When Ubisoft released a teaser video and website for "Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon" on April 1, many thought it was simply another Internet April Fools' Day joke.
Thankfully, it wasn't. What it is is a short but funny representation of the future -- in this case 2007 -- from the minds of those who lived in the 1980s. "Blood Dragon" is filled with nostalgia and references from the decade, from movies like "The Terminator and "Predator" to the joy of adjusting tracking on a VCR. I won't spoil specific moments, but you know you're in for a 1980s experience right from the start of the game. Elsewhere, loading screens poke fun at how game tips explain the most obvious things.
Players take control of Sergeant Rex "Power" Colt, a Mark IV Cyber Commando, who is excellently voiced by Michael Biehn, known for his roles in "The Terminator" and "Aliens." He's on a mission to take down his former commanding officer, Colonel Ike Sloan, who has plans of world domination.
The story plays out like a 1980s popcorn-munching action flick, and it doesn't overstay its welcome. That would be hard to do since there are only seven main missions, which take only a few hours to complete. Those looking for lots to do won't find it here. Side missions include liberating garrisons, hunting down cyber species, rescuing hostages and finding numerous collectibles that add a few more hours of gameplay, although they become repetitive.
Nuclear war has ravaged Earth, and the dark, neon lit landscape is filled with killer cyborgs, animals and the most dangerous creatures around -- Blood Dragons. These large lizard creatures can't be taken head-on or they'll wallop you in a hurry with their laser attacks. It's recommended to always snatch the hearts of your fallen enemies, which are used to distract these monstrous beasts and sneak past them. While not a hard game, the difficulty spikes a little upward during a couple parts where you are stuck in confined spaces with them. My advice: Stock up on lots of hearts.
"Blood Dragon" uses the same engine as "Far Cry 3," hence why its name is in the title and plays similar to it. Stealth is encouraged to get quick kills on cyborgs, but being detected isn't a big deal since the AI will do its best to give you an easy shot. Also, I had no problem controlling vehicles and found it fun driving around the island.
While the map is small, the island still looks empty. It could have used a little more color variety and scenery so it doesn't become tiring to look at. However, the developers did an excellent job with the soundtrack, mixing in retro tunes that complements the game perfectly.
Our protagonist levels up simply through gaining experience points from kills and completing objectives. There are no skill points to spend. Each level comes with a predetermined bonus like gaining another health bar, so there's very little in terms of strategy. Most weapons come with attachments that can be purchased after completing specific side missions, but you really don't need them to finish the campaign.
Ever since its official announcement "Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon," which is a standalone downloadable game ("Far Cry 3" is not needed to play it), has been the recipient of hype -- and lots of it. Expectations are sky high for a game we recently found out about. It delivers on the nostalgia factor and funny script, but it could have used more compelling side content.
It may be a short game but it only costs about $15, which is a fair price for a fun shooter that's good at not taking itself seriously.
3 stars out of 4
An Xbox Live Arcade code for "Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon" was supplied by Ubisoft for this review. It is also available on PlayStation Network and PC.
Jeff Hoard writes about video games for The Oakland Press. He can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @JeffHoard921. His blog is www.yay4videogames.blogspot.com.