First things first – what the hell does Blood Dragon have to do with Far Cry 3? Give it a cursory glance and you’d have to say not a lot. It’s post neon-bomb apocalypse, with blue goo for blood, and – yes – it does have laser-eye enabled dragons which can explode helicopters out of the sky for fun. But once you start playing the similarities smash you in the face like a Shoryuken from the fist of Captain Obvious.
This standalone XBLA and PSN spin-off is an open-world shooter set on an island chock-full of systemic emergent gameplay (exciting random stuff happens!), dynamic wildlife (animals behaving like animals!), procedural fire propagation (dangerous burning stuff spreads!), and so on. It’s built on the same technology as Far Cry 3, so it’s no surprise the two share much of the same hard-on geekery.
There are also the enemy camps, the zip-lines, the bow, the vehicles… and so on and so on and so on. We’ve established the two games have much more in common than is at first apparent. Let’s move on.
You play as Sergeant Rex Power Colt – a badass cyber-commando on a mission to take out a gone bad badass cyber-commando with designs on destroying the world, or taking it over. It’s one of the two, we can’t quite remember which. But it’s not super important because Blood Dragon isn’t driven by narrative – the primary purpose of the plot is to punctuate the action with gloriously cheesy dialogue delivered in a musk scented love letter to the pixel art of 16-bit style cut-scenes. They’re a joy to watch.
There is frequent banter between Colt and his in-the-ear female companion, and Colt – who is voiced perfectly by Michael Biehn (the actor man from Terminator and Aliens) – enjoys spitting out macho one-liners, but Blood Dragon is most definitely all about the action. So let’s talk about that.
There’s a lovely balance between playing Blood Dragon stealthy and playing it BANG!!!EXPLOSIONS!!!SHOOTY!!!KILL!!! For the most part the main story missions can be tackled in whatever way best suits your brain and its inherent cognitive instincts, but the side distractions gently coerce you into either a stealthy or BANG!!!EXPLOSIONS!!!SHOOTY!!!KILL!!! approach.
For example, across the island are garrisons (13 in total) occupied with enemy cyber-soldiers. To make your life easier, it’s in your interests to liberate as many of these heavily defended bases as possible. While this can certainly be achieved through stealthy means, brute force and guns and explosions is usually the most effective way to get the job done.
It’s also a lot of fun thanks to a delightful selection of upgradeable weapons, a propensity of things that explode, and gloriously satisfying head shots.
Once you’ve successfully claimed a garrison, a ‘Hostage Rescue’ side mission becomes available which requires you to save a captured scientist. Because the mission is failed if the scientist is shot to death by his captors the moment they spot you running at them while firing wildly with your Fazertron (that’s the futuristic assault rifle), these scenarios generally require stealth.
Which is also a lot of fun thanks to Colt’s cyber-eye scan ability, shurikens, and gloriously satisfying stealth takedowns, which can be chained together for even more satisfaction.
What we’re saying here is that Blood Dragon encourages both stealthy and BANG!!!EXPLOSIONS!!!SHOOTY!!!KILL!!! through its mission design and it’s very cool because both strategies are equally fun and do not suck in the slightest.