Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon – PC
Release Date: May 1, 2013
Nerd Rating: 8 out of 10
Reviewed by ryanvoid
In a series that takes itself as seriously as Far Cry (complete with Far Cry 3‘s honest-to-God delivery of the line “My God…what have I become?” as the protagonist stares at his hands), it seemed unlikely that the writers at Ubisoft had the capacity to laugh at themselves and create a parody of 80’s action films, and by extension, the Far Cry series that draws so heavily on them.When the trailer for Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon was released, complete with cyborg middle fingers, grainy VHS footage of step aerobics, and synthesizer-soaked jams, many gamers speculated that this had to be an April Fool’s prank from Ubisoft. They were incorrect, thank God.
It’s the far-off year of 2007, and you play Rex Power Colt (voiced by Michael Biehn, the actor who played Kyle Reese in THE TERMINATOR), a Mark IV cyborg sent to a mysterious island to investigate a cyborg army headed by his former commanding officer, Colonel Sloan, who is a super-cyborg. (Everything is cyborgs). When Sloan betrays you, killing your partner and knocking you out, you wake up on an island inhabited by blood dragons, mutated emus, and cyborg soldiers. Your job is to murder everything. Well, to murder everything and also to rescue nerds from the occupied garrisons on the island. Along the way you have uncomfortably explosive sex with Dr. Darling, slip into an alternate dimension full of zombies, and ride a titanium dragon as you attempt to bring down Sloan.
As you’ve probably already guessed, this game is absolute fucking mayhem.
With the popularity of games like Retro City Rampage and Hotline Miami, it’s almost impossible to do a modern game set in the 1980’s without absolutely taking the piss out of the decade itself. Without a wink and a nod at its own cheeseball excess, the game itself becomes a joke. By applying the same tropes as an 80’s action film, straight-faced and without irony, you get…well, Far Cry 3, which is absolutely crammed with cringe-inducing dialogue and plot devices. But Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon is a delight to play because it combines the excellent game mechanics of the Far Cry series with a self-awareness that lets you enjoy it.
Even the controls, which are superb, incorporate the overblown game aesthetic. Pressing the melee button repeatedly when not facing an opponent makes Rex give alternating middle fingers with his cybernetic and human arms, and you can throw 20-sided dice to distract enemies while creeping up behind them with an absurdly big knife. The shooting system is intuitively laid out so that you can easily switch weapons (with names that reference action films, by the way – the shotgun is called the Galleria 1991, in reference to TERMINATOR 2) during combat without breaking your stride. A lot of the shootouts can be kind of spray-and-pray, but that’s to be expected in a game with such a huge body count, and it’s surprisingly challenging to take out enormous squads of cyborg goons.
The dialogue is fantastic. As you mow down opponents, you collect points by ripping out their “cyber-hearts,” and Rex Power Colt has a slew of cheesy one-liners for just such an occasion (“Excuse me while I…rip this out,” “I’m a real heartbreaker,” “It’s time to put your heart into it”), all delivered in gruff deadpan by the guy who played the father of John Connor. Your doomed partner (a black guy, of course, because the 80’s were crammed with racist caricatures of black sidekicks whose sole point was to die and fuel the protagonist’s man-pain) growls “If I die,you tell my wife I died for my country,” to which Rex responds “You tell her that yourself, do you hear me?” (Yes. You tell your wife in-person that you died for your country, Spider.)
One problem with Blood Dragon is that it doesn’t give you much of an option to customize the way in which you spend your experience points. It naturally applies to different upgrades as you level up, and you don’t get to decide where the points go. This is more of a personal preference, of course, and a lot of gamers who have no interest in staring at skills trees will be able to get back to wholesale cyborg slaughter without obsessing over stats. Additionally, and this is almost a general Ubisoft criticism, but saving your game is an absolute fucking nightmare. You can’t properly save your game until after you’ve freed a garrison, and that’s about an hour and a half into playing. The opening tutorial system is funny the first time. Not so much when you’ve had to start from scratch a few times because of the awful save system.
This is an unrelated gripe, but Ubisoft’s UPlay is a pointless, shitty application and I hate it to death. Being forced to open it through Steam and have two DRMs running at once works hell on your processing speed. The fact that I was willing to suffer through registration for UPlay and run that abortion on top of Steam in order to play Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon is a testament to how great it is.
There’s something charming about a game that acknowledges its own absurdity, and even if this game is like Halloween III for the Far Cry series (a one-off with absolutely nothing to do with the series proper), in my opinion, it outclasses Ubisoft’s more serious releases because it has no illusions about what it’s trying to do. No retconning from the developers about what they intended to do, no philosophizing wank from the writers, no pretensions about how “no, really, this is Serious Gaming for Serious Dudes.” If Ubisoft is capable of being this self-aware, Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon stands as an offbeat neon reminder that they can, and should, do better.
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