‘Blood Dragon’ splashed with neon
Nostalgia for the ’80s, and particularly the gunning, wisecracking, mass-murdering-for-a-good-cause action heroes of the ’80s, is nothing new. Sylvester Stallone has made a closet industry of such nostalgia in recent years, what with two “Expendables” movies and a “Rambo” reboot. Still, there’s something missing in most of the nostalgia we see for the action movies of that era. While we may recognize the players, the attitudes and the body counts, there’s something missing in the modern ’80s throwback that separates it from the movies actually produced in that long-gone era.
If we were to ask the developers responsible for “Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon” (Xbox 360; Rated M; $15.00), that missing something is neon. Lots and lots of neon.
“Blood Dragon” is unabashedly neon, in look and in attitude. Set in the far future of 2007, wars are waged between cyborgs under an unrelenting neon pink sky. Cyborg blood is neon blue; the shields protecting most outposts from the notice of the “blood dragons” themselves (which aren’t so much dragons as cyborg T-rexes) are neon green.
You cannot find these colors on a color wheel; they are all here to remind us of what science fiction and action writers thought the world would look like when the 2000s hit.
That said, the gameplay is decidedly of the modern era, and this is where the “Far Cry 3” name is used to good effect. While it’s true that the narrative of “Blood Dragon” has nothing whatsoever to do with the game it shares its name with, it still comes off as inescapably a “Far Cry” game. It’s set on an island. It allows you to follow the set mission structure or wander around the open island world to your heart’s content. It features the hunting of rare and dangerous animals. Most obviously, it is a first-person shooter with a heavy focus on stealth.
Focus on stealth
Focusing on stealth despite the action-hero aspirations of protagonist Seargeant Rex Colt was a smart decision, given that allowing for the possibility of stealth allows for far more gameplay creativity than simple run-and-gunning. You can’t just run into every occupied garrison with guns blazing. You’ll get your titanium-infused face shot off that way. Clever use of cover, your blade, your endless supply of shurikens, and your cybernetic eye will keep your pace slow, but your heart beating.
Besides, dropping down on an enemy Batman-style is far more satisfying than panicked shooting till the baddies are dead.
There are moments when the gameplay seems at odds with the overall mood. In addition to his endless supply of shurikens, Rex Colt also carries an endless supply of 20-sided dice, used for distracting and diverting approaching enemies. That’s a cute touch and a nod to the ’80s heyday of “Dungeons and Dragons,” but replacing the stone-throwing of the original “Far Cry 3” seems like a long way to go to make a cute period reference. An overabundance of escort missions also removes the option to use stealth a little too often.
Still, necessitating excessive force in a stealth game that’s approximating an action movie doesn’t seem like the worst idea in the world, and using a D20 doesn’t hurt the gameplay. These are minor nitpicks.
Perhaps the most impressive thing about “Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon” is its price. It’s a $15 downloadable game – a standalone experience that does not require the original “Far Cry 3” – that plays and acts like a mainstream boxed game in just about every way. It is the perfect mix of reverence and irreverence, on top of a proven gameplay engine. If you’re a child of the ’80s, you need it.
Also New This Week: It’s a slow week. You could go for the newest downloadable puzzling adventure featuring Mario, Donkey Kong and a bunch of tiny clones in the 3DS-exclusive download “Minis On the Move,” or you could head to your PC and give the interesting-looking 2D adventure-platformer “Residue” a try.