Mark IV Cyber-commando Sergeant Rex Colt needs to stop an ex-commando that went Rouge in the nearby future of 2007. It’s a 80’s infused VHS-wonderland with all the cyborgs, lasers and lightning you could ever want. But if everything is better when it’s cyber, then why is this not as good as FarCry 3?
FarCry 3 Blood Dragon (PC, 360, PS3)
Developed by Ubisoft Montreal – Published by Ubisoft
Blood Dragon is a stand-alone game, but it still plays like a slightly modified FarCry 3. Almost all the mechanics from the original game is still in place, but with a (mostly) visual twist. Now while the game holds a very strong retro-vibe, you’ll be sorely disappointed if you were expecting that to carry over to the actual gameplay. Blood Dragon is just as heavy on staying in cover and getting through shooting galleries as any other shooter on the market, much more so than FarCry 3 was, as that game sported much larger more open areas for gunfights to take place in.
That’s not to say this is an outright bad thing, the gameplay is solid and the gunplay is as tight as it can be save for a few minor tweaks I would have done to some of the guns. But there’s far less variety than what could be found in Blood Dragon’s bigger brother. At the same time it’s also meant to be a smaller and more condensed experience, hence the lower price. Even with that in consideration, apart from the titular Blood Dragons the game is more of a elaborate skin-pack than it is a new game. With that said, fighting the Blood Dragons is something quite intense as they pack quite a punch and require you to actually stay in movement. Cover-popping is useless against laser-eyes.
The story is gloriously dumb, and is presented through slide-shows done entirely in pixel-art. I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that I found these cutscenes to be the best part of the game as they are quite hilarious and well-directed. The quips and one-liners are charming and it’s a shame that presentation did not carry over as well in-game. Rex will toss out one-liners quite often when you’re playing the game, but hearing him joke about “calling shotgun” in three different ways over and over again every time you get a good shotgun kill gets old and tiresome.
Speaking of the shotgun, it’s basically the only weapon you’ll need in the game as it’s great against every enemy and hits pretty good at a distance at times as well. It doesn’t help that the AI is incredibly dumb at tends to just run straight into your line of fire. Even fighting the dragons you eventually realize that using the shotgun basically makes you overpowered towards them as well. At the same time the machine gun in the game is an outright joke and the flamethrower only seems to be put into the game because it’s a FarCry title.
And that might be Blood Dragon’s main problem. The presentation is great, from the scanlines that appear whenever you stare into the red fog of the island to the way every thing has neon lights strapped to them for no reason. But beneath that is just the shell of a game that I’ve already played a far better version of last year. And even when I let it stand on its own, Blood Dragon is hard to recommend when it really doesn’t do anything on the gameplay front worth getting excited about.
The game suffers from a severe case of being unmemorable. There’s only really one sequence in the entire game that really sticks out all that much, and it’s so close to the end it’s ridiculous. And with a game’s main story clocking in at about five hours you’d expect them to cram as much fun stuff they possible could into that time. But instead all the really good stuff is left to cutscenes with the actual gameplay taking a backseat.
The game has some frustrating elements as well. Early on you’ll get jokes regarding tutorials and how annoying they can be. This was fine and quite funny at first, but after the joke has reached its peak the game still thinks it’s being funny by having you constantly clicking away tutorial boxes that stop your experience. At one point it tosses about ten different ones at you at once and you’d expect that to be the punchline, only for another one to appear a minute later.
And that’s not the only joke that Blood Dragon fails at. The game wants to joke about how stupid some videogame tropes are. Be it exploding barrels, stealth sections or enemies with giant weakpoints. But the problem comes when Blood Dragon falls into the trap of being exactly what it’s trying to make fun of. It’s not parody, it’s just pointing out what the game itself is doing at that point. Sort of like Eat Lead: The Return of Matt Hazard, but on a far worse scale.
The game is also incredibly guided, much more so than FarCry 3 before it. The game has a open world for you to explore, filled with side quests, but you’d most likely not care to do them as the game will constantly push you forward without any break. There’s even a tutorial for doing a side quests which blocked me from being able to buy ammo because I had to do the side-quest first. The final moments of the game is the worst with this as it doesn’t even pretend to be anything but a set of shooting gallery sections connected with corridors.
There’s also a problem with some mission areas during the free-roam. I got to a area and received a checkpoint only for the game suddenly telling me that I was leaving the mission area and the mission was failed. After this I was respawned at the previous checkpoint and there would just take a few seconds before this event repeated itself and would keep doing so in a evil circle until I was lucky enough to somehow stop it, I’m still not sure how I did this.
I also encountered a annoying glitch with the shotgun where Rex would be locked into the reloading animation, pushing in a bunch of shells into the shotgun, but I would only receive one actual shell no matter how long the animation went on for. Causing me to eventually die as I couldn’t unload fire onto the enemies. I would also often find that the healing prompt would not register, having me hold down the button to no effect. Both of these things happened multiple times.
During one fight with a dragon I found myself killing the dragon faster than the game had anticipated, so when the game threw backup at me by allowing me access to a turret, the game became unwinnable as it would not let me use the turret now that the dragon was dead yet I had to mount the turret to continue. Another time in the same section the car with the turret on it spawned upside down and flying, and was completely immovable.
Other glitches included dragons all of a sudden running in slow-motion and into walls, and scientists flying in mid-air as they were doing their normal animations. The game is a total mess with all of these things, at least on the PC version. And I may point out that I had none of these problems playing the PC version of the original FarCry 3.
However, the soundtrack for Blood Dragon is something truly special and is certainly one of the best things about the game. Sporting a rocking 80s synth sound to fit the visual presentation which it pulls off spectacularly. The voice acting and sound design is also very solid in every way. I keep mentioning it in this review and I’ll do it again, the presentation for Blood Dragon is nailed in every way they could have nailed it, and I wish it could make up for the rest of the game.
I’m a big fan of 70/80s sci-fi and I even collect movies on VHS, so I thought this game would be right up my alley. And in many ways it is. I can respect what the game is trying to pull off, but that doesn’t excuse the fact that it doesn’t pull it off. In the end, Blood Dragon remains an interesting experiment that I’m glad Ubisoft decided to pursuit. But I just can not recommed it.
If you just want to experience the presentation you might as well just listen to the soundtrack and look up the cutscenes on YouTube. And if you’re looking for a good gameplay experience you might as well just get FarCry 3 as it does everything this game does, only much better and much more. If you already have FarCry 3 then this game won’t give you more of what you want, just a inferior watered down version of it.
An amazing presentation with watered-down generic gameplay and a product filled with glitches and bad design choices. Blood Dragon is indeed a mixed bag, it’s too bad most of the stuff in that bag is just disappointing and sad.