howl /// Thursday May 09 13:03 2013

PC - Far Cry 3 Blood Dragon

The Year is 2007, It is the Future

Rex Power Colt has had a bad time in the post apocalypse and the near future has become now. Remade as a Cyber Commando Mark IV Rex must now confront former CO Colonel Ike Sloan in a battle to control the fate of man and cyber-kind alike. A fate sealed in the Dragon's blood.

Nostalgia is a powerful force and it comes thick and fast in Blood Dragon. I am a child of the 80's and its great to see that Ubisoft Montreal just when all in with Blood Dragon. It really couldn't of been done any other way. From the cheesy one liners, to the neon drenched landscape and 16-bit cutscenes and the very authentic sounding 80s soundtrack it all just works. Even the voice acting is brilliant in all its badness. Great scripting all round.

Some people might be a little taken aback with the contrast between the high fidelity visuals of the game with the lo-fi cut-scenes but really thats just a part of its charm. Looks great, sounds great, plays...

Mark IV Cyber Commando

If you've played Far Cry 3 then you've played Blood Dragon. Its that simple. It might have an 80s neon coloured coating of paint with synthesizer beats but its Far Cry 3 through and through, except for one thing. Blood Dragon is just plain better.

The skill system has been overhauled to just be a linear progression of upgrades that improve Rex to maximum ultimate badassed-ness. This sounds like dumbing down but the upgrades are well thought out and you really feel the improvements as they happen. Not having to sit there and wonder what skill you should select next is a rather welcome change. As is not being caught out by having unspent skill points rotting on the tree.

Your cyborg body comes pre-programmed with the Far Cry 3 takedowns that you once had to skill for. Along with infinite stamina and cyber enhanced abilities it looks like someone worked out that fun happens when you let players do cool stuff.

You have the same stronghold based island assault. In the beginning the island is a hostile place filled with renegade Omega Force commando's but as you liberate garrisons science starts to reign supreme allowing you to buy items, fast travel between liberated garrisons and walk the land with impunity as the animals are too busy eating all the scientists to care about you. Did I mention there were dinosaurs with eye lasers and cyber sharks?

Liberating said garrisons is a lot more interesting than in Far Cry 3 as well. They actually feel like thought out structures that have an assortment of interesting ways to "liberate" them. Even throwing Blood Dragons at them is a viable and entertaining stratagem. This is in stark contrast to the majority of the uninteresting tin-roof shanty towns of Far Cry 3.

The usual assortment of weapons and upgrades are there, with some interesting combinations becoming available as you unlock upgrades from doing the garrison side missions or the collectible questing. Indeed doing all these side activities along with your main mission objectives will yield a much more powerful Rex Colt. Some might even say too powerful. There wasn't much that could stand up to my fully upgraded "Kobracon" sniper rifle, which incidentally has one of the coolest passive muzzle animations that I've seen in a long time.

Speaking of 80's cool, integrating the threat meter into Rex's cyber-arm was a stroke of absolute genius. That is what good design is all about. About time that a normally useless UI element is made useful for something other than holding a gun or punching a switch. It wins the prize of coolest cyber-arm seen in an FPS.

Get the Girl, Kill the Bad Guys and Save The World

As you play one thing becomes abundantly clear. Blood Dragon brings with it the underlying problems of Far Cry 3. That is, that this is a console shooter thats on PC.  Blood Dragon translates into a game that is just too easy.

I played through Blood Dragon on "Hard" difficulty and I barely had a problem with being dead. Sure I got side swiped by the odd Dragon or Devil Goat but mostly I was a walking meat grinder. With a few skill and weapon upgrades under your belt Blood Dragon turns into a slaughter.

As far as the shooting goes, you have done it all before, now you just get to do it as a cyber commando ninja.

The Omega Force flunkies have all the same AI as in Far Cry 3 and are all perfectly predictable, complete with them getting stuck on the terrain. Some of them could certainly do with some new cyber-eyes as many times I would ninja up to them and stab them in the throat when I should of been easily seen.

What pulls you through the game is its wonderful script and the random misadventures that the Blood Dragons cause. You just have to get past the annoying little gameplay eccentricities that are in Far Cry 3 and the new ones introduced in the Blood Dragon v1.0 code. I wasn't happy to not get my cut-scene at the end of mission 5 as if left me sitting there in a new garrison wondering what the hell had just happened.

Blood Dragons main positive, is its shortened nature. You get all the gameplay of Far Cry 3 but without the ball breaking breadth of it. There is still lots to do, many garrisons to take and missions to run, but it is all on a smaller scale than Far Cry 3 and time strapped gamers will appreciate that.

Blood Dragon

To its credit Ubisoft Montreal was brave to forgo the DLC shovel-ware that gamers are usually subjected to these days. Making a new franchise is no small feat especially as a stand alone expansion to an existing game. Its a stroke of brilliance in what can be a rather conservative market at times and for they have my praise.

Blood Dragon is a good shooter, not a great shooter, but a good shooter as its still held back by the inherent problems of Far Cry 3 itself. Even with the tightening up of the gameplay. If you loved Far Cry 3 and wished it wouldn't end, then you will love Blood Dragon. If you haven't played Far Cry 3 then play Blood Dragon instead. Quite frankly its better and you don't need Far Cry 3 to play it.

Edited // Thursday May 09 13:02 2013 // First Version ///