To The Bitter End

Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon

A True Overdog Story

History is written by the victors, and the end of Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon is nothing but win.

By Steve Heisler • July 29, 2013

Games are often left unfinished. Sometimes they’re too difficult, too vast, or too repetitive to see all the way through to the closing credits. To The Bitter End is The Gameological Society’s look at those endings that are worth fighting for—or at least worth reading about.

I hate that people root for the Miami Heat. They’re the best team in the NBA right now simply because they had the money and sexy weather/clubs to attract LeBron James. I don’t feel like they’ve earned it, yet they have still developed a worship culture. It’s like being a fan of schoolyard bullies or casino owners.

But there’s a disconnect. I snipe at the Heat from my cozy, beer-koozie confines as a native Chicagoan. I grew up during the height of Michael Jordan fever, watching the meticulous craftsmanship around which the Bulls amassed one of the most impressive lineups in history. And with Derrick Rose returning next year from his massive injury, they’ll be back on top.

Objectively, there’s not much difference to warrant my love for the Bulls and my hatred for the Heat. They both dominate the NBA and have little concern for those they cut in their wake. But I’ve been there since the beginning (the “beginning”) of Chicago Bulls fandom. In my eyes, they have EARNED the right to be what I’ll call the “overdog”—the opposite of the underdog. Overdogs are great and powerful, unquestionably. Many bow at their feet simply because society demands we worship our betters. For my own benefit, I manufactured a scenario in which the Bulls deserve their good fortune, and the Heat have had greatness unfairly bestowed upon them. I am an unreliable narrator. Thus is the blessing, and curse, of rooting for the overdog.

Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon is a true overdog tale. The game begins and ends with bloodbath unleashed by your character, Sergeant Rex Power Colt. Yes, Power is in fact his middle name. A cyborg with the cockiness of Rambo, Colt opens this homage to 1980s action films by firing a machine gun from the safety of a helicopter, turning dozens of neon soldiers into glowing piles of goo. Later, as Colt gains on his arch-nemesis and fellow “cyber soldier” Colonel Sloan, he obtains an ancient relic known, quite bluntly, as the “Killstar.” It’s a shuriken that attaches to his robot arm and fires an endless laser. As you might expect, that is essentially the end of the game. Colt mows down his competition with ease after that, but not before climbing inside a metallic dinosaur, a la Alien, and shooting some more.

The first blitzkrieg—the one in the helicopter—feels superfluous. Rex Power Colt, through voiceover, has already established himself as a superior humanoid on a mission to protect the goddamn U. S. of A. His machine-gunning of nameless soldiers is a victory lap before the race has even started. This is the Miami Heat (in a game that channels Miami Vice).

Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon

Yet when Colt straps that ninja star to his arm and lights up the already incandescent soldiers, he is the Chicago Bulls. I have seen his plight, and though it’s without much struggle, I can’t help but immediately side with a man whose shoes I have walked more than a mile in.

There is little doubt that Colt will take out Colonel Sloan. He is a self-proclaimed “super soldier” who always has a witty rejoinder at the ready—“Now that’s what I call a blow job,” he snarls after shotgunning someone in the face. He’s throbbing with the kind of bravado that action heroes displayed three decades ago when they were dealing with those sinister Russkies. Sloan is evil; Colt is good. No shades of nuance are needed. In fact, Blood Dragon is so eager to proclaim you an early victor that it starts you with five different weapons and teases that a few more, like a flamethrower, are not far behind, allowing you to act as overdog throughout. Nobody can derail this out-of-control train. When a hostage scientist is rescued and proclaims, “I’m honored you would save your betters,” Colt lets it slide. He knows who the real “better” is.

By the time Colt collects the Killstar, it’s largely unnecessary. He’s essentially a Terminator for the entirety of the game, and the final level is full of bad dudes who easily succumb to an explosive sniper shot or an explosive machine gun round. Or one of many other explosives at the ready. Yet there it is, a reward at the end of a massive killing spree you gracefully executed. Now the real killing commences. As if shooting guys with a hose, the Killstar’s laser splashes the entire landscape with its raw destructive power. You don’t need explosives any more. As fireworks erupt from the manpower and clutter of the military-industrial landscape before you, it becomes clear that with the Killstar, everything is a kaboom-in-waiting.

Yet this rampage feels different than the first one. Little has changed in substance—it’s still an orgiastic celebration of destruction—except now there’s a story tacked onto the overdog. The Killstar, with all its dominance, subconsciously requires justification. There were many times Colt tried to sneak inside an enemy base and stealthily knife everyone in the back, only to die before resorting to more direct tactics. With the Killstar in hand, those fleeting moments of challenge suddenly feel like epochs of frustration. Hindsight plays tricks on us all. The Killstar is your right as a true American hero, the justice for your suffering. You’re the Chicago Bulls, on the road to another championship, anticipating a figurative parade.

