Stunt Granny Video Game Review: Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon

fc3bd - Title

Ubisoft’s Far Cry 3 brought a lot to the stealth/action genre.  It had large, open environments that looked great and were fun and easy to explore.  The stealth mechanics were intuitive and made you feel like a badass when you were able to take out an enemy camp without being seen.  And there it had tons to do, aside from the main quest, like hunting, liberating outposts, and gathering new weapons.

Blood Dragon is Ubisoft’s attempt to take Far Cry 3, and tell the craziest story they could in the wildest setting.  Blood Dragon is billed as a standalone expansion – meaning you can buy it alone and play it without the original game – and is set in a version of 2007 out of many 80’s sci-fi and action movies.

Welcome to the future...um, kinda.

Welcome to the future…um, kinda.

Let’s go ahead and talk gameplay, because this bit is pretty simple.  If you played Far Cry 3, this is pretty much the exact same game mechanically.  If you have not, the basic idea is you are on an island, you have a series of story missions that involve sneaking into or shooting up the main bad guy’s bases, and you have a bunch of side content that unlocks more gear for you to use.  Differences are mostly cosmetic: enemies are cyborg soldiers instead of pirates, animals have ridiculous robot parts, many guns now shoot lasers, and enemy strongholds are high-tech compounds instead of shantytowns.

Blood Dragon does add the titular blood dragons as a new animal that comes into play as something more than just another thing to hunt.  Dragons are dinosaurs that can shoot lasers out of their eyes and really love snacking on cyborg hearts.  You can run into them in the wild, but most of your interactions with them come around capturing enemy bases.  If you can get the base’s shield down, you can lure a dragon in to the area to get rid of the occupying forces for you.  Of course, you have to get him back out one way or another to actually finish the mission.

Just sit back and enjoy while they do all the heavy lifting.

Just sit back and enjoy while they do all the heavy lifting.

Visually, Blood Dragon couldn’t be further from Far Cry 3.  I love the art direction of the game, but I feel that the execution was a bit off target.  The strongholds do a good job of capturing the “dark, gritty future with a ton of neon everywhere” look and are interesting areas to hold fights in.  However, the rest of the island in between is just dark brown or black areas with very little lighting and very little to see.  Fortunately, the game lets you run like the bionic man you are, so you don’t get stuck with these areas for too long.  There are also some interesting post processing effects that are trying to make the game look like it is an old VHS tape.  There are scanlines everywhere, bright lights tend to flare up and block out vision, and even the loading screen has a tracking meter instead of a loading bar.  Aesthetically, these are neat additions, but it feels jarring to be looking at a HD, flat screen monitor and seeing these.  I like what they were trying to do, but it just takes me out of the game for some reason.  I would actually be interested in playing this an old CRT screen just to see if its more immersive.

fc3bd - Base Capture

The soundtrack matches the feel perfectly, inspired heavily by the synthesizer heavy action movie soundtracks from the 80’s.  Clearing out an enemy encampment to Terminator-esque music really draws you into the action.

As far as story goes, Blood Dragon goes well into the realm of absurdity.  You are a cyber commando, Rex “Power” Cult, sent to infiltrate this mysterious island to find out what a rogue unit of newer model cyber commandos is up to.  The mission goes south and you are left to work with the faction of scientists on the island trying fight off the evil cyborgs.  The main storyline is told through a series of 7 missions and awesome cutscenes that look like they are straight off a Super Nintendo game.  Humor can get a bit heavy handed and forced at times, but for the most part remains pretty funny.  The main character constantly spouts one-liners after getting a headshot or taking the robotic heart of an enemy.

fc3bd - Cutscene

For a launch price of $15, Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon is a great deal.  If you just play the main missions you are getting about 5 hours of content, but if you want to do all the base takeovers and side missions, it grows to around 15 hours.  Fans of the original Far Cry 3 should definitely pick it up, and the price is low enough that players unfamiliar to the series can give it a shot without much risk. -Will

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