“I’ve been wanting to kick those assholes in their assholes all day. Let’s go.” This memorable line could’ve been uttered by any number of late ’80s action stars, right before they bust down the door of the bad guy’s hideout and blow the place to smithereens. These characters—your John McClane, your Martin Riggs, your Marion Cobretti—are unmoored from the rules governing normal society. They are violent men with a distaste for crime and a bottomless supply of explosives and bad puns. They don’t play by the rules, but they get results.
This particular bon mot, however, comes courtesy of Rex “Power” Colt, a futuristic cyber soldier cut from this same cloth. He is, more accurately, a patchwork quilt sewn together with flotsam from every bad action flick ever conceived. Colt, a hard-bitten survivor of Vietnam War II, must take down a rogue officer who has gone all Colonel Kurtz and threatens the planet’s stability in post-apocalyptic 2007.
And so goes the plot of Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon, the mildly insane companion to Far Cry 3. (You don’t need the original game to play Blood Dragon—this shooter is a standalone affair.) From the beginning, this game makes two things clear: It takes the schlocky ’80s action pedigree seriously, and it takes nothing else seriously in the least. The game’s purposely condescending tutorial walks the player through the cyber soldier’s basic functions: jumping, crouching, running, silently taking down an enemy soldier, linking that takedown into a shuriken toss that brings down a second enemy, ripping out their cyber hearts for later use, and so on. The primer is done in a way that would be insulting if it wasn’t so damn funny. It’s a little like the beginning of Portal 2, where the robot helper Wheatley mocks you in a charmingly British fashion as you learn the game’s controls.
The glue that holds the thing together—“the thing” being the joke or the game, depending on your point of view—is the gravelly voice of Michael Biehn. The actor, known for his roles in Aliens and maybe Navy SEALs, imparts Rex Colt with the perfect blend of toughness, stupidity, and capacity for ridiculous quips. He sounds exactly like a drunk guy at the bar doing his best impression of Kurt Russell’s Snake Plissken. That’s entirely appropriate, because Colt is the kind of soldier who flips a stream of shells through the air and directly into his shotgun to reload it. The kind of soldier who yells, Rambo-style, when he opens up on a chopper with the Terror 4000 chain gun.
The world is peppered with enemy garrisons for Colt to “liberate.” Conquering these strongholds opens up new side missions and weapon upgrades. It’s not necessary to take these bases down to complete the main quest, but these diversions are where the best of Blood Dragon happens. The liberation process can be repetitive, so it’s important to experiment with different attack methods. Rather than sniping from afar, it can be fun to drop a base’s “mega shields” and lure a blood-crazed blood dragon—colorful, angry dinosaurs with lasers for eyes—into the enemy encampment and just watch the mayhem ensue. With each victory, Colt’s personal arsenal grows. It’s as he says: “These guns made me safe. Bigger guns make me safer.”
The question seems to be this: Does Blood Dragon exist solely as a vehicle for the joke, or is there more to it? The answer will undoubtedly vary from player to player, but it’s hard to imagine someone who grew up steeped in the karate-fied debris of Steven Seagal or Chuck Norris not loving this over-the-top homage. Even as it affectionately lampoons those films, though, Blood Dragon stands as something of a rebuke to monochrome, humorless shooting games that celebrate disturbingly real depictions of war. Colt’s brand of ultraviolence is of a decidedly cartoonish bent, and even pulling “cyber” hearts out of the chests of dead enemies—which happens a lot—feels more akin to adolescent gross-out than ad hoc battlefield autopsy.
As dark as Colt’s world is—something about the Soviets, nuclear war, and the invasion of Canada—it’s pretty colorful. The blood dragons themselves are all interesting shades of neon, and the red-tinged sky creates a bizarrely alien backdrop for Colt’s mission. And while the island in itself isn’t that diverting a place to explore, there are, to its credit, a fair number of conveniently located zip lines, and no shortage of things to blow up with a brick of C-400.
Any doubts that this is anything but a batshit labor of love are dispelled after the final sequence begins. I won’t spoil the surprise, but suffice to say that it includes a karate headband, a training montage, and something called the “Kill Star.” I was laughing myself stupid even as the entire island was being brutally demolished. For me, the joke never got old. I love that this game exists, and that it was produced by a major studio, no less. I only hope that we haven’t seen the last of Sergeant Rex “Power” Colt—that Blood Dragon follows in the footsteps of its predecessors and spawns a large number of even more preposterous sequels.