Dig out those leg warmers and sweat bands, poof out that big hair, and warm up the VCR, because we’re heading back to the 80s in the coolest, funniest, and awesomest game in years. Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon is a hilarious parody of the great action movies of the 1980s that takes the player on a ridiculously fun ride that will have you laughing at every corny turn.
Platforms: PC, PS3, Xbox 360 (Version Played)
Developer: Ubisoft Montreal
Genre: First-Person Tech Noir
Release Date: April 30, 2013 (PSN), May 1, 2013 (PC, XBLA)
ESRB Rating: Mature
You play as Sergeant Rex “Power” Colt (is that not the coolest name ever?), a Mark IV Cyber Commando tasked to take down the evil Omega Force cyborg army, get the girl, and of course, save the world. Yes, it sounds cheesy, and it’s supposed to be. From the first grainy VHS introductory screen (complete with crappy auto-tracking – remember that?) all the way to the insanely fun and hilarious final level, this is a game that will have you laughing at the sharp writing that parodies everything about 1980s and 90s action movies. From the standard clichés like the corny one-liners you utter after every kill, to the predictable, formulaic plot, the one-dimensional characters, and yes, even a workout montage, you will delight at genuine laugh-out-loud moments of pure comedy gold. You can’t count the number of awesome easter eggs and call-backs to classics like The Terminator, RoboCop, Aliens, Predator – it goes on and on.
What really sells the concept is Michael Biehn as Rex. As the star of many action classics (including the aforementioned The Terminator and Aliens), Biehn is perfect in the role and his obvious glee in parodying his own movies comes through in his performance. In fact, you clearly get the sense that the developers had as much fun making the game as you will playing it, no doubt giggling over their keyboards and saying to each other, “I can’t believe we’re doing this!”
For example, even the game world design is a parody of the times. You will see elements like computer consoles and wall textures repeated over and over, but that’s what developers did back in the early 1990s. Enemy models are also reused, but again, that’s what games were like back then, so it sets the tone nicely (along with the added bonus of saving valuable development and technical resources). The awesome story cutscenes of static images with deliberately bad, over-acted dialogue will bring back a flood of memories of the way games used to be. We laugh not only at the parody, but also at how we used to take the real thing as seriously as they were originally intended.
A true highlight of the game is the music. Australian duo Power Glove created the perfect synthesizer and drum machine soundtrack for the era that will have you laughing at its pure 1980s awesomeness, while simultaneously making you all warm and fuzzy with nostalgia for those more corny, big-haired times.
And no, the game has absolutely nothing to do with any of the previous Far Cry releases, but is instead what a Far Cry game would be if it was made 20 years ago. The game takes place on a surprisingly huge, open world island filled with bad guys hunkered down in garrison outposts (which you can liberate) and out on patrol (which you can fight in random encounters). You can also hunt animals, drive vehicles (including Jeeps, jet skis, and hang gliders), conduct side missions like rescuing hostages, and search for collectibles. Everything you do earns XP to unlock new abilities and weapon upgrades. Does this all sound familiar?
But as you might expect, things are taken over the top. The weapon upgrades, for example, allow you to turn your basic shotgun into a quad-barrel, semi-automatic, incendiary-round delivery device of death. Oh, yeah! You actually don’t need the upgrades, since most enemies are fairly easy to take down, but then again, you’re the ultimate cyber badass, and you wouldn’t want to walk around with just your average, everyday, boring old gun in your pocket, now would you?
Even so, just jumping into the middle of things can lead to a quick death. Enemies will actively seek and stick to cover, and will try to flank you if they can. Heavy enemies can take a lot of damage and are devastating if they get close. Snipers will annoyingly pick off big chunks of your health while you’re busy dealing with their comrades closer to you, so you need to keep moving. Of course, the ridiculous amount of explosive barrels spread all over the place can make things a lot more … interesting, to say the least.
If you’re injured, you can heal yourself with a syringe, or self-heal. The latter is preferred simply because it’s hilarious, with you digging a bullet out of your arm with your finger, or using a hand exerciser to pump yourself up. Yes, seriously.
In fact, the developers took every advantage to make you laugh. The loading screen hints are gems, as are the research data on animals, weapons, characters, and the many VHS video tapes you collect. The tutorial section at the beginning of the game is particularly funny, as even Rex himself complains at what a pain in the ass tutorials are. Canadians will especially find it funny that the folks at Ubisoft Montreal decided to nuke the crap out of Toronto right off the bat.
Gameplay is smooth with fast action and moments of pure insanity. The emphasis is more on fun than a pure challenge (though you can certainly increase the difficultly level if you find things too easy). This is especially true of the last campaign level, which is by far one of the funniest, most entertaining times I have had in a game in years. It is truly one of the best and most epic ending levels ever, thanks to delightful surprises that make you the biggest cyber badass ever, and will have you wanting to replay it immediately.
Unfortunately, however, you can’t replay campaign missions, but the campaign is pretty short (you can easily complete it in an afternoon if you power through it) so it’s not a big deal to start over. But don’t let the short campaign turn you off – the comedic writing alone is well worth the price of admission, and there are tons of things to do beyond the campaign: liberating garrisons, hunting animals, rescuing hostages, gathering collectibles, and fighting enemies in random encounters. Oh, and fighting dragons, of course – Blood Dragons, giant beasts who shoot devastating lasers from their eyes. That’s right, laser dragons. If that doesn’t sell you on this game, I don’t know what will.
Criticisms are few: picking up and interacting with objects is clunky at best (tip: aim your reticle slightly above the object to enable the action icon to appear), and despite filling every nook and cranny with comedy, the end credits are blandly straight. The game is single-player only, which is fine since a co-operative or competitive multiplayer would have increased the price (though it would be a great addition to the game).
But the most amazing thing is the fact that Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon even exists. When it was first teased on April 1, people naturally thought it was an April Fool’s joke. After all, in this day and age of publishers and developers playing things safe by milking established franchises, there’s no way a big player like Ubisoft would create a game parody – especially one that sounds like it was formulated in the wee drunken hours after a particularly raucous staff Christmas party. But no, it’s a real game and we not only applaud Ubisoft for the courage to green-light the project in the first place, but kneel with enthusiastic appreciation at the opportunity to play what is truly a gamer’s game – one that is fun, funny, and will be fondly remembered for the rest of your life. So treat yourself by downloading it now and relive the 80s – though you may want to reconsider bringing back your poofy hair.
Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon is so awesome that it broke our review scale…
Review Disclosure: A review copy of Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon was provided by Ubisoft for the purposes of this review.