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‘Blood Dragon’ throws back to ’80s

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MAY 01, 2013

“Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon” is a product of the ’80s, but it was not made in the ’80s. It is the awkward yet bombastic product of a generation that grew up watching “Robocop” and “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles,” listening to synthpop and arguing about the quality of VHS versus Betamax.

In “Blood Dragon,” you play as Sergeant Rex Colt, a cyborg on a mission to save the world and bring down your old commanding officer in a post-nuclear Cold War dystopia. Voiced by Michael Biehn of “Terminator” and “Aliens” fame, Colt is the typical American ’80s action hero badass, complete with one-liners for every occasion, such as blowing up a car or blowing off a robot’s head with your shotgun. But he straddles the line between self-aware protagonist and committed hero, frequently questioning why he is collecting so many VHS tape collectible items.

As a game, “Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon” exists in a weird nebula. At its core mechanics, the game takes its main elements from the 2012 game “Far Cry 3,” keeping the free-roaming mission structure and open ended combat intact. Most of the changes from “Far Cry 3” are concerned with the game’s aesthetic; a cyber bow replaces the bow, cyber tigers replace tigers and collectible VHS tapes replace ancient artifacts — though arguably there isn’t a difference between the last two.

Not all the changes are aesthetic. The titular Blood Dragons, gigantic lizardlike creatures that shoot lasers out of their eyes, are added into the mix during combat and function as wild cards that can attack both you and your enemies. Skill trees and the experience point system have been streamlined, and more attachments for guns have been added, such as quadruple barrels for the shotgun and explosive rounds for the sniper rifle. Priced at $15, “Blood Dragon” is a standalone experience, separate in plot from “Far Cry 3.” But for those expecting an entirely new experience from “Far Cry 3,” know that there are not any major changes to the core formula; “Blood Dragon,” for the most part, offers more of the same.

The aesthetic and humor of “Blood Dragon” are arguably its most interesting aspects. The game tries incredibly hard to replicate, lampoon and cherish its ’80s roots. Half of the time, the jokes hit hard and are incredibly funny, especially for those who grew up adoring ’80s films, games and television. But for the other half, the jokes’ intentions — mocking but also celebrating the ’80s — become muddled, and as a result, become a mix of humorous, nonsensical and awkward.

In fact, many aspects of the game suffer from this identity crisis. The aim of “Blood Dragon” is too large for its scope, and there simply isn’t enough time to flesh out this neo-’80s world that Ubisoft Montreal attempts to create. For a game that takes about six hours to complete, the main story wraps up very quickly, and it is easy to forget what is going on or who the villain or certain characters are. From one perspective, this matches the tone; “Blood Dragon” is lampooning the throwaway nature of the ’80s action movie star. But at the same time, the game attempts to make protagonist Rex Colt as memorable and awesome as possible.

Yet, despite some of its awkwardness, “Blood Dragon” holds some sharp, humorous writing that makes up for its inconsistencies. And there’s enough to shoot, hunt and explode, which makes “Blood Dragon” worth the trip back to the ’80s. Those who have played and beaten “Far Cry 3” will not find a lot new here. But it’s a formula that works, especially when combined with lasers, neon and nostalgia.

Contact Art Siriwatt at [email protected]. Check him out on twitter at @artsiriwatt.

MAY 01, 2013

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