Before the press could sit down and play Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon, Dean Evans, creative director on the project, wanted to make one thing clear: the script is terrible, the characters are one dimensional, and make no mistake, "the game is stupid." He said this proudly; the approach was a bullet point.
Not every game has to take itself seriously of course, and one could definitely make the argument that the dramatic narrative of many modern shooters betrays the mindlessness of what the player spends most of their time doing: blowing heads off. Even so, Blood Dragon's ethos feels shocking when you consider it's a spin-off of a game that took itself really, really seriously. So seriously that people mock the lead writer of Far Cry 3, Jeffrey Yohalem.
After spending an hour playing Blood Dragon, yesterday 've determined that it feels like the polar opposite of Far Cry 3 even though they both mostly play in the same way: they are first-person shooters with an open world and the freedom to approach an objective in a variety of ways. Maybe you sneak through. Maybe you go in guns blazing. Maybe you rip out a soldier's cybernetic heart and throw it into a garrison (this game's version of an outpost) as blood dragon bait, leading the dragon to fight against your enemies. Oh wait, Far Cry 3 didn't have that. Blood Dragon does. Everyone wants a pet dinosaur, right?
Still, If you've played Far Cry 3, you already know what Blood Dragon feels like; Blood Dragon is Far Cry 3 with a much more ridiculous neon skin and a much better soundtrack. It's Far Cry 3 if Jason Brody was a badass Cyber Commando, which means that your character, Rex Colt, doesn't take any falling damage and can breathe underwater indefinitely. I'd say that's Cyber Commando 1, Jason Brody 0.
The game is Far Cry 3 with cyber ninjas, cybersharks, cyborgs, and dragons.
Blood Dragon is Far Cry 3 if Far Cry 3 didn't take itself seriously, which might explain why the player has the option to flip the bird mid firefight ("It's player expression," Evans says), or why your character curses repeatedly at the tutorial section for getting in the way. It's a belligerent game like that. If this makes it sound as if Far Cry 3 jumped the shark, that's intentional. "A lot of shooters take themselves way too seriously," Evans lamented.
The thing is, I think this approach works better than what Far Cry 3 did; I'm not convinced that Far Cry 3 was successful with creating a meaningful or subversive narrative. I'm glad there are games out there that try, yes—I don't want developers to stop trying—but after the circus surrounding Far Cry 3, I began feeling insulted at the assertion that players who didn't think it was deep simply didn't get it. In the face of that, Blood Dragon feels fresh even though, mechanically at least, it's not.