Late to the Party: Far Cry 3 Blood Dragon

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Most 80’s retroist games feel like the games I played as a kid. Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon is kind of what I imagined action games would be like in the future as a kid. Playing it has made me realize how much difference a change in setting can make for a video game and what a difference graphics and technology can make for particular themes.

I’m honestly tired of 80’s retroism in indie games. I’ll play a really well-designed retroist game, but I won’t play a retroist thing just because it references the past a whole lot. Blood Dragon is different because instead of depicting that past the way it was depicted, it visualizes it in ways that were impossible back then. It’s like the visualization we wanted but couldn’t get back in the day.

When I infiltrate an enemy base in Blood Dragon it looks and feels like a Cobra base from the G.I. Joe cartoon, rendered more vividly than ever before. To the same end, basically almost no other modern shooter has let me decapitate enemies with G.I. Joe or Captain Power-style lasers. That kind of stuff basically turns the game into more than just a look back at the 80’s but so far the ultimate realization of the fantasy of taking part in a battles from Transformers or something.

The weird thing about this is Blood Dragon has basically the exact same gameplay as Far Cry 3 proper. Literally all that’s different is the setting and visual style. The reason something like Blood Dragon was possible is probably because Ubisoft copied and pasted FC3’s systems in a new coat of paint.

FC3’s story is one of its least popular elements. It’s literally the white savior trope played out in a setting that isn’t uncommon in video games (especially Far Cry and Crysis). I found a lot to like in FC3, but contextually, shooting brown pirates and evil mercenaries just isn’t a unique thing. Not to mention the main good guys who are almost all straight-up white bros with few likable qualities. Ubisoft tries to claim some drug-fueled subtext or whatever, but ti’s not very effective. Apparently if you replace all that with something a lot of today’s adults fondly remember, you get a significantly more fun game.

Part of that is because freeing Far Cry from the pretense of realism in its setting let Ubisoft do some interesting things with the gameplay. Blood Dragon’s bases for one have much more interesting and elaborate layouts than the ones in FC3. They don’t have to look like what you might find on a Polynesian island or something — they can be incredibly gaudy environments that Cobra Commander might set up.

The gamepaly benefits similarly. Because you’re playing as a cyborg you can just have infinite sprint and stay underwater indefinitely without worrying about authenticity. You can blast through waves of enemies without worrying about ludonarrative dissonance because it’s just an army of cyborgs. Most importantly, you’re not just limited to the same real-world assault rifles as every other game — you have lasers now. It’s the same reason a lot of my favorite shooters are ones with fantastical settings like DOOMHalo, and Gears of War.

Overall, Blood Dragon works so well for the same reason Dark Souls works: It may take a lot of its design mentality and imagery from the past, but instead of completely staying in the past it applies those things to today’s technology.

BULLETS:

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