Launching on Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC today via each system’s respective digital service(s), Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon is somewhat of an unusual videogame production. Its self-effacing humour isn’t unique but it’s far from common; even more so from a big publisher and backed by a AAA franchise. However, this is exactly why it’s such a shocking release, and also why you should be investing in it.
Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon plays off the back of Far Cry 3’s success, and a decade ago would’ve been sold as an expansion pack. However, here in the world of digital distribution it’s a standalone product, so one may wonder why Ubisoft decided to attach that frontline to the title: this is a new world with new characters and a new storyline entirely unrelated to that of Far Cry 3, so much so in fact that there are a couple of moments where it openly mocks it’s bigger brother. The reason then, must surely be one of marketing alone. Ubisoft may not have had the confidence to develop and distribute such a quirky title had it not been for the success of Far Cry 3, and so using that cannon has allowed the publisher to fire Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon into the retail channel.
When all is said and done however, Ubisoft needn’t have been worried. Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon stands by itself as an enjoyable open world first-person shooter (FPS) designed for gamers of a certain age. The references are obvious: The Terminator, Apocalypse Now, Rambo, Universal Soldier, Robocop, Alien Nation and dozens more motion-picture productions from the late ‘80s and early ‘90s can be seen having their imprint on Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon’s genetic material. Videogames from yesteryear have also influenced the design of the videogame, with the plot delivered through low tech cutscenes not quite as restrictive as 8-bit productions, but close enough to still appreciate the story being told.
The gameplay however, is very much a modern product. The first hour is very linear considering how open the videogame eventually becomes, but the fact that such a comparison can even be made is enough to suggest that Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon’s gameplay hasn’t been hemmed in by it’s subject matter and aesthetic inspiration. The core structure consists of a series of story missions that have you travel across the map taking out enemies, gaining control of garrisons by taking out enemies, rescuing scientists by taking out enemies and hunting wildlife (possibly involving taking out some enemies. It’s not the most cerebral affair, but there are plenty of inventive options for tackling these missions; swing in from a zipline, find a back door or send in a blood dragon to do the creative killing? These and more options are at your disposal.
Unlike Far Cry 3, in Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon you play an experienced killer. A hardened, military trained, part-robotic fighter who can withstand a reasonable amount of damage. However, you’ll still not want to tangle with these blood dragons. Roaming the map freely, what they lack in the quality of their eyesight they make up for with aggression, and players are able to use this to their advantage. Enemies killed will often house ‘cyber hearts’ which can then be used to attract blood dragon by throwing them nearby. Stealth is always the best approach, regardless of your ability to endure bullets, explosions and drops from a significant height, and so creeping along raised walkways and throwing cyber hearts at enemies on ground level will always be a valid – and typically highly successful – tactic.
The story lead aspect of Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon won’t take a huge amount of time to complete, a couple of evenings of a day at the weekend will surely be enough, but there’s far more that lies beyond. Taking control of all the garrisons, rescuing all the scientists and upgrading all of your weapons will double the duration of the experience, making Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon well worth the investment despite there being only the one gameplay mode. It’s a tidy videogame experience that has clearly been well thought out and precisely executed, and then given a retro stylised makeover. If that’s not a recipe for success amongst thirty-something gamers the there’s no such thing as a sure fire hit.