Friday, June 14, 2013

Fanboy Friday: 'Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon'

So, I had absolutely no interest in playing Far Cry 3. But then this trailer happened. An action-adventure-stealth based shooter based almost entirely on aping the conventions of a dumb late 80s action movie? Wherein you play a guy with a cybernetic eye for no good reason? And there are giant Gila monsters that shoot lasers out of their eyes? And the soundtrack is mostly synthesizers and this? Anyone who happened to catch my post on my love of the music and iconography of American cinema of the 1980s can probably guess that this not only piqued my interest but was immediately up my alley, aesthetically.

I think this is the first time I’ve wanted to (and been able to) buy downloadable content for a video game without buying the parent game first. Those inclined like me to buy a schlocky neon-drowned stealth-action romp like Blood Dragon weren’t all likely to have already bought a grim-and-gritty jungle warfare stealth-action romp like the original Far Cry 3. So, thankfully you can buy Blood Dragon without having already bought the original game. It’s a really cool and to my knowledge unprecedented move on the part of the publisher! Blood Dragon was a cool, weird idea for a game whose marketability hadn’t yet been tested, but the publisher was able to give it a chance by building it on top of an existing game. By using the existing infrastructure built for Far Cry 3, Ubisoft was able to take a calculated risk on a weird, niche game that probably didn’t have a tested target audience.  They minimized the amount of work and money the game needed to get made, and thus were able to release an affordable (15$! Cheap compared to the 50$ of the original Far Cry 3) and aesthetically unique game that probably wouldn’t have got green-lit if it needed the bloated budget of a typical triple-A title. And it’s worked out really well for them! Apparently Blood Dragon has sold five times better than expected and has already been tapped for a sequel – and it certainly got me to buy the original Far Cry 3 after the fact.

Sure, the small budget doesn’t always work in the game’s favour – the jokey 8-bit animated cutscenes are a creative way around not being able to afford new motion-capture, but since the game is a loving homage to films like Predator and Megaforce, the decidedly non-cinematic 8-bit sequences seem out of place to me. Other than that, the game is a blast. The eighties are about has far away from us now as the 50s were to when Back To The Future came out – the eighties are ‘period’ now, and not only that they’re a period that 20-and-30-somethings are beginning to remember fondly. As someone who grew up with movies like Road Warrior and The Terminator, the idea of being able to play a video game where I could shoot cyborgs with a neon laser rifle to electro-synth music was immediately appealing. Sign me up. With the popularity of retro movies and TV series like Super 8, Drive, and the BBC’s Ashes to Ashes, I’m surprised no one in video games thought of tapping into this wave of 80s nostalgia sweeping popular-and-nerd culture before.

And have I mentioned how amazing and ludicrous the game’s soundtrack is? Powerglove, the electronic band that did the Blood Dragon soundtrack, also did a remix for an indie solo artist from Greece named Kristine whose Modern Love EP is my new favourite thing. Apparently writing retro 80s pop-rock is a thing for some people? Definitely added most of that EP to my workout playlist, “Traning Montage II: The Re-Bloodening.”

You can see why I’m Blood Dragon’s target demographic.

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