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Far Cry 3 Blood Dragon review: Acceptable in the '80s

Ubisoft Montreal has skin-swapped its sandbox, trading blubbery bros for cyborg commandos

This standalone expansion to Far Cry 3 is less videogame and more time capsule, presenting such an authentic homage to eighties and nineties pop culture you'll wonder if Ubisoft haven't inadvertently altered the space-time continuum.

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Far Cry 3 is not required to download Blood Dragon, essentially a retro riff on the open-island formula which, over the course of a lengthy campaign, takes time to pastiche ropey Saturday morning cartoons, lunk-headed action flicks, and a Mega Drive aesthetic which can only be described as 'rad'. As such, living through at least one of the relevant decades is a must. If you grew up with Master Chief rather than Cheetara, you might not get the joke.

The plot is eighties to its core. In the far-flung future of 2007, where bionic men fight on the frontlines while somewhere else, presumably, kids practice kickflips on hoverboards, nuclear war has ravaged Earth.

Even worse - a deranged Colonel called Sloan is threatening to turn everyone cyber with a missile barrage filled with the DNA of blood dragons, a species of Godzillian quadrupeds residing on a tropical island. With Sloan establishing his evil base there, it's your job as cyborg commando Rex Colt (voiced by The Terminator's Michael Biehn) to end him.

BIEHN THERE

Colt's an all-round more agile character than Far Cry 3's Jason Brody: he can run faster, jump higher, breathe underwater, and fall from height without taking damage. Healing animations show him repair his metal arm with a blowtorch, while his quietly humming infrared vision replaces Brody's camera as an enemy-tagger.

This physicality is put to use on a brand new island. Roughly half the size of Far Cry 3's first, it's similarly stuffed with garrisons to claim, animals to hunt, weapons to upgrade (quadruple shotgun barrels are a must), and collectibles to scavenge (here in the form of CRT TVs and VHS tapes).

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Healing animations show Colt repair his metal arm with a blowtorch

Story missions are what you're here for, though, packing post-modern digs beneath a retro fašade. A tongue-in-cheek tutorial teaches 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." Meanwhile, loading screens advise players who need help that "the next randomly selected loading screen might help". Thanks.

Later, agonisingly waiting for an exit to open as we dodged laser blasts from an enraged blood dragon, our character questioned why it took so long. "Dramatic tension" said the dead-pan voice in his ear.

DRAGON ME TO HELL

However, wry commentary on contrived design is sometimes abandoned, and Blood Dragon becomes contrived itself. For every dam infiltration, exploding base escape or helicopter turret section while Little Richard's "Long Tall Sally" blasts, there are also escort missions and repetitive room-clearing exercises. There's even an arena where you'll mindlessly kill packs of charging enemies, Painkiller style. All jokes without punchlines.

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