Preview by Ben Griffin.
This first slice of DLC for mega-shooter Far Cry 3 is a laser-guided love letter to the greatest period in human history: the 80's.
As a Mega Drive-inspired cinematic explains through crudely animated pixel art and lashings of dramatic synth, it's the near future (that is to say, the 80's vision of the near future, which is actually 2007), and the world is on the verge of the nuclear war. This, obviously, prompts the rise of cyborg soldiers.
Freedom fighters such as Sgt. Rex 'Power' Colt (Aliens' Michael Biehn, in a master casting decision). Colt's on a mission to stop Omega Force, led by a rogue robo-colonel called Sloane, from turning the world's population bionic. It's part Apocalypse Now, part The Terminator (in which, as it happens, Biehn also stars), and an all-round send up of the videogame industry.
But wait: what's that game director Dean Evans is saying? “We're really proud of our bad script.” Oh. He goes on: “In an age where polygons equal emotion, we went for something a bit different” – and with that he triggered the next slide which boasted “1D characters, terrible story, minimal emotions”.
And that's exactly why you'll love Blood Dragon.
Your playground is a crimson-skied open-world island about half the size of Far Cry 3's and similarly packed with animals and outposts. While both games see you hunt an unhinged mastermind, Blood Dragon puts a spin on things: mercenaries are not men but cyborgs with heads that satisfyingly burst into showers of blue sparks; organic wildlife is swapped for artificial beasts like robo-crocs, cyber-sharks, mutant turtles and devil goats; zip wires are Tron-like beams of light, the radar's a stark green and black grid, and blood dragons are... well, they're new.
Packs of neon Godzillan quadrupeds freely roam the island. Blind and relying on smell, they'll charge if you don't exercise stealthy caution, but they function best as attack dogs. Killing mercenaries, for instance, lets you scavenge their hearts in the same way you'd skin animals. Throw these hearts and blood dragons will attack anything in the vicinity.
Force fields prevent the monsters from entering and running amok, but luckily – awesomely – their LASER BEAM EYES can penetrate the defences from distance and instantly melt targets. To think, we once thought a few rogue buffalo threatening.
The ludicrousity meter is ringing right from minute one; even the tutorial gets in on the act, devolving into an elaborate trolling attempt via the sultry voice in your ear, Dr. Darling. “Use the thumbstick to move in many exciting directions,” you're told. Colt's response: “Motherfucker! Just let me shoot things!” “Tired of tutorials?” the next obtuse pop-up goads, “Upgrade to the premium edition today.”
But once this is done, as is Far Cry tradition, you're free to do what you want: hunt rare animals, blaze through bases, scout collectibles (here: VHS tapes) and more, even if it's the story missions that offer the expansion's most thrilling moments. The first sees you man a helicopter chain gun and rampage through a modernist settlement, exploding numerous bio-fuel tanks and scorching the sleek black geometric structures as Little Richard's Long Tall Sally blasts over the top.
From the Terminator-style infrared interface which replaces your digital camera, to beautifully tacky weapons like the Fazertron laser rifle and light bow, to the stripped-back ranking system which replaces skill trees with linear level-ups (thankfully, old skills like takedown-chaining and aerial assassinations needn't be relearned), even down to the desert chrome logo font – there isn't a spot in Blood Dragon not slathered with 80's gaudy neon taint.
Game director Evans's take? “It's fun, it's bullshit.” It's hard to disagree.