On So Many Levels, “Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon” Is Brilliant

I’ve never played “Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon.” I’ve never spoken to anyone who has, I’ve never been in the same vicinity of a playable version of it, and my only real exposure to the game is the spectacular 15 minute demo IGN put out recently.

Yet I can tell you without shame in my heart, or doubt in my words that I love “Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon.” Truly love it.

While I realized this the moment that I heard “Long Tall Sally” blasting from a helicopter stereo in a glorious tribute to the greatest sci-fi action movie of all time (“Predator”), it’s not even the game’s love of everything sci-fi 80s that stirs these emotions in me. Rather it’s something deeper, more real.

It’s because “Blood Dragon” reminds me that add-on content doesn’t have to be a bad thing, but can actually be fun.

Too often downloadable content is seen as a necessity, or worse a money grab. “Blood Dragon” is the antithesis of that idea. It was the brainchild of a group of developers who saw the opportunity to release the necessary DLC content for “Far Cry 3” as something more than an obligation to bang out some new items, or a side story in the same environment, but instead they took the chance to take all of the original game’s well developed mechanics, and use them as the foundation of something that would not only be creatively satisfying, but that could be as enjoyable to make as it would be enjoyable to play.

In this case it just happened to be a tribute to the world of over the top 80s video games, science fiction, and cartoons. Every aspect of the game is dipped deep into the well of 80s nostalgia, as the cutscense are straight out of an 80’s NES game, there’s a VCR filter over most of the proceedings, and the amount of film references is nerdgasmic. Seriously, if you took a sip of watered down light beer for every “Terminator” reference in the demo, you’d die of alcohol poisoning three minutes in. It’s like the proper video game adaptation of so many franchises we never got, all rolled into one.

But again this isn’t about the content of “Blood Dragon” specifically. It’s about how all other developers need to take notice of “Blood Dragon,” and remind themselves that the moment they feel bored doing DLC, they are probably doing it wrong. Before I saw “Blood Dragon” I honestly never considered that DLC could be a good thing for gaming, but just like “Bioshock Infinite” did for sequels, “Blood Dragon” shows the benefit of preserving the mechanics of a great game, but changing everything else to produce something that doesn’t give you more of what came before, but something more original that reminds you why you loved that game in the first place.

So while the neon infused hyper retro world of “Blood Dragon” should be enough to get anyone to play it (especially as you don’t even need “Far Cry 3” to do so,  making it more of a standalone add-on), the real reason you should pick it up when it is released on May 1st is to show developers that gamers are tired of downloads that just put armor on horses, and instead crave expansions that actually expand and explore the possibilities of a franchise.

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