It’s hard to describe a game like Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon. You can just dismiss it as “another brain-dead FPS”, but it is so much more than that. If I had to choose just one word to do so, I’d choose “Epic”. Why Epic? Just keep on reading.

Right from the start it is obvious Blood Dragon isn’t your average modern shooter, but a sort of tribute to the action movies and video games from the 80’s: be it the “Tracking” bar at the bottom of the screen, which we haven’t seen in years, or the title screen that looks like a flashy WordArt page. In the pixelated opening cinematic we’re introduced to Rex “Power” Colt – an epic name for an epic character. Rex is a Mark IV Cyber Commando, one of the most efficient killing machines (apart from the Mark V), but there are many other things in the game besides Cyborgs that “would make a chrome plated muscle car wet” (and that’s an actual quote).

So why use “Far Cry 3” in the title? While there are no similarities between Far Cry 3 and Blood Dragon when it comes to the narrative or even the presentation, the gameplay is practically the same. The two are basically the same game, with the same mechanics, vehicles, and almost the same map layout, just smaller. In both the player can only carry 4 guns, grenades, Molotovs (they’re called Molotox) and health syringes. Both feature an open world where the player can hunt, collect items and take over enemy strongholds, so he can collect more items and unlock more weapons. The two games feel very much the same, to some extent.

Now that we understand the “Far Cry 3” part, we can tackle the second part of the title – Blood Dragon. That has probably something to do with the giant creatures roaming the island. These wingless lizards have razor-sharp teeth, claws that can rip through steel and impeccable hearing; their only weakness is their poor eyesight. But why call these magnificent beasts Blood Dragons and not Blood Lizards? Well, they don’t exactly breath fire, but they do fire lasers from their eyes! Yes! Freaking deadly laser beams. From the eyes. That alone should tell you what kind of game Blood Dragon is.

Remember that wet muscle car I mention earlier? So apart from the cyborgs and the dragons, we also have ninjas, zombies and mutant animals (yes, turtles too). Most of your enemies are just like you – enhanced cybernetic soldiers who just want to do their job (which coincidentally means tearing you limb from bionic limb). These Mark V cyborgs are under the command of Sloan – a relentless megalomaniac with a silo full of missiles. Only Rex “Power” Colt can stop him, and killings dozens of cyborgs along the way just adds to the game’s “epicness” rating.

Killing enemies alone (can you really call it killing if they are more machine than man?) isn’t inherently fun – it all depends on how you do it, or with what weapon. Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon doesn’t have a lot of variety in its arsenal, but what’s there is more than enough. Completing side missions (like hunting or hostage rescue) unlocks weapon upgrades, like explosive ammo for your sniper rifle or laser “bullets” for your futuristic assault rifle. Just be aware that the enemy can upgrade its arsenal too, and before too long you’ll be facing laser-firing foot soldiers backed up by exploding sniper fire.

That’s it about the gameplay. As for the story, well… It’s special. Think back to the action movies of the 80’s like The Terminator, or the Duke Nukem 3D game – that’s what the story feels like. You have your super-macho, super-soldier hero who, with the help of a lady scientist named Dr. Darling, saves the day from an evil madman and his henchmen. Not too sophisticated and pretty shallow, but that’s the whole point. Catchy one-liners and banal dialog about world domination are all part of the charm of this 80’s tribute disguised as a modern action game.

But all this nostalgia feels a bit weird in HD graphics. The cutscenes are low-res and properly pixelated, as a game from the 80’s should look, but the game itself looks just like Far Cry 3 with a bad color-scheme. Blood Dragon relies on dark environments with contrasting neon colors of red and green to deliver a VHS vision of the future. It’s a nice concept, considering its source of inspiration, but this constant contrast can blind you on occasion, making it real hard to see what you’re shooting at. Luckily all enemies shine with the same bright neon colors (even the dragons), so as long as there aren’t too many of them on screen, it’s easy to spot them from afar and take their heads clean off with your laser gun.

So maybe the visual design feels a bit out of place, but the audio is spot-on. The upbeat techno music carries the action flawlessly, and is just a small part of an overall great soundtrack you’ll find yourself humming all day long (you can even get it via Uplay for points). The funny, and very appropriate, voice work by 80’s action star Michael Biehn as Rex “Power” Colt doesn’t hurt either. The cheesy dialog can sometimes be a little too much, but it stays true to the epic spirit of the game.

So like I said earlier, Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon is just epic. There’s no other way to describe it; it’s more than “awesome” or “cool” – it’s epic (have I said how epic it is already?). You can never know what “badass” is until you shoot lasers at a giant lizard that shoots lasers right back at you. Recommended to all nostalgia fans and those who enjoyed Far Cry 3 – they are basically the same game, only not.

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