Enter the Dragons – Trey’s Far Cry 3 : Blood Dragon Review

FC3 BD Box

If you haven’t had the chance to play Blood Dragon yet, or if you have but missed the live-action launch trailer, I am going to ask that you take the time to view the trailer posted below. Just trust me on this. Thanks.

It’s brutal honesty time: If that trailer stirred nothing within you, this game is not your thing. I say that now because the review below might make you think otherwise, so don’t come crying to me if you decide to pick it up and are then disappointed. I warned you.

For those of you who did “feel those feels” so to speak, Blood Dragon may be the best $15 you spend this year. It is everything that trailer would lead you to expect on the surface, and surprisingly more underneath.

The game stars Rex “Power” Colt, a Mark IV cyber-soldier who has been sent with his partner Spider to investigate a mysterious island base. Of course, things go horribly wrong, and Rex is forced to work with the beautiful (but mysterious) Dr. Darling to try and stop Sloan, his former CO and mentor who has gone off the reservation.

FC3 BD Cutscene

The story is told via animated scenes straight out of something like Contra or Double Dragon; the characters are just static drawings that slide back and forth or change position suddenly whenever they are supposed to be “moving.” Did I mention these scenes are intentionally scaled to only take up about 1/6 of your screen, and use 16-bit color?

Gameplay, on the other hand, is rendered using the full Far Cry 3 engine, albeit a tweaked version of it that makes everything look like a mix between Tron, LV-426, and the Terminator future. The lasting effect is a mixed bag of drab environments that lack the stunning immersion of FC3, versus objects that pop nicely against this backdrop so that every enemy, animal, vehicle and item really stands out for the player. The game world is admittedly rather dark, and my first play session left me with a headache as my eyes adjusted.

FC3 BD Enemies

One of the surprises the game had for me was just how much time I would spending with it, because after the initial mission and a brief tutorial on base-capturing, the island opens up to you just like in FC3. There aren’t any radio towers, but there are a dozen bases for you to capture, two types of side-quests, animals to hunt, and three types of collectibles to search for. I was genuinely pleased that this wasn’t a straight action game, and roaming the land is every bit as much fun as it was in FC3.

The base capturing works a little differently, mainly due to the presence of the titular blood dragons: Creatures of unknown origin, these dinosaur-sized, neon glowing mini-Godzillas roam the island at will. They will make a bee-line for you if you don’t move quietly around them, but their roaming can be controlled by luring them around with cyber-hearts taken from your enemies. They are immensely hostile, and can attack with tooth, claw, and lasers from their eyes.

FC3 BD Dragon

Each enemy base has shields around it that keep dragons out, but you can lure them close enough to use their lasers, and keep enemies distracted long enough to sneak in and turn off the shields. Once that happens, it’s just a matter of watching the dragons kick ass until the base is clear, at which point you need to either kill them or lure them back outside of the shields to take the base. I usually opted to lure them out, mainly because I saw them as allies, but also because they’re hard as shit to kill until you get a few of the late-game weapons.

For the side missions, Path of the Predator makes a return; go here, get a certain kind of weapon, kill specific enemy / enemies with that weapon. The other type is a hostage rescue, where you have to kill all of the enemies in a certain area without being detected, otherwise they off the hostage. The collectibles are appropriately themed: there are VHS tapes with spoof descriptions of 80s classics; TV sets that are tuned to a strange, static-filled signal; and research notes about the crazy things Sloan’s lead scientist is trying.

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One of the complaints with FC3 was that there were simply too many random tasks that didn’t really contribute anything to the experience. Blood Dragon corrects this issue by having all of your weapon attachment unlocks tied to the side missions and collectibles. Think running around finding TV sets is boring? Find enough of them and you unlock a double-barrel, and then a quad-barrel attachment for your shotgun. The system isn’t perfect; for instance, all four upgradable weapons have three capacity upgrades, which is a bit much. I would suggest taking the time to find everything before completing the game; otherwise some of the cool attachments you get will never see any real use.

Adventuring around the island will also earn you cyber-points, known in other games as “experience.” Blood Dragon retains a lot of them same perks and skills as FC3; instead of branching skill trees, each level-up simply unlocks a new ability, bumps your max health, etc. So though Rex doesn’t feel quite as hand-crafted a killer as Jason Brody, the end result is that you slowly become more and more bad-ass without having to fret with menus.

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When you finally do get around to the story missions, you will be treated to five of the most action-packed, sharply-written action movie parodies imaginable. I thought deeply about how much to talk about the one-liners, references and twists that pop up as you progress, and decided that it’s all just too good to spoil. I will say that the second-to-last mission is the hardest part of the game, but it opens up and ability that makes the last mission pure joy. You know how action movie heroes get their ass kicked in the second act, but then after a montage spend the entire third act killing 10x the number of enemies that previously whooped them? It’s that, and then some, and about halfway through that last mission… Well, no spoilers, but I was literally laughing while wiping away tears of joy.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xH4UwdS5sPE

There are not a whole lot of reasons to stick around after the credits roll, other than to grab a few missed collectibles, or maybe tackled the task of killing 25 dragons, but I was still supremely satisfied.  It seems that more and more companies are using downloadable titles as a way to let dev teams do cool, off-the-wall ideas, and Blood Dragon is the epitome of the trend so far. If you have $15 and a free weekend, then you have what it takes to do it “Mark IV style, mother(@#^er!”

I played Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon on the Xbox 360. It is also available for download on PC and Playstation 3.


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