Why is this game called Far Cry 3?
According to the Ubisoft spiel, the development team let loose once they’d finished crafting Jason Brody’s mentally unstable shenanigans, combining the engine made of their own sweat and blood with everything we miss from the late ‘80s and early ‘90s -- just for a spot of fun. The emanating result, Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon, was a complete accident.
But it’s got nothing to do with Far Cry 3. It should be called 80s Retro-Future: Laser Dragons Fight Cyborgs on VHS. I assume it will be rebadged as something like that in Japan.
I, like anyone who ignored the Internet’s tomfoolery earlier this month, disregarded Blood Dragon as a prank when it surfaced online on April 1. Even when a Ubisoft representative promised it was legit with the ludicrous announcement trailer coated with VHS static, I was waiting for the hidden cameras to jump out and laugh at my gullible smirk.
But it is a real game -- a stand alone game releasing later this year on PSN, XBLA and PC.
Running on Far Cry 3’s mechanics, it plays more or less exactly the same. But you won’t realise under the retro neon filter applied to a game set far in the future. In a year called 2007.
Blood Dragon is a nostalgic piece of genius. With the quality of Far Cry 3’s mechanics, it does everything else as poorly as an ‘80s low budget movie, and that’s why it’s fantastic.
Playing as cyborg Sergeant Rex “Power” Colt (voiced by Michael Biehn), you get to fight dragons that shoot lasers out of their eyes and robotic sharks -- and we can only hope some bizarre hybrid of the two.
The absolute cheesiest story you’ll come across this decade is meshed together with static 16-bit cutscenes which are absolutely glorious. The story is terrible, the images are hideous, the fan service is high and that’s what makes it so magnificent. Blood Dragon thrives on the power of nostalgia.
Its retro-futuristic setting -- both in game world and faux development era -- afford Blood Dragon the freedom of living with no tomorrow; it feels like exaggerated fan fiction, not the work of a massive corporation that normally moves to minimise risk. That liberation will, hopefully, spawn an insouciant walk down memory lane free of the inhibitions that come from trying to replicate last year’s profits.
With an eyepatch over his cyborg eye, Rex Power Colt, a veteran of Vietnam War II and some horrific explosion which pretty much killed everyone in the ‘90s, is out to seek revenge on his former commanding officer. It’s a plot that could have been ripped from any B-grade ‘80s movie, and the costumes have been designed in a similar frame of mind: enemies are draped in random parts as if they’ve had to make do with what they could find lying around a low budget sound stage.
In a 30 minute demo, Blood Dragon set the scene by throwing me behind a mini-gun tasked with just blowing the shit out of everything. Mr T would have been proud.
But not everything was better in the ‘80s, as a tongue-in-check infuriating tutorial will soon remind you. Remember being bombarded with screen after screen of text explaining everything little thing about the controls? Blood Dragon revives this long forgotten tradition, blatantly to piss you off -- and if I’m honest, it went a little too far.
If you abstain from putting a controller through your expensive television or more rationally quitting what will probably be a $15-20 game during its tauntingly unfunny tutorial, Blood Dragon opens up into the reckless game you’ve always wanted to play: it’s Far Cry 3 without the story and on an infused cocktail of drugs.
Combat is an open book, with plenty of stealth options or more reckless head-on combat. With explosions and ammunition aplenty, it’s hard to resist an ambitious firefight, but wandering into plain sight is still akin to signing your own death warrant. You’ll need to strafe and duck for cover as you kill anything that may or may not have a pulse.
The throng of enemies that rushed Rex and his very ‘80s sidekick “Spider” setup a fairly standard horde and protect mission, only with an even more ludicrous plot that I’ve totally forgotten and even bigger guns. And that’s before you get to the dragons that shoot lasers out of their eyes (although the ones we saw looked more like dinosaurs).
How I actually killed one of those things, I’m not sure, but there were some very angry scientists trampled to death in the process.
While the cinematics look as if they’ve been ripped from a low budget 16-bit movie tie-in, the gameplay has been washed with some magnificently dull effects that embellish an ineffable VHS experience. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but the whole design resonates a retro-futuristic world set in the VHS era.
Blood Dragon is a nostalgic piece of genius. With the quality of Far Cry 3’s mechanics, it does everything else as poorly as an ‘80s low budget movie, and that’s why it’s fantastic. But most importantly, it’s plain and simple fun.