Blood Dragon is a gaudy, neon-colored extravaganza that never lets go of you. It’s not a videogame but a discovered time capsule filled with authentic homages to ‘80s and ‘90s pop culture. It takes its references straight from bad action movies of the era, Saturday morning cartoons, and a vision of a post-Cold War era future that’s now laughable. As a game, Blood Dragon is a wonderfully stupid experience that is outrageously awesome and offers an invigorating look at what videogames have become.
There’s simply no connection between this and the main game. Whereas the original was a rather interesting take at a warrior’s yarn, Blood Dragon is an exercise in power fantasies. While the original would have you start from the scratch, the DLC has you commencing the game as a total badass: you can sprint for as long as you like, breathe underwater, jump from incredible heights—the works, basically. All that’s partially due to the fact that you’re half-man, half-machine. The tone here is a hardcore ‘80s action hero full of testosterone and willing to dish out death and destruction to those who stand in the way.
That’s not a bad thing, really, simply because of just how great it feels. Although you start at a pretty badass level, you can escalate even further, and by the end of the game, you’re nearly godlike. The most important thing is that it never outstays its welcome, and you’re always driven along at a relentless speed.
Keeping all that in mind, the game’s format is similar to Far Cry 3, though the island is half the size. Despite it being smaller, the island is filled to the brim with animals to hunt, weapons to upgrade, collectibles to scavenge (in the forms of CRT TVs and VHS tapes), and garrisons to claim. You start with a tongue-in-cheek tutorial that teaches you the basics of “turning in many exciting directions (!)” and how the weapon wheel is “not like a real wheel used in vehicles, but a metaphorical one.” And that’s not all: it is self-referential and often breaks the fourth wall. A brilliant example is during a rather intense fight when the character asks a NPC why it’s taking so long for the door to open. The response? “Dramatic tension” said in a deadpan voice in his ear.
This brings me to the weapons, which are just stupendously stunning. You get standard weapons such as pump action shotguns, but they can be transformed into something ridiculously badass such as a quad-barreled horror show that sprays napalm. The guns feel powerful and pack quite a punch. This brings up the skill trees that let you exchange cyber points (which you gain by performing kills) to rank up, gain skills, etc. It’s very well done, and despite you starting off as a total badass, there’s much more that you can earn.
Blood Dragon has a strong visual identity. As I said earlier, it’s got the whole ‘80s aesthetics down with flashy, neon-colored design. Don’t let that disappoint you, however, as it uses this to its advantage. The world looks brilliant and (cybernetically) alive. It’s got a very Tron-esque vibe going on as well, what with weapons firing neon tracers, red markers over garrisons, and more. Simply put, there are a lot of primary colors at play in this game, and your eyes will always be drawn to something important.
The best thing about the game’s visuals and gameplay comes from the titular monsters. There’s a certain weight to their appearance; their ferocity and intensity come across as palpable. The dragons are pleasing to see and terrifying to behold.
Finally, the game spits in the face of convention. It knows that it’s a dumb game that screams lowbrow humor similar to Duke Nukem. The lunk-headed sense of humor it has works at its best when it’s meta about its absurdity. It wears this like armor and revels in it, thus developing a personality all its own. This is refreshing because it makes an ingenious mockery out of the industry’s more serious adventures.
Blood Dragon is undeniably a crass yet enjoyable experience. It takes the best things from Far Cry 3, adds silliness and neon colors, and leaves you on an island once again to have a really good time. Whether you like it or not, this is a special and unique game among the many copycats that are being released these days. It’s got charm, wit, and a special dose of awesomeness that’s so hard to find in contemporary videogames.