Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon - a stand-alone, fifteen-dollar downloadable title - is one of the best gaming bang-for-your-bucks since Red Dead Redemption: Undead Nightmare, and the similarly ambitious Grand Theft Auto IV DLCs. Here as there, we are given several hours' worth of content within the latticework of a huge, triple-A-quality game, which has long before seen its mechanics honed to a razor's edge.
It's titles of this price and quality that make Thomas Was Alone's ten dollar tag more than a bit hard to swallow - but this may be due to the fact that (1) I loved Far Cry 3 and (2) I grew up in the eighties. I am precisely Blood Dragon's target audience, and its strategy really works on me.
For example, if a game were to hand you this gun - this particular gun...
...the gun from Robocop - would it elicit a squeal of delight?
...if the game were to hand you your standard lever-action shotgun, but you reloaded it with the stylish flip Arnie uses in Terminator 2?
...or the minigun Jesse Ventura uses in Predator? And whenever you first pull it out you grab the barrel and rotate it a bit "ka-chick!" - as if that loads the gun - just like Ventura did when he pulled it out of the bag and said "payback time"?
...and when you hold down the trigger your player-character starts screaming just like Mac did when the Predator killed Ventura!
Oh God, it's wonderful!
After a sixteen-bit animatic, the game opens with a helicopter flight over the jungle to the tune of Long Tall Sally by Little Richard. How could I not fall in love with it? The sparks when you shoot an object are eighties action movie sparks. The explosions are eighties action movie explosions.
|It's packed with weapon-specific one-liners that range from perfect to pale. I laughed my ass off when I leaned around a corner, put an arrow into the last enemy in a garrison and Sgt. Rex Power Colt grunted "get the point?"|
It's a skin-job, sure. Aside from a few environments and two new enemy types, Blood Dragon is simply Far Cry 3 with a new paint job. A lurid, neon-glowing paint job that sees standard enemy types from FC3 proper jazzed up with a motorcycle helmet and some glowing accessories - as if some costumes were left over from the last, actually-important production, and were put to use with a bit of blacklight tape and Elmer's glue for this low-budget action romp.
And it is a romp. Blood Dragon is most-successful at providing its gleefully indulgent eighties-action stupidity in its (comparatively rare) linear story-driven sequences, to the degree that one sort of wishes they'd done away with Far Cry 3's open-world nature and just created a standard, linear action game which permitted the developers to more-consistently bombard the player with huge action moments and ridiculous weaponry - but why fix what wasn't broken?
Just as in Far Cry 3, you level up your character by setting off into the open world and freeing garrisons from the clutches of your enemies, completing side-missions and generally being a pest to the powers that be. It's less bombastically seductive than the sections of the game that were implicitly designed to be in on the joke, but you're still wandering a hazy day-glo jungle with a thumping soundtrack that sounds suspiciously like the aural landscape of The Terminator's post-apocalyptic wasteland.
The sky is always a dull, ruddy color - complete with SDTV scan lines - and it's often so difficult to see where you're going that I stopped using roads entirely and just began running bee-lines from A to B. The game definitely achieves the cheap(ish), lurid look it's going for - but it's such an assault on the senses (and good taste) that it can induce headaches, after a time.
It's a bit jarring that Blood Dragon's ambition seems so far removed from - not a better game, but - a very different game from Far Cry 3, where the gorgeously realistic trees and jungle and lighting created a far more immersive reality, and that Blood Dragon could have benefited from more assets and sequences which served its own spirit - but sort-of-cheap, lurid and indulgent is precisely what Blood Dragon is going for.
This is the game we wanted Duke Nukem Forever to be, minus the boobs. And honestly, when I'm having this much fun, I don't have time to miss boobs. I'm traipsing around a sweltering jungle under in glowing blacklight, with a soundtrack that adapts to the action. And a lotta' games do that, but...
...but when you're stalking dudes through this 80s jungle, the music changes to the drums from Predator.
I can't not fall in love with a game that provides that, particularly when the the gameplay is slick and smooth and just as well-honed as it was last November - and the price tag is entirely reasonable for a title that amounts to about a third of the entire Far Cry 3 campaign.
If the idea of reloading a shotgun by flipping it around gives you little joygasms in your fan-belly, you really have no option.