The most unusual thing about Blood Dragon is that Ubisoft insist it is related to Far Cry 3. How these games match up is anyone’s guess.
Fortunately, this confusion is a secret weapon for Blood Dragon. It plays in a slightly familiar way to one of last year’s most beloved games, but it has a finesse and gameplay style that is unlike anything else out there right now.
Format: PC/Xbox 360/PS3
Price: 1200 MSP
Release: Out Now
You are Rex Colt, a cyborg enhanced soldier developed from past’s future. Rex falls somewhere between Kano and Jax in terms of his look, but is full of puns that would make an 80’s Schwarzenegger blush.
Rex is on a mission to fight through cyborg enhanced armies and oversized lizards, infused with dark power and a ravenous appetite, known as Blood Dragons.
Oh, and he’ll also need to save a femme fatale.
Blood Dragon has all the hallmarks of an 80’s action movie, right down to the title music and it plays bloody beautifully.
If you’ve played Far Cry 3, you’ll instantly be comfortable with Blood Dragon. Even if you haven’t, the game is stand-alone and explained in enough detail through a series of tongue-in cheek tutorials and natural progression that anyone can dive in.
However, Far Cry 3 and Blood Dragon are far from the same game. Rex Colt has invaded Ubisoft’s finely crafted world, bringing an out-of-time, out of touch mentality with him, and in many ways, become a Duke Nukem for the 21st Century. You’ll see him flip the bird as he struggles in a close-quarters fight to the death with a cyborg. You’ll also see him inject himself with stimpacks for reinvigoration, throw dice as a distraction tool and pass off references to 80’s pop-culture, such as singing the lyrics to ‘School’s out for Summer’ when downing foes.
One of the major criticisms of Far Cry 3 was that the protagonist went from being a sheepish, uncultured thrill-seeker, into a trained, blood-thirsty killer within fifteen minutes. Right off the bat, you’ll recognise Rex as a killing machine. Samurai swords, a hard-as-nails arsenal of guns, a heightened level of dexterity and sense of awareness, Rex is tailor-made for action. You’ll also identify with the character more than any other Far Cry title. Rex is a real character and given more identity than most other FPS titles through 80’s themed cut-scenes made up of pixels and limited palettes.
A big theme of Blood Dragon is the art of stealth. Jumping down on foes from up high and creeping up on them from the bushes. Players will need to become accostomed to that as the cyborg armies are an overwhelming threat in packs and face to face confrontations. The neat thing about Blood Dragon is that Rex can chain attacks. Gouge one foe with a blade and take out an adjacement one at the same time with a shruieken. It’s natural, flowing and will instil a huge sense of satisfaction.
Of course, I have to mention Blood Dragons. These require a strategy all on their own. Players will need to stay crouched and very quiet when around them. When they glow blue, they are passive and won’t approach you. Distract them with noise, fire a gun shot or trample grass beneath your feet however and they’ll be all up in your grill. These will devour your health and take an unreal amount of punishment, unless you have the right weapon equipped.
Other than that, this really is Far Cry. You take over outposts by defeating an enemy presence within them, traverse terrain with large vehicles, take down rare animals for rewards, upgrade weapons and take on missions. No matter what the art-style, music and dynamic action may suggest, the core foundations are the same.
Don’t be surprised if Blood Dragon gets all the soundtrack awards later this year. Like Hotline Miami and GTA Vice City, this one has its 80’s niche and it builds on it masterfully. However, it also works in a sort-of, psuedo 80’s perspective of an upcoming future. Think Blade Runner and a variation on Vangelis’s imagination. It’s also extremely comparable to most games released in the 80’s and comes with a score that would feel wholly appropriate in any one of them.
Perhaps it will only appeal to a specific demographic of gamer, but it utterly resonated with me and completely invigorated the entire experience. It stopped Blo0d Dragon from feeling like any other cookie-cutter FPS title and that makes the whole title all the more engaging.
It’s possible we could see Rex Colt in future Far Cry games. How and why he’d factor in is anyone’s guess, but the man has quickly become synonymous with the franchise. The game is a creative, bold statement of intent from Ubisoft and is far from the April Fools joke many branded it to be.
Colt has added a whole new dynamic to the Far Cry verse, but the question is whether this is nothing more than an official modification, or if this could become something bigger.
Let’s put it this way: Blood Dragon opens more doors than it closes, and there are bigger questions now as to how this relates to the rest of the franchise.
Blood Dragon is a deep, rewarding game. While the campaign features around 7 missions and will take only a few hours to complete, there are enough side distractions to broaden the world and keep players occupied for many hours more. The writing is quippy and era appropriate, the looks and sounds are distinct and the general feel of Blood Dragon is refreshing and entertaining all at once.
One of 2013’s most unexpected triumphs and an absolute standard-bearer of quality for all digital-only releases to come.