Most first-person shooters settle for a few additional maps, a handful of new weapons, and a couple of bonus missions in their post-release period. Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon, however, blows that tradition out of the water, delivering a compelling standalone experience that's both out of the ordinary in delivery and subject matter.
The digital download – which can be enjoyed without owning a copy of last year's equally endearing Far Cry 3 – takes place in a futuristic 2007 (stick with us), after the Earth has been ravaged by nuclear war. You play as Rex Power Colt, a badass cyborg voiced by washed-up action movie legend Michael Biehn, who's tasked with investigating reports of a bioweapon being built on a far-off island. Throughout the course of the enjoyable mini-campaign, you'll find yourself subjected to love, betrayal, and lots of laughs.
While the title repurposes many of the mechanics from its predecessor, it does so in a manner that's both silly and self-aware. You're a super soldier, able to sprint infinitely without running out of puff and breathe underwater. Where last year's title cast you as an increasingly unhinged Jason Brody, you start out Blood Dragon as a killing machine, and things merely escalate from there. The game lacks challenge on its default difficulty setting as a result, but it serves up pure gaming catharsis in its place.
The title spits in the face of convention, too. While its underlying concepts may feel familiar, it takes traditional mechanics such as tutorial tips and rebrands them as a hindrance rather than a help. It's these kinds of fourth wall crushing nods to popular culture that infuse the 80s-inspired adventure with a personality all of its own, and help to make a mockery out of the industry's more straight-laced adventures.
The gameplay itself is accessible. Weaponry is accessed via a click-wheel which consists of an arsenal that includes a bow, a minigun, and a ninja star that fires lasers. Most of these weapons can be upgraded with attachments that enhance their stats, many of which you'll earn by completing various missions and side quests. The game also incorporates a lite levelling system, with experience points unlocked by slaying foes and progressing through the campaign. By increasing your stats, you'll unlock special takedowns, enhanced health, and so on. It's the implementation of these superfluous mechanics that helps to elevate the game beyond its brief but brilliant storyline.
As with Far Cry 3, the action takes place in an open world environment. The location itself can look a bit bland, primarily consisting of brown hills and red skies, but it's the setting's content that makes it such an enjoyable destination. Blood Dragons – neon dinosaurs armed with laser eyes – take every opportunity to terrify you, while metallic incarnations of familiar tropical critters prowl the world, augmenting the setting with a surreal appeal. Collectibles offer ample encouragement to explore the scenery once you're done with the core campaign, rewarding you with various treats and upgrades when uncovered. Meanwhile, futuristic garrisons litter the map, unlocking fast-travel options when emptied of enemies.
Bold uses of colour help to amplify the nostalgic feel throughout. While the graphics are unlikely to ever blow you away, there's an appeal to the Tron-esque environments that will pull you in, and the visuals are complemented by a brilliant soundtrack produced by Boston-based Nintendocore outfit Powerglove.
But it's the little things that make the title so enjoyable. Unnecessary but appreciated additions such as 'flipping the bird' at fallen enemies and pixel art sex scenes lend a real immaturity to proceedings, but the game has just enough brain cells to push its brand of stupidity above the likes of Duke Nukem Forever. It's an undeniably crass experience, but the wit that's buried beneath its bravado will prompt you to split your sides at times.
Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon is unashamedly stupid, and it's all the better for it. The standalone download takes the core ideas from Ubisoft's relatively recent tropical thriller, and reassembles them in the form of a nostalgic love-in that's packed with sly references and silly jokes. Its campaign may be short, but the title never overstays its welcome as a result. If you're looking for a laugh, then search no further.