The Art of Being Self-Aware: How Far Cry 3 Blood Dragon Succeeds With its Craziness

There are many, many words I’d use to describe the latest DLC add-on for Ubisoft’s Far Cry 3. Eccentric, crazy, fun, over-the-top, hell, even radical comes to mind. But really, there are only two words that can adequately explain how Far Cry 3 Blood Dragon succeeds on its crazy premise: self-awareness.

If you’re not familiar with it, Blood Dragon is the DLC first teased around April Fool’s Day that promised neon pink, explosions, cyborg soldiers, and a tough-as-nails protagonist dishing out pain in one of the most deliciously 80’s experiences I’ve seen since the original Total Recall.

A standalone experience that does not require the original Far Cry 3 to play, Blood Dragon sees you taking control of Sergeant Rex Colt, a Mark IV cyber soldier with a cyborg arm and eye implant that allows him to track down enemies using-yep, you guessed it-cyber vision. Toting laser rifles and a bad attitude, you’ll go around the island taking out cyber soldiers and prehistoric monsters in the 80’s imagining of our modern day. It felt to me like a cross between Terminator and Rambo in all the right ways; a gritty, gravel-voiced and musclebound protagonist, cyborgs, lasers, and a soundtrack that would make Daft Punk drool.

Sounds crazy? It is. And that’s the best part about it.

The 80’s was a time of big hair, screaming guitars, tight jeans, and some of the greatest action movies ever made. Blood Dragon dips in nearly every nostalgic aspect of the 80’s you might have (even if you weren’t born then) and creates a fantastic satirical spoof of the action movie genre and all of its lovable tropes.

The fact that it’s self-aware is made evident from the start. It’s crazy, and it knows it’s crazy, making it one of the best takes on satire I’ve seen in a game in a long time.

It all starts with the cutscenes, which are barely-animated cartoon reels reminiscent of many of the popular kid’s shows and arcade games of the era. Once you get past the initial setup, you’re dumped on a beach and have to endure a painful tutorial, which Rex eludes to the entire time he’s going through it. You’ll be asked to read a screen, jump, move, look, and sprint, all while Rex dictates your disdain. Sure, it tends to drag a bit toward the end of the tutorial, but it still felt like a brilliant move on the developer’s part to connect with the gamer and have everyone in on the joke.

After that, you’ll encounter enemies that look like something out of an 80’s sci-fi movie you could now find at the bottom of a WalMart bargain bin, cybernetic dinosaurs that prey on the hearts of fallen cyborg soldiers, rogue commandos with untold power, and lingo ripped straight out of a John Hughes film.

Humor is something difficult to nail down in games. It requires precise timing and clever execution, which can often be muddied by gameplay mechanics and plot developments during a game’s narrative. But Blood Dragon manages to capture it in a way that had me laughing out loud on multiple occasions. The most notable of which being an exchange between Rex and Dr. Darling toward the beginning. Darling wants to give Rex some drugs that would make him just as powerful as the infamous Sloan, but Rex refuses, saying that he made a promise to a “special lady.”

“Your…wife?” the Doctor asks.

“No,” Rex pauses, and an image of the statue of Liberty appears behind him. “Lady Liberty. She taught me that…winners don’t use drugs.”

Fantastic. If you ever set foot in an arcade in the early 90’s like I did, you’ll distinctly remember the screens on cabinets announcing the very sentiment to quarter-clutching gamers lining up to play Time Crisis.

It’s moments like these that stand out as being absolutely fantastic in a game that uses Far Cry 3’s mechanics very well. Add to that the frequent jests and insane quips from the game’s overtly masculine protagonist, fun gameplay that varies the formula of Far Cry 3 just enough to be an expansion while retaining its own identity, and the great use of humor and satire throughout, and there’s no reason why the expansion shouldn’t appeal to gamers everywhere.