Far Cry 3 Blood Dragon Review
So what's the connection between Far Cry 3, a marquee shooter set on a tropical island, and Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon, a downloadable game that's an homage to 80s action B-movies and 16 bit gaming? Blood Dragon is built on Far Cry 3, sharing much of the original title's gameplay mechanics and mission structure, so in essence you're getting a top-tier shooter experience for the cost of a downloadable arcade game. And while the game world in Blood Dragon is smaller than that in Far Cry 3 and there have been aspects of the game that have been pared down and streamlined, the fact that you can have a downloadable shooter that provides better gameplay than many full-priced games can deliver should be reason enough alone for you to just go and download the game and start enjoying it now. If you would prefer not to make such a blind faith leap, though, I'll provide you with a closer look at Blood Dragon...
In Blood Dragon you are Rex 'Power' Colt, a cybernetically enhanced super soldier trying to take down the nefarious Omega Force and its commander Sloan, who also happens to be your former CO. The game takes place in a post-apocalyptic wasteland overrun with mutant and genetically enhanced wildlife and the cyborg soldiers of Omega Force, which since it is a vision of the future born of the 1980s is actually set a few years in our past. Yes, it's a clich�d story in a clich�d setting, but that's actually the idea. Blood Dragon doesn't miss a chance to poke fun at video game and action movie standards, although it does so with all of the subtlety of a sledgehammer.
The nods to 16-bit gaming come in the form of the game's cutscenes, music, and color palette. The cutscenes look as they could have been taken straight from a SEGA Genesis game, although the M-rated dialog is strictly from the modern era. The animation is minimal and crude, characters walk by sliding across the screen, and it's all rendered in blocky neon pinks and purples. Those colors aren't constrained to the cutscenes, though; the whole game world is awash in those same neon blues, purples, and pinks. At times it can be a little hard to look at it, but at least those colors are splashed onto modern graphics rendered by the same engine that gave us the gorgeous Far Cry 3.
As noted earlier, if you're familiar with Far Cry 3 you'll be right at home in Blood Dragon. The open world gameplay lets you decide when you want to take on a story-based mission, one of the optional side missions, assault and takeover an Omega Force base, or simply explore the countryside looking for the game's numerous collectible items, hunting the local mutated fauna, or ambushing Omega Force patrols. If it sounds like there's a lot to do in this game, that's because there is. It will take you a few hours to blow through the game's seven story missions, but there's so much to do here that you can get a significant amount of gameplay out of Blood Dragon beyond these missions.
Capturing bases is a major component of the gameplay in Blood Dragon, both in the story missions and when you're doing things off on your own. To capture a base you'll need to eliminate its garrison, but how you go about that is up to you. You can take a stealthy approach and sneak up behind them one by one, either distracting other nearby guards by tossing a pair of dice off into the distance to distract them or adding them to the kill with a chained shuriken strike. You can also take a more direct approach, going in with guns blazing and setting fire to the base. Take too long to wipe out the garrison this way, though, and they'll raise an alarm that will bring reinforcements pouring in. The third way to wipe out a base is new to Blood Dragon, and that way is to let a titular blood dragon do all of the work for you.
The blood dragons are dinosaurs with a nasty disposition, poor eyesight, and the ability to shoot devastating laser bolts out of their eyes. They'll attack anyone that they come across without making any distinction between cyber-commandos and Omega Force troopers. You can use their poor eyesight to your advantage, as some judicious crouching and sneaking can help you avoid taking a full laser blast to the chest. This is far better than the alternative of trying to take them on in the open with small arms fire, a confrontation that is more than likely going to go badly for you. They also have a fondness for the cyber hearts you can rip from the chests of your Omega Force kills, so tossing one of these hearts off into the distance will send a blood dragon scurrying off after it and give you the chance to give it the slip.
So how do you get one of these nasty critters to do your dirty work for you? After all, the Omega Force bases are all protected by a force field designed to keep the blood dragons out. Well the first method is to make use of those hearts you've collected to lead a blood dragon to a base, and then toss one in the base. While the blood dragon won't be able to enter, the force fields don't stop their eye lasers and the dragon will be pretty pissed that it can't get to that tasty heart. If during the commotion you manage to sneak into the base and turn off that force field, well, things will get really ugly really fast for the Omega Force garrison.
While you can complete the game without capturing every base on the map, there are advantages to taking over as many of them as you can. Captured bases serve as fast travel points, house supply vending machines, and host mission boards that serve up side missions for the taking. Those side missions will come with rewards in the form of weapon upgrades, so they're certainly worth taking on just to get your hands on more firepower that can help make the story missions easier to complete. Capturing bases will also help you to earn a nice number of experience points which will help you level up and earn the bonuses that come with each level advance.
The game's shortcomings are magnifications of some of Far Cry 3's issues, namely that the side missions can begin to feel repetitive as you make your way deeper into the game, the game lets you assault bases in any way that you'd like but it really pushes you towards taking the stealth approach, and even the base assaults can feel repetitive once you've captured more than a handful of them. In the grand scheme of things, though, these are relatively minor complaints considering the sophistication and quality of game you're getting here in a downloadable title. Overall, you'd be hard-pressed to find any other XBLA shooters than can match the quality and value you get from Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon, so stop reading and download it already.
Final Rating: 92%. If your eyes can take the color scheme, you're in for a top-tier shooter at a downloadable game price.