6-8 hours to play through it as you’ll more than likely have fun throughout.
You can pick up Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon on PS3, Xbox 360, PC, and on Xbox One through its backward compatible feature.
Futuristic, retro, over-the-top action
If you enjoy Far Cry 3 gameplay, mindless action, purposefully terrible writing, and manly, man things, Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon will provide you at least a few hours of fun.