In Ignorance, Milan Kundera said that “Nostalgia is the suffering caused by an unappeased yearning to return.” Nostalgia is a very harmful quality of human nature; one that certainly can be attributed towards the fall of many civilizations. Nostalgia preys on the weakest of wills; especially of those who have never been part of these wistful experiences in the first place. Look at your Facebook feed, for instance: how many of these Marcos apologists you see clamoring for the return of that era’s dictatorship were born after 1987?
Outside of the Internet and its greater idiosyncrasies, we’re seeing the return of Zubaz pants, denim jackets, neon sunglasses and shorts that go up to your FUPA. The ’80s is back in full swing (again), and this time it just ain’t a hipster thang. A day shy from Throwback Thursday comes my review of this decidedly retro shooter. Blood Dragon is a $15 stand-alone adventure using the infinitely scalable Far Cry 3 engine, featuring a pastiche of decidedly ’80s themes and imagery. The game stars Sgt. Rex Power Colt, a cyborg commando sent to destroy a secret doomsday weapon engineered by his former mentor. Or something like that; honestly this is one game where the dialogue far overcomes the narrative, as Rex and his cohorts blurt out cheesy one-liners and fourth wall-breaking quips at a rapid-fire pace.
The game captures the ’80s feel appropriately. The developers did an amazing job of making this feel like a lost Michael Crichton movie, down to the VHS overscanning and gratuitous use of neon and lasers. Everything in this game basks in a purple or orange haze, so it feels a little harsh on the eyes at times, but it also gives the game a sense of urgency that few other games capture. Sneaking around in a permanently night-shaded environment feels just right, and for some reason that only whatever neurons happened to be firing at the time can explain, continually reminded me of Dinosaucers. Nostalgia is a bad thing.
Much to my delight, Blood Dragon strokes your bro gland like no other game this year will as its over-the-top hyperviolence, excessive explosions and delightfully cheesy character design completely annihilates the sometimes-homoerotic theatrics that a modern “bro” shooter like Gears of War or Call of Duty calls for. Power Colt—voiced by action film mainstay Michael Biehn—makes no attempts of trying to be endearing to the player, yet his never-ending dry humor and straight-faced narration of what’s currently progressing on-screen will have you in stitches, guaranteed. There are quite a few epic points where you get to feel like a total badass, like the arena-type stages and the jarring conclusion of the game, so once you’re “in character,” so to speak, you’ll feel absolutely untouchable.
Synth-rockers Powerglove provide the game’s musical background, and provide an awesome backing score for the entire game. As a synth head, I loved the game’s wonderful atmospheric tunes. Heavy, distorted guitars and bellowing synthesizers would not fit any other game, and the game’s soundscape feels spot-on for Blood Dragon.
The game forced me to install the malicious tumor that is Ubisoft’s Uplay. What the hell, Ubisoft? I bought the Steam version of the game to get away from your garbage publisher-induced overlay, yet you still forced me to install your DRM-infused bloatware? I was finally ready to give your company a chance for releasing a game as shallowly awesome as this, but you go ahead and prove—yet again—that you are the most deceitfully disingenuous and cynical company in the industry.
In spite of the fascinating gimmick, the actual gameplay feels fairly rote and pedestrian once you get down to it. There’s nothing particularly innovative or special about the game’s overall mechanics despite having an immensely endearing atmosphere. Your mileage may vary depending on your tolerance to the genre, but for me Blood Dragon felt like just another shooter.
Things that can swing both ways
As I alluded to above, the game does not have any compelling story to follow whatsoever. I had no issues with this, as the game still felt like a stronger choice than, say, more Far Cry 3 DLC as—spoilers—Ubisoft Montreal had already topped off Brody’s story pretty satisfactorily. The fact that this is set in alternative universe is also another cop-out to cover up the fact that a lot of assets were reused from FC3; again something I had no issues with.
Blood Dragon is the perfect $15 game. I’d like to see more bite-sized experiences such as these from the bigger developers. Six to eight hours is absolutely perfect for these noveau console experiences; certainly a far cry (get it) from something like Assassin’s Creed where Ubisoft tries to cram in five hours of actual meaningful gameplay in a forty-hour boredom tour de force. I honestly thought that the $15 game would take off after Battlefield 1943 made the rounds and was fairly successful at riding on another game’s engine to create a unique, bite-sized experience that doesn’t quite wear its welcome out. Here’s hoping that games such as this and Call of Juarez: Gunslinger start a trend.
One final word about this game: if you have a fairly recent rig with a decent enough video card, it will most likely work. Far Cry 3 runs using high settings on my little brother’s garbage econo-box with a GTX 650 installed on it, so I have no doubts that even a mid-range laptop from 2010 will run Blood Dragon, despite the high number of lasers flying at you at any given moment.
30lives—being the benevolent bastards and guardians of good taste we are—are giving away one free copy of Far Cry: Blood Dragon! Simply head on to Facebook, like and share this post. It’s that simple! We’ll pick a winner at 6pm tomorrow.