What else is there left to say about Far Cry 3 Blood Dragon? After a series of leaks - some more convenient than others for Ubisoft, it would seem - there's little that hasn't been teased at, hinted towards or just gracelessly plastered onto YouTube.
Sit down with creative director Dean Evans, though, and it turns out there's plenty left to say - and Evans is going to say it as energetically as possible, and with a fistful of colourful language thrown in to boot. A pepper-bearded Brit wearing slightly over-sized glasses and a matching WESC hoodie and cap, he's the embodiment of the punky, pop savvy spirit that defines Blood Dragon.
"It's about that single glow," he explains, bouncing up and down in his chair. "Mum and dad have gone to bed and you're downstairs, there's the Vic-20 over there on the black and white TV, the Atari over there. You've seen those consoles change, but the one thing that's stayed the same is these shitty action movies burning your retina, watching Robocop again and again and again and watching that police station scene in Terminator and rewinding it, pressing play and watching it again."
Blood Dragon's a compilation of those late night VHS moments, played out again and again in dirty neon and through a fuzzy tracking filter. It's been created by a team of Far Cry 3 veterans and headed up by Evans, who previously worked on the conceptual team of Assassin's Creed 3, as an internal trailer director and - somewhat tellingly given the abundance of cultural references in Blood Dragon - had a former life as a product manager at Rockstar.
"There were a few different options and a few different angles," Evans says of how Ubisoft Montreal went about transforming Far Cry 3 for this standalone, "but the one thing we didn't want to do was play it safe. We're in a business where we're quite risk averse - everyone plays it pretty safe. But we were given that opportunity to be like, f*** it, and basically do whatever we want."
There isn't a direct tie between the tropical Rook Island of Far Cry 3 and the dayglo nightmare of Blood Dragon, and there's not much sense to it either. In what's quite possibly The World's Greatest Powerpoint Presentation, Evans explains over slides boasting of the terrible story and awful script that this is a world inspired not only by '80s action cinema but by a certain enjoyably awful strand of '80s action cinema.
Picking through the references is a pleasure best left for yourself, and they're often as blunt as they are brilliant ("If you're going to shoot a f***ing mini-gun from a helicopter, you may as well do it listening to Long Tall Sally," Evans says of the none-too-subtle Predator reference that opens up the game). Pick past them, though, and it's clear that this is very much Far Cry 3 trussed up in purple spandex - which, of course, is no bad thing at all.
The opening 30 minutes that's being presented right now - and that's already made its way online - is a linear tutorial that introduces Rex Colt, the overpowered lead voiced by Michael Biehn. There's a trimmed back progression system in place, and players start the game with many of the abilities that were only unlocked towards the end of Far Cry 3's campaign - here you can swim underwater indefinitely, fall any height without taking damage and chain together takedowns.
Rook Island's replacement in Blood Dragon is a little smaller - it's said to be around the same size as the South Island in Far Cry 3 - and it's dotted with garrisons, shield-protected forts that are the equivalent of the original game's outposts. Attacking them presents the same type of open-ended play, but there's a lurid twist, with the option to coax in trundling laser-spewing dragons to finish off the job once the shields are down.
"Things don't have to make much sense. Look at Platinum Games, the stuff that Kojima does. They get a lot of flak for the kind of stuff they do, but ultimately it's that attitude - so f***ing what? Let's go!"Dean Evans, creative director
In fact everything from Far Cry 3's been given a lurid twist in Blood Dragon, and the results are often brilliant. Take to the waters, for example, and there's a new threat waiting. "They're called cybersharks," explains Evans. "They don't have any new attacks, but they do have a chrome shader with neon teeth and eyes. Just wait until you see one coming up with glowing orange teeth and eyes. We've got cyberpanthers - it's fun taking the existing creatures and giving them a whole new look."
And what about Far Cry 3's most savage enemy, the cassowary? "Oh yeah! F***!" screams Evans, his energy levels somehow rising even higher. "It's got glowing red eyes, mutant skin - and we've got loads of them in. So we even put cassowarys in some of the outposts. There's some missions, you'll go through one of the linear ones and there'll be a cassowary there. What's he doing there? No reason."
In truth there likely is a reason, though. When Far Cry 3 released late last year, it was a breezy antidote to the po-faced shooters that have dominated the market for so many years and Blood Dragon, in its own eccentric way, continues to strive for that wonderful and often elusive thing called fun.
"I'm certainly a bit tired of shooters that take place in a modern setting and that have quite a lot of warfare," Evans admits. "So it's nice to be able to just f***ing go off and do something else. Things don't have to make much sense. Look at Platinum Games, the stuff that Kojima does. They get a lot of flak for the kind of stuff they do, but ultimately it's that attitude - so f***ing what? Let's go! Was it ridiculous? Yes, awesome! Was it fun? Yes, brilliant! That's the goal of games, to have as much fun as possible."
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