Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon | Video Games Par Excellence
When it comes to paying homage to an older era of media, or specifically film and television in general, it’s often quite difficult to re-capture that exact same look and feel, while keeping things practical and under budget. Re-creating the grit, the class, and the design of a 1960s movie has been done before, but perhaps in only one case has it perfectly succeeded to the point where you cannot tell the difference. Many more films imitating the 70s have been made, most notably Black Dynamite; which ultimate did pull off the soft greenish tint in the film grain, the musty yellowish glow to all of the houses and furniture, and the camera work that was so prevalent in blacksploitation and kung-fu action films of that time.
But when it comes to the recreating a certain era in modern media, perhaps no other decade has been more influential and has inspired more modern imitations than the 1980s: a decade ripe with nostalgia and wicked awesome visuals that many of us only dream that we could reproduce. It’s been done in a few places here and there, mostly in commercials. And inspiration has been drawn from many 80s and early 90s films for movies that mostly don’t intend to imitate the look, just the charm of the narrative and dynamics of the action. But if you really want to see the best of 80s action and scifi films all boiled down into one perfect package, and one that actually nails the look and feel at every turn: then look no further than the video-game FarCry 3: Blood Dragon, devloped by Ubisoft.
Created as a stand-alone spin-off of the original Far Cry 3 video-game, Blood Dragon‘s premise is pretty simple and straight forward, as you might imagine. Located in the dark and dystopian future of 2007, the game starts out with our macho hero, Cybernetic super-soldier, Sergent Rex Power Colt, and his partner, T. T. “Spider” Brown, as you infiltrate the launch pad of an armed rocket aiming to blast off in under an hour if you don’t stop it’s launch sequence. The rocket is owned and operated by Rex and Spider’s former commanding officer, Colonel Sloan, who has a mind to blow up a good majority of what’s left of the world in order to establish a new world order of peace, prosperity, and absolutely no government regulation. Sloan also has a mad-scientist named Dr. Carlyle who has developed a breed of the titular Blood Dragons, which Sloan intends to use as part of his ultimate plan to revert the world back to a prehistoric age. The good Doctor also has a horde of what he refers to as “The Running Dead:” a zombified mass of humans infused with the Blood Dragon’s blood.
After your partner, Spider, gets killed by Sloan, you have your communication with your superiors severed, and you are left out in the wilderness of Sloan’s island to fend for yourself. But you get a little help from one of Sloan’s less than happy employees, the lovely Dr. Darling, who secretly communicates with you to give you clues and information regarding the weak points in Sloan’s operation.
So with all of that said, your mission: kill all of Sloan’s Cyber-soldiers, win the heart of Dr. Darling, and save the world, all while being a humble and patriotic guardian of the peace, lol. What could be more awesome than that?
My God, I don’t think I’ve ever been so satisfied with a first-person-shooter before, other than Half Life 2 of course. Nor have I ever been so taken aback by the stunningly gorgeous and fully-realized 1980s visual effects, the fantastic TRON-inspired production design, or the perfectly traditional John Carpenter-styled techno/rock soundtrack. Just…every single element of this game is BEAUTIFUL! And the overly-macho main character and exaggerated cheesy dialogue only adds to the charm this game pours on you at every stage.
This game is jam-packed with direct references to 80s movies and cartoons: not the least of which include Predator, Robocop, TRON, Die Hard, Transformers the Movie, Evil Dead 2, Terminator and Terminator 2, Big Trouble in Little China, Krull, Monster Squad, the Rocky movies, and Indiana Jones, along with the style of old video game covers and 80s movie posters, video-game warning labels and “Say No to Drugs” propaganda, and perhaps a slew of other references to lesser known 80s flicks, like many of Jean Claude Van-Dame’s cult-classic features.
And to top it all of, Michael Bien, Kyle Reese himself from the original Terminator, is our leading man; as the voice of Sergent Rex Power Colt. And in all honestly, he does a brilliant job giving off that smarmy, no BS attitude, as well as a voice that sounds like he just doesn’t care, even though he so totally does.
The cuts scenes for Blood Dragon are also designed to mimic the smallish, cropped,and limited animation cut-scenes seen in numerous Nintendo Entertainment System games and Sega Genesis games from the late 80s and early 90s.
