Far Cry 3 : Blood Dragon Review
Cart: Far Cry 3 Blood Dragon
Cab: PS3 / Xbox 360 / PC
Coin: Ubisoft Montreal
Wow. Where to start?!
Well, the positives are numerous, to say the least. A complete break from modern traditions; this is arguably the most brave and exciting DLC to have ever been made. A substantial stand-alone expansion pack to the outstanding Far Cry 3 – and an accomplished tribute to the cyber-punk heights of the gaudy 80’s to boot – Blood Dragon has huge strengths embedded into its DNA.
And yet I find myself completely in two minds about it …
So bold are its ambitions, that it’s easy to forget that you’re only playing an expansion pack. So well-polished and well-executed are its features, that it’s easy to fall into the trap of wanting so much more than the tiny island it is set upon can possibly offer.
A victim of it’s own success?
I can see the cyber pub from up here.
Set in 2007 (!), Blood Dragon focuses on the adventures of Sergeant Rex ‘Power’ Colt, played by 80’s icon, Michael Biehn. Although here, to be honest, is the first let-down. Whilst Biehn delivers a solid performance, it’s nothing outstanding and you can’t help but feel that he was included, well, for the sake of inclusion? One of the games 80’s tick-boxes filled, then, but nothing stellar.
The plot is pure pulp nonsense, which is absolutely as it should be. Anything goes, from alternate dimensions to cyber soldiers, cyber sharks and the eponymous blood dragons themselves in a rip-roaring ride of sheer insanity. The Far Cry side-quests actually feel like somewhat of an irrelevance in Blood Dragon, given the sheer strength of the core narrative and atmosphere. Another let-down, then, as you get the sense that, in some respects, the game was shackled by the the blueprint it so fantastically transcends.
Not sure that my insurance covers me for this.
The core gameplay is accomplished with smooth controls and engaging combat, although Far Cry’s strong AI doesn’t seem to have carried across particularly well. Enemies demonstrate a basic level of awareness, but it’s essentially an open-world shooting gallery as opposed to a series of cunning dogfights. Death comes primarily from being outnumbered as opposed to being outsmarted, which encourages an approach of picking enemies off from a distance wherever possible. Yet another let-down, then, as this sneaky-sneaky style feels completely at odds with the gung-ho, balls-to-the-wall mentality that Blood Dragon so clearly prides itself upon.
The audio and general presentation of the game are beyond reproach, however, and capture perfectly the eclectic, synthesised decadence of the 80’s. Cut-scenes are loving reproductions of the 16-bit era and the palette is awash with pink and purple neon nonsense. John Carpenter himself would be proud of the soundtrack, with cultural nods to Biehn’s past in the Alien and Terminator franchises guaranteed to bring a wry smile to the face of even the most hardened of gamers.
The understated elegance of a shotgun to the cyber face.
You could argue that I’m breaking Blood Dragon down a bit too methodically and harshly. In fact, there’s no maybe about it. But to be fair, that’s a sign of the game’s unmitigated success as much as anything else. For a little over a tenner, what you’re getting here is stunning value for money and an experience that’s far more than the sum of it’s parts – however hard I’ve tried to break it back down.
Perhaps the most exciting aspect of Blood Dragon is that it sets a new precedent for DLC, one where lack of vision and lack of ambition simply won’t cut it any more. Hell, it even raises the bar for game development, period, inviting others to immerse themselves in cultural references so deeply, that it completely steers a game’s identity as opposed to simply being a lick of paint for it.
Sounds almost like art to me.
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