Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon was a smash hit with gamers, combining the FPS gunplay of Far Cry 3 with the neon-soaked synth-filled glory of the 1980s (and Michael Biehn) to create a homage that had fans wanting more. Now, Ubisoft has returned to that universe with Trials of the Blood Dragon, a semi-sequel game with gameplay of the ever-frustrating Trials series. But where the predecessor managed to capture the glory of the 80s in one game through story and gameplay, Trials of the Blood Dragon aims for the same but misses by a mile.
Our cybercommando hero Rex ‘Power’ Colt (still voiced by Michael Biehn… I think? If not, the replacement is close) and his wife, Dr. Elizabeth Darling have retired from the business of harvesting the mysterious Blood Dragons. But when Dr Darling goes missing and Rex is presumed dead while fighting Vietnam War 4, it is left to the next generation of cybercommandoes to take over – Roxanne and Slayter, the children of Rex. It is up to them to stop the ‘Commies’ from threatening the United States of America and harvesting the Blood Dragons for their power, all the while keeping radical with wicked tricks and totally awesome skills.
You’re probably going to want to break out a pair of sunglasses for this one. Trials of the Blood Dragon does its absolute best to fulfil that 80s stereotype – with hot pink neon coming at you from every angle, and rolling synth beats that’ll pop your collar up another three notches.
Trials of the Blood Dragon does its absolute hardest not only to wear its heart on its sleeve, but to bombard you with retro clichés and references until your eyes bleed neon; matching the gameplay with strangely animated cutscenes that help progress the story and be overly bright and colourful at the same time. Past all this, the game is relatively simplistic – to the point where sometimes I didn’t realise which character I was playing as because they both seemed similar riding the dirtbike.
For the most part, Trials of the Blood Dragon plays exactly how you’d expect a Trials game to play. Controlling the bike, you speed up and slow down, leaning with the analog sticks to shift the weight and prevent falling off or hitting your head. Pretty simple, right?
Well at some points you also get a gun, which is sort of cool because you have to think quick and blast enemies or obstacles or helicopters out of your way to progress. In other missions this is replaced with a grapple hook, which allows you to swing the extra distance or avoid an obstacle so that you don’t die. And I have to say, the bike parts of the game are solid and fun, and it feels like more of the same from Trials which is what you want.
Another part of the game which is really cool, but not heavily utilized, is the RC sections – basically a giant Hot Wheels car that flips and drives in two different directions, allowing you to hit certain points to open gates to progress. And again, they’re fun and simple to play through.
The worst, and I mean absolutely WORST part of Trials of the Blood Dragon isn’t the blinding neon or the pent-up frustration from missing a jump 20 times or more on one level, it’s the PLATFORMING. That’s right, thrown in amongst the sick jumps and tricks of motorbike riding, you play as either character and run through levels shooting bad guys and reaching the target. Doesn’t sound too bad, except for the fact that jumping is practically like releasing a helium balloon in the wind – good luck trying to control it! This anger is compounded even more when you’re forced to use a jetpack through space, which SOUNDS like it should be cool, but in the end may have you throwing your controller out the window in a fit of rage rather than finishing a level.
Where fans would have preferred a sequel to the Far Cry rendition of Blood Dragon, instead we got treated to this; a neon-injected, toned-down Trials game that ultimately does not satisfy anywhere as much as you’d hope it would. At base level the game is fun, and Trials is one of those games you can pick up wherever you want to have some zany fun, but with interspersed terrible platforming thrown into the mix, all the fun seems to dissipate