Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon is first and foremost a big, loving homage to the dumb, burly action movies of the 80s. But with its over-the-top attitude and neon excess, its a tribute with its tongue drilled hard into its cheek. On the most recent episode of New Game Plus, I took great issue with Blood Dragon’s comedic merit. Naturally, there are those on crew who believe otherwise.
So once again, we pull out the Wordfight! lecturns so that Jamie and I present our views on this issue: Does Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon succeed like the VHS tape or does it fall flatter than a bad Betamax joke?
Jamie, The Commando
To begin with, I’d like to make clear that Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon cannot, much like most other video games, parody other video games and make it funny. While the tutorial is interestingly done, the joke outstays its welcome pretty quickly. The rest of the video game humour also falls pretty flat, in my view.
Yet the idea of the 80’s action movie homages/themes not being funny? Nope, those I love.
Right from the teaser trailer Ubisoft put out, with its faux-VHS stylings and pulsing Terminator-esque soundtrack, I knew this was a game I had to check out. The final release did little to dissuade me, with its 4:3 loading screens and continued commitment to the theme. Sure, the NES style cutscenes aren’t the most fitting, but I can accept it.
Though to truly explain why I love this game, I have to explain a little about my taste in movies.
See, I love bad movies. I especially love absurd action movies. I love over the top shit that could be easily defined as ‘so bad it’s good’. I don’t care that it’s effectively junk food for the soul, it’s a damned good time and a hell of a laugh. It’s the one reason why I still maintain a copy of Superman IV: The Quest for Peace.
Films like Eliminators, or Deadly Prey — films that are just stupidly good fun to watch — feature idiotic lines that are quotable as all hell, plus cheap budgets which force the crews to make some interesting visual choices. Admittedly, Blood Dragon doesn’t take itself as seriously as those films, which does ruin part of the fun, but it tries to evoke that spirit, and works well enough.
I also particularly love how Blood Dragon shouts out to its inspirations. The shotgun you have in the game is known as the Galleria 1991. These, plus the way that Rex Power Colt holds the shotgun, are some of the best references to Terminator 2: Judgement Day I’ve ever seen. Certainly smarter than a liquid metal man walking out of flames or “I’ll Be Back”.
Admittedly, a lot of the humour and style isn’t going to be for everyone. But it makes me so happy that there is a game like that with this style that is not only is a blast to play, but also ‘gets’ the vibe so well.
Donald, The Terminator
The Simpsons: Season 6, Episode 18. “A Star Is Burns.” Reinier Wolfcastle is starring in his new comedy, Let’s Get Silly. He reels out a dumb line about men and toilet seats. A beat. Another beat. Then Reineer, oblivious to his corpse of a gag, plainly explains, “That’s the joke”
That was the image in my head through the majority of my time with Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon.
Yes, I get it. I understand that Blood Dragon is supposed to be an interactive love letter to 80s action movies. And if that was the game’s only objective, it would succeed on all fronts. But it isn’t just a 4:3 portrait of this era. It’s supposed to be a comedy, but you wouldn’t pick that up from the game’s utter dearth of laughs.
It isn’t like there’s nothing funny to pull out of that decade. Hell, even Blood Dragon’s trailer promised something potentially great out of its depiction of the far flung future of 2007. However, the game does absolutely nothing with this material. It presents things like VHS tapes and expects you to laugh. Why? Because remember VHS tapes? They’re so totally not Blu-Rays! …That’s the joke.
It uses the player’s nostalgia as a comedic crutch rather than, y’know, adding anything of any value to properly parody that era of movies.
Do you know what DID get the 80s motif right? The Simpsons. McBain was a great parody of the muscled-up action heroes we fetishise here in 2013. Not to mention clever: It’s well established that the McBain clips, if played chronologically, portrays a complete 80s action movie. There’s none of that foresight or intelligence in Blood Dragon.
If anything, it could have stood to have gone even sillier. Throughout its run, Blood Dragon can’t decide if it wants to be a straight-faced recreation of its source material or if it wants to be a ball-and-shaft-out pisstake. One moment, its overly-long cutscenes demand that the genre be taken seriously. The next, a character spits out a line that basically screams “HEY…80s! GEDDIT?!”
Imagine if this were a game set in contemporary times. It’d be Internet: The Game, a slideshow of dumb internet and gaming references without context or reason. It would essentially be a four hour set of “THE CAKE IS A LIE! EHMAHGERD!” But because of its 80s setting, Blood Dragon manages to get away with sub-Family Guy levels of writing with little backlash.
That’s the true joke here.
We’ve had our say, but what about you? Whose logic reigns supreme? Does spot-on nostalgia beat out bad writing? Let us know.
WordFight! is an semi-recurring opportunity for the NG+ crew to debate hot-button topics. If you want to see a particular issue fought out, leave a comment below, get in touch with us on Facebook or send us an email.
[Image credits: Wikipedia (VHS), Ubisoft, 20th Century Fox]