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If there's ever been an argument that downloadable games are turning out better products than their full price counterparts, Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon exists to end that argument. I've played less polished full price retail games this year than Blood Dragon, and honestly, nothing has offered up the sheer amount of joy and humor that Blood Dragon marries together beautifully.
Before I dive into what in my opinion is a high contender for Game of the Year already, let me give you the low down on the actual story of Blood Dragon. The game is set in a neo-2007, where the world has been devastated by nuclear warfare. This game bleeds 80's vibes and humor, and that's exactly what Ubisoft Montreal was going for here. With a thundering soundtrack from well-known video-game rockers Powerglove, Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon is a fantastic retro trek from start to finish, building upon the already great engine shown off in last year's Far Cry 3. Best of all? It's a stand-alone downloadable title, priced at $14.99
You play as Sergeant Rex Power Colt, a half man, half cyborg powerhouse. You'll start off the game with all of the pre-existing upgrades from Far Cry 3. For example: you can chain stealth takedowns out the gate, which is extremely helpful, since there are numerous stealth parts of the game. After an explosive introduction, you're dropped on an island (roughly a sixth of the size of the islands of Far Cry 3), and after the initial mission, you are given the keys to the game and ready to explore. There are thirteen “Garrisons” to liberate, much like the outposts and towers you could liberate in the standard game. There are also numerous hostage and hunting side missions, each with corresponding achievements, making an actual incentive for doing them. These missions also offer up the bonus that allows you to upgrade your weapons. After the first mission, you will have four weapons at your disposal throughout most of the game. There is a pistol, assault rifle, shotgun, and sniper rifle. The bow also makes a return, along with the flamethrower and mini-gun.
The setting of Blood Dragon is enough to blow anyone's mind, but I'm glad that Ubisoft had the creative balls to produce something like this. The only game I can compare something this wacky to would be the Saints Row franchise. There are numerous nods to the 80's, and all of the cutscenes are presented in an 8-bit NES game fashion. With references and nods to films like Terminator and Running Man, even things like Bionic Commando, it's clear where the developers got their inspiration. The games' protagonist, Rex Power Colt (voiced by Michael Beihn) reminds me of Duke Nukem throughout the entire experience, shouting off one-liners as he kills and kills and kills some more. In fact, I walked away from Blood Dragon wishing that this was how Duke Nukem Forever should have been presented. It's almost as if Ubisoft Montreal saw the potential that game had, and said to themselves “We can do that, but better.” And that's exactly what they did.
Literally all of the vehicle options return as well. You can drive jeeps, boats, and even hang-gliders. There are also vending machines that serve as places get more ammo and consumables, rather then search and scavenge every body that you let hit the ground. But scavenging isn't gone, instead it is replaced with the ability to pick up cyborg hearts. Every enemy you fight in the game is some sort of half man, half cyborg. They bleed neon blood (usually blue colored), and you can gather their hearts to throw as decoys when put up against a blood dragon. You didn't think that a game called Blood Dragon wouldn't actually have dragons in it, did you?
Blood Dragon has plenty of these beasts, they are around the size of your average dinosaur, and they are formidable opponents. In fact, one my only gripes with this game is how much damage they take before they can be taken down. Even with the game ending “Killstar” (a weapon I'll explain in a bit), they don't go down as quickly as they probably should. Besides blood dragons, there are twelve mutated species to take down in this expansion, from cyborg sharks to robot dogs. The good news is that robo dogs don't take you down as quickly as normal dogs did in Far Cry 3. Near the end of the game, you will be given a weapon on your robotic arm called “The Killstar”. This weapon is essentially best described as the “instagib” laser from Unreal Tournament, unleashing a powerful blast that will kill just about every enemy in the game instantly, with the exception of the blood dragons.
My only other gripe with Blood Dragon is its length. The story mode, is about four hours long, if that. While this is a downloadable game, so that's expected, I really didn't want the over-the-top story to end. The universe created here is intriguing and engaging enough for me to want a sequel already. Post “Vietnam War 2?” Sign me up. The end also doesn't have a boss battle that I was expecting, but instead you watch that battle through a cutscene. However, given the odd nature of boss-battles in Far Cry 3, this isn't necessarily a bad thing. However, the battle right before that ending cutscene is perhaps one of the more memorable spectacles of this console generation, including something I can only compare to the Liberty Prime battle of Fallout 3. And remember, this all in a $14.99 DLC game.
Despite the story being short, there's still plenty to do when it's all said and done. Like it's big brother counterpart, the game is open-world after, allowing you to do all of the side-quests, collect all the collectibles, and explore and liberate all of the garrisons. This easily adds another ten hours to the package, making it the perfect length for the perfect price. Note that I only experienced maybe one or two graphical glitches in this pre-release version of the game, and those could be ironed out with a day one patch. Nothing too major though.
It may not re-write the book on first person shooters, but Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon is a fantastic departure from the original game. I walked away from this liking it more then the original game, and I considered that game my pick for Game of the Year 2012. It might not have the open world quirkiness of it's $60 dollar counterpart, but Blood Dragon is enough to convince even those that didn't dive into the original game to give this a shot. It is wacky, it is out there, and it is one hell of a fantastic ride from start to finish. Many games today don't offer up such bizarre and creative concepts, and I really wish developers would take more risks like the ones offered in this game. You owe it to yourself to play this, and I'd even go as far to say as this is the best downloadable game that's ever been offered up to this point. If your a fan of the original game, first person shooters, or anything involving 80's nostalgia, do yourself a favor and play Blood Dragon as soon as possible. You won't be disappointed. The game is available May 1st on XBLA, PSN, and Steam for $14.99.