Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon
Creating compelling single-player downloadable content has proven to be a tricky endeavor for game publishers. Most seem content to re-use convenient crutches like pushing half-baked side stories that offer no new narrative insight or simple aesthetic enhancements like costumes. Recently, Ubisoft has instead offered splinter content that leverages the resources of the original game to create a unique experience that has no integral ties to the base game. One Assassin's Creed III standalone DLC tells the story of an alternate history where George Washington turns into a tyrannical ruler. For Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon, Ubisoft Montreal leverages the high technology of its forefather to channel the spirit of the era when Arnold Schwarzenegger dominated box offices.
Blood Dragon pays homage to the action films, cartoons, and games of the '80s and '90s with its paper-thin plot, explosive action, and unapologetically sophomoric humor. Weapons are named after action icons like RoboCop. The 8-bit inspired cutscenes conjure memories of the NES era. Even the Drew Struzan-style box art would be right at home on a VHS tape. Each subtle flourish demonstrates an admiration for a time when entertainment products weren't overly concerned with political correctness or insightful thematic messages. This game starts and ends with cyborg armies, cheesy dialogue, and lasers.
In this alternate reality 2007, the Cold War is still raging, Canada and Australia have been nuked, and women still style their hair like Rocky IV actress Brigitte Nielsen. When his former Omega Force commanding officer goes rogue to raise an army of android killing machines, cocky cyber commando Sergeant Rex Power Colt (voiced by Terminator actor Michael Biehn) sets his blasters to "annihilate." Clearly inspired by Duke Nukem and the action heroes who came before him, this half man, half machine spits out one liners like a gatling gun spits bullets and celebrates high body counts by throwing up the devil's horns with his cybernetic fingers. Andriods aren't the only threat facing Rex; mutant animals and dinosaur looking menaces known as blood dragons also roam this isolated island.
Blood Dragon's neon veneer and synth-heavy soundtrack may call to mind B action movies, but this retro aesthetic is slapped on top of the state-of-the-art Far Cry 3 engine. The tight gunplay, open-world exploration, animal hunting, and wealth of side activities all return with slight modifications to fit the totally radical motif. Only a handful of story missions chronicle Sgt. Rex Power Colt's revenge tale (including a hilarious and explosive finale), so players spend the majority of the time capturing garrisons, completing rote side missions, and finding the collectables scattered across the island.
The island houses 13 garrisons, each with slight architectural variations. Nearly all of them have high walls, so picking off enemies from afar isn't always an option. Your best bet is often infiltrating the base, deactivating the alarms, and stealthily picking guys off one by one. If a blood dragon is nearby, I recommend turning off the base shields and chucking a cyborg heart toward one of the doors to lure it in. These beasts are more than capable of doing the dirty work for you.
Once liberated, the garrisons open up a few different side mission types (rescuing hostage scientists, hunting rare animals, or assassinating elite cyborgs). A couple of these side missions break from the pack (including one inspired by the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles), but the repetitiveness of most is disappointing. The tedious collect-a-thons are also deflating to the point where Rex himself utters, "Yep, another one. What the f--- am I doing?" Unfortunately, scouring the wilderness for TV sets and VHS tapes is a necessary evil if you want to unleash the fury of the amazing end-game weapons.
As you check these tiresome tasks off your list, you get closer to attaining a few weapons destined for the first-person shooter hall of fame. Explosive sniper rifle rounds can take out a jeep and all nearby soldiers in one shot. The quadruple-barrel shotgun makes short work of the extremely dangerous blood dragons. The best weapon of all, however, is the Killstar, a Krull-like glaive that allows Rex to shoot a devastating laser beam from his hand. As much as I grew bored with freeing nerds from captivity, earning weapons capable of eviscerating entire legions in a matter of seconds is highly recommended.
Like many of the '80s action flicks it mimics, Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon has the potential to alienate people with its crass sense of humor and repetitive one-liners. But if you long for an era when smart-mouthed badasses were more concerned with making things go boom than catering to social sensitivities, Rex Power Colt is your man, and Blood Dragon is your game.