There is catharsis in playing the overdog. For a moment, or for years in an NBA dynasty, you are untouchable. And that feeling is rare. We are socialized to answer the question, “How are you?” with something to the effect of, “Pretty good, been busy.” If I were to shout, “I’m wonderful and perfect!” it would sound like gloating. It probably would be. But Blood Dragon is a chance to celebrate a win with the full force of our voice. Even if it’s a hollow victory, it sure doesn’t feel like it.

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  • The_Misanthrope

    Between this and Hotline Miami, it’s nice to see synth-heavy scores getting some appreciation.  Now, perhaps, John Carpenter will do us a favor and start making good movies again.

    • Naked Man Holding A Fudgesicle

      Carpenter made The Thing, so he’s earned his lifetime pass with that. It’s a pity he retired from film making after Big Trouble In Little China, and you can’t convince me otherwise.

      • The_Misanthrope

        No love for They Live or In the Mouth of Madness? [shakes head]

        I didn’t mean to sound like I’m ripping on John Carpenter, though; I’m ripping on modern audiences for not daily acknowledging his genius.

        • Naked Man Holding A Fudgesicle

          Well, he’s definitely not an auteur at the level of Zack Snyder or Brett Ratner.

        • GaryX

          They Live is probably Carpenter’s last thoroughly great movie, though I defend In the Mouth of Madness pretty regularly.

          But yeah, the score for this is fantastic and fits the game perfectly.

    • Baramos x

       I thought Drive would bring back an interest in synth-heavy scores, but, alas…

      *rewatches Thief*

  • http://twitter.com/vowelsagogo Kilzor

    The absolute best thing (in a countless list of best things about this game) is that the over-the-top 80′s montage song (“Hold on to the Vision”) used during the Killstar training montage is actually a real over-the-top 80′s montage song from an 80′s action movie (JCVD’s “No Retreat, No Surrender”).  It’s so ridiculous, that upon hearing it at first you insist to yourself it’s a perfect parody.  No my friends, that’s just how great the 80′s actually were.

  • http://thewickerscale.blogspot.com/ Charlotte Grote

    “Friends through eternity/Loyalty, honesty/We’ll stay together through thick or thin!”

    That amazing end credits song comes from the brilliant piece of movie cheese known as Miami Connection. In the film, a rock band of Tae Kwon Doe blackbelts face off against the local drug dealers as well as an evil gang of motorcycle ninjas. That song is an example of music they play in a club. It’s possibly the best so bad its good movie this side of Troll 2, and it’s on Netflix Instant.

    • http://www.avclub.com/users/merve,96925/ Merve

      If they played music like this in clubs nowadays, I would actually go to them.

      I loved how awesomely cheesy the soundtrack for this game was. Even so, it was legitimately good 80′s synth-rock, and I’ve started blasting the Blood Dragon theme went I want to get pumped.

      • GaryX

        I’ve put it on my running playlist. Works perfectly.

        • Destroy Him My Robots

          Lesser men would die from shame if they used my running playlist. But it’s awesome.

    • The_Helmaroc_King

      The Wikipedia page for Miami Connection reads so much like one of those fictitious “forgotten movies” that I have a hard time believing that I’m not being lied to.

      The internet wouldn’t lie to me like that, would it?

      • http://thewickerscale.blogspot.com/ Charlotte Grote

        Yeah, while watching it I had to keep double checking to see if this was or wasn’t a fake movie.

    • Bad Horse

      On streaming?!?!

      • http://thewickerscale.blogspot.com/ Charlotte Grote

         Oh yeah.

    • Knarf Black

      Why on Earth would you watch Miami Connection on Netflix, when the Blu Ray has Lossless DTS-HD master audio? (The tape hiss is so clear, you’d swear you were cutting the up the reel-to-reel with an exacto knife yourself.)

      Also, having recently procured said Blu Ray at the time, I literally stood up and applauded my TV during Blood Dragon’s credits.

    • ChicaneryTheYounger
      • http://tmaiblog.wordpress.com/ Chalkdust

        This lyric is from the first song in the movie, which exists only to summarize the opening sequence that you just watched.

  • oldtaku

    The dragon riding victory march was one of the best endings in game history. Everything after that was just epilogue.
     

  • Naked Man Holding A Fudgesicle

    Sorry Heisler, but the only reason the Bulls had an impressive looking lineup was because they had Jordan and Pippen, and not much else. Horace Grant was ok, John Paxson was ok at fluking 3 pointers. Luc Longley? Please. These guys were made to look better because they had Jordan and Pippen.

    A few years earlier the Celtics had a better line up (Bird, McHale, Parish, Ainge etc. when in their prime, if Reggie Lewis and Len Bias had lived they would have been an amazing team), and as much as I hate to admit it, the Lakers had a pretty impressive team as well. With a bit of luck it could easily have been Malone and Stockton winning those early 90s championships, all they needed was some luck. The Warriors had Tim Hardaway, Mitch Richmond and Chris Mullin at one point, if they had a decent center or power forward they would have been the overdogs. Drexler nearly took the Trailblazers to the championship once or twice. Pistons had a great team. But the Bulls had Jordan so no one remembers the other great teams of the early 90s (and remember how mediocre the Bulls were when Jordan first retired). The NBA was much more interesting back then, but nowadays, not so much. Miami Heat are the Chelsea of the NBA.