Perhaps the single most awesome thing that I love about this game, besides the brilliant use of colored lightning effects for when you go through the Kill-Star trials to retrieve your ultimate Krull-inspired star-shaped weapon, is the glorious synth soundtrack: which was even pressed on actual limited-edition Vinyl records for those individuals who wanted the retro swag. And like I said, look no further than John Carpenter for the major influence on the tracks featured here. In fact, quite a few songs from the Blood Dragon soundtrack sound nearly identical to some of John’s own pieces. Just take a listen to Blood Dragon’s “Power Core,” and then John Carpenter’s “Night,” and check out the similarities.
Admittedly, plenty of 80s and 90s synth music like this is, by its nature, very limited, and works much the same way as techno and new-age: where there’s only minor variation after a while, and quite a lot of slow droning moments that will either pump you up, or calm you down based on how the beat and base line gets you. So plenty of songs are bound to sound similar. But the overall vibe here is most definitely taken from the discography of John Carpenter’s work, as the visuals for Blood Dragon are strongly based in things like Escape From New York, Big Trouble in Little China, and a little bit from They Live.
But of course what should really matter is if all of this awesome stuff is worthy of the game that it’s featured in. So… is the game actually fun to play and does it handle well?
The short, sweet, and simple answer… Yes, it F!&#ing does!
The only downside to the game that I saw was that I think it just ended the main campaign way too soon. The amount of things you’re required to do before you kill the main bad-guy just comes and goes a little too fast for my tastes, and I feel this could have easily been remedied with just a few more specific quests and extra dialogue thrown in, along with perhaps a mission or two that were just a little bit more monotonous and overly complicated than the other missions were. Then I think it would have been a solid length.
I think the point of making it as short as they did was so that it felt close in time and pacing to what an actual 80s action movie would feel like, where you don’t do too little, but you don’t do too much either. And you have just the right amount of epic action stunts that you perform during the cut-scenes based upon what you complete during the actual game-play.
I was also startled to see that you don’t actually fight any bosses or boss-battles during the campaign, nor even the main villain, Colonel Sloan, in hand-to-hand combat. Instead you fire a blast through his chest with your brand-new Kill-Star weapon during a final cut-scene. But I think this was done just because once you have the Kill-Star, you can basically blast through anything and everything without much concern or worry. So killing off the main villain would have been a little too easy at that rate. So better to just have a minor dialogue scene reminiscent of the end of The Empire Strikes Back, mixed with Temple of Doom, mixed with Arnold’s fight with Bennett at the end of Commando: and just have Rex kill Sloan on his own when the timing is right.
But don’t worry about all of that, because despite their length, each cut-scene is awesome and very fun to watch if you’re into the 80s action movie tropes. And trust me, they nail every single check-mark on the list and then some.
The game also doesn’t really end once you kill the villain, because if you didn’t do it earlier, you have plenty of Garrisons and shielded bases to liberate from the Cyber-soldiers. You learn quickly that the main people you’re actually trying to save during the game are overtly nerdy scientist types, all of which are a little whiny and not very good at keeping themselves alive. So you have to go in and save them from the battle-hardoned cybernetic gun toaters. And that’s something that you can do plenty more of once Sloan is dead. It’s just you now have a super Kill-Star weapon which shoots out a fully-deadly and inescapable laser beam from your wrist. And you’ll end up using it quite a hell of a lot at that point. So best to make sure you do more field work before you decide to go get the Kill-Star weapon, just to make things more fair on yourself.
All in all, Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon is one of the single best and most rewarding gaming experiences I have ever had. And I actually don’t mind at all that it was as short as it was, because like I said, it felt just the right length for what it was trying to be: an homage to the 1980s scifi action movies.
It’s a pretty cheap price over on Steam, so go right ahead and get yourself a copy. You’ll have to sign up for Ubisoft’s U-play service, which can make starting up the game a little annoying, but beyond that, it’s an instant classic in anyone’s game collection.
And now, for your viewing pleasure, I present a series of scenes and trailers for some of the film’s I mentioned above that inspired this glorious game.