“Are these tutorials getting in the way of your mayhem?” asks the AI computer. Yes, I think to myself, they really are but I honestly don’t care. “The year is 2007. It is the future.” Blood Dragon’s tagline brazenly lies to you, – 2007 isn’t the future, and the apocalypse most certainly didn’t have additional an apocalypse.
Yet this game tells you things differently, where the post-Vietnam War II world is now a nuclear wasteland, and you have a mission to accomplish.
You’re half cyborg, half human, and quite literally all bad-ass 80s action hero, thanks to Michael Biehn of Terminator and Aliens fame, who lends some gravelly voice work to bring Sergeant Rex Power Colt’s to life in as bombastic a fashion as possible.
The game’s initial exposition is delivered via one of many 16-bit styled cutscenes, showing how Colt is transformed into a Mk. IV Cyber-Commando, giving you the exposition to this crazy retro-future before dropping you into a helicopter as you and Spider assault an enemy base, trying to hunt down your former mentor.
It might be living under the Far Cry 3 brand, but this is as different to that game as Saints Row IV is to GTA IV. There’s no sunbathed beaches, the clouds of a nuclear winter squared blocking out any natural light, with great red beams of light coming from the ground. Ragged pirates have been replaced with leather-clad, blue-blooded cyborgs, bullets swithed with laser beams and tigers with… tigers with neon eyes.
In some ways this is all just window dressing, and as you infiltrate the Omega Force base, you’ll be reacquainted with stealth takedowns, looting corpses, turning off the alarms to prevent reinforcements, and even Molotov troopers. This is also all set on another large, open-world island filled with outposts to tackle in a variety of ways, and plot missions which take you deep into a variety of installations.
The underlying formula is going to be very familiar to Far Cry 3 fans, but the tone has shifted hugely in so many ways that it feels very fresh and individual.
The script certainly has a big role to play in this, injecting knowing humour into the game at every possible moment it can. That starts with the cutscenes and the alternate future history, but continues on with one of the best worded tutorials I’ve encountered in a game to date. The developers know that 99% of you will already be familiar with standard FPS controls, so it at least makes you chuckle whilst you work your way through the screens. Press ‘A’ to confirm that you can read, soldier.
When you’re defending your partner, Spider, as he hacks a terminal, he’s spouting things like how he’s recompiling the Motherboard and reprogramming the CPU sockets. Every loading screen is helpfully telling you that enemies in range can be shot or that grenades explode, not to mention Rex Colt’s action hero-style quipping in the middle of combat. Simply, the script for this game hits each and every note perfectly, right down to a typically 80s anti-drugs message.
I would be hugely remiss if I didn’t talk about the eponymous blood dragons, though. We might still have tigers, goats, wild dogs and sharks roaming the island, most of which will probably have neon eyes, but the blood dragons represent a new element to proceedings. A little like a T-Rex not being able to see you if you move, these towering creatures can’t see or hear you if you’re crouching. Sneaking past them is fairly easy, but my first encounter saw one blocking my way entirely.
It’s kind of lucky that they like to eat cyborgs then, and in addition to looting corpses for a few coins, your cyborg left hand will plunge into the chest cavity of the fallen cyborg and rip out his heart. These can then be used to control the blood dragons, and you can throw a heart to lure nearby blood dragons to an area you want, and see the carnage ensue.
The rogue Omega Force troopers have set themselves up quite nicely though, with big shields which keep blood dragons at a distance and won’t let them pass through. Throw a cyborg heart nearby and they’ll still try to get to it, and when the Omega Force goons panic and start shooting them, they’ll fight back.
They might not pass through the defense fields, but they’re called dragons for a reason and can just shoot fire from their eyes.
It gives you a few more ways of tackling each outpost, as in addition to an all out assault or sneaking in to take down the alarms and clearing it out yourself, you can utilise the blood dragons. Find and shut down the shield’s generator, or switch it off at the control panel and the shield will shut down, the blood dragons will arrive soon after, and likely kill everything that moves.
Just make sure you stay out of harm’s way, because if you thought a surprise tiger strike was nasty in Far Cry 3, you don’t want to be attracting a dragon’s ire!
Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon pushes all the right buttons, in my opinion. The art style nails the retro-futurist aesthetic, the script drips with the schlocky silliness of the most over the top 80s action films alongside the fantastic soundtrack from Power Glove, all atop a slightly modified gameplay formula mastered in Far Cry 3.
Schedule a meeting around the water-cooler on the 2nd of May, because Far Cry 3 Blood Dragon hits PS3, Xbox 360 and PC on the 1st.