    I am a little bitter because growing up my brother was a Bulls bandwagon jumper and boy was he obnoxious when they were winning those titles.

    • EmperorNortonI

       The Lakers were good until Magic retired.  They kept playing, yeah, but they weren’t the same after they lost to the Pistons.  The rest of the early and mid 90′s were painful.

      You wanna talk a team that had to earn its overdoggedness?  The Shaq-Kobe Lakers.  They had all the pieces together for a few years, and kept flailing incompetently – and then they turned into an unstoppable juggernaut.  That was a true moment of glory.

  • feisto

    The greatest thing about the Killstar is that puts two of your skills into a completely different light. All this time, I thought the game was simply being nice by rewarding me with self-healing and regeneration skills as I raised my level, but clearly it was just trying to make sure that I’d have unlimited ammo once I’d earned the Killstar. Blood Dragon: Even the healing system is about kicking more ass.

  • http://www.gildedgreen.com/ Girard

    I feel like there’s a video game analogue to the Cavs when they had LeBron in their roster – like some game where you are a vulnerable and kind of pathetic character, which mostly functional-at-best weapons in your arsenal, then one insane game-breaking super-weapon that totally unbalances everything, but it also your surest bet to win. (Warning: I know nothing about basketball at all, and maybe that doesn’t actually describe the Cavs with LeBron in them. My sum total knowledge of the Cavs, as a dorky kid who grew up near Cleveland, is: 1. ‘Cavs’ is short for ‘Cavaliers,’ 2. They are not terribly good, 3. They were apparently kind of good when LeBron was on their team, 4. Their colors are either maroon/gold or white/orange/blue).

    • boardgameguy

      the lesson that the Cavs have taught the league is that a single superstar isn’t enough on its own to win a championship and that a superstar will leave your team to play with others to have that chance

  • Aurora Boreanaz

    Sometimes being the Overdog is tons of fun, as in Morrowind when you manage to craft a suit of armor with every piece enchanted with massive spells and fly around the world obliterating anything in your path.  (Sadly missing from Oblivion and Skyrim, I might add.)  Or getting to max level in World of Warcraft, and going back to lower level dungeons and soloing them just to get revenge.  (SCREW YOU, SCHOLOMANCE!)

    I was actually a bit disappointed that Guild Wars 2 matches your level to whatever area you’re in.  I like that it makes things always challenging, but it also sucks to have to constantly fight to get even low level crafting materials.

    • Knarf Black

      I dislike the core concept of game mobs leveling up with your character. You increase the variety of your attacks and powers, but the difficulty is normalized to the point where it is functionally the same as an action game with RPG-lite elements. Being able to accidentally stumble into the ‘Cavern of Come Back When You’re lvl 20 or Higher’ and then lick your wounds by effortlessly stomping the crap out of a bunch of crabs is very important to my RPG experience.

      • Aurora Boreanaz

        Exactly!  And I can’t remember if I actually accomplished this (or if it was doable in Morrowind), but I just realized that a perfect enchantment for one piece of that suit of armor would be the old “deals damage to attackers” spell, with just enough power to immolate any Cliff Racers that sneak up on me.

  • Captain Internet

    I spent the last two months doing an absolutely disgusting commute, and Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon was one of the few games I managed to complete during that time. 

    It was short, and it didn’t outstay it’s welcome- which is good, because it wasn’t quite as funny as it seemed to think it was. There were some really good lines: and if you’re reading this I’m assuming spoilers are OK:

    “There’s death in there Rex”
    “What kind of death?”

    and

    “What’s wrong? Knife got your tongue?”

    in particular. And I loved the completely nonsensical descriptions of the side-missions, coupled with Rex’s responses, which go from baffled to exasperated. 

    But then there were the references to Internet memes, and the “intentionally” crap tutorial that I had to play three times due to graphics driver issues and that wasn’t funny to begin with, and the either-too-laboured-or-not-quite-laboured-enough “Winners Don’t Use Drugs” joke, and so on. 

    The problem is, does the dumb end of 1980s mainstream US culture even need to be parodied? Surely everyone already realises that the stupid excess, coupled with an almost total lack of self-awareness is pretty funny. Everyone that has played this game has also seen Team America. Team America did a number of the jokes better, and also first. And had a lot more to say.

    So anyway: it’s a thing I saw the end of, I hope it’s a thing I’ve seen the end of too.

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  • Baramos x

    You forgot to mention that the opening mini-gun rampage is set to the song “Long Tall Sally”, maximizing it’s awesomeness.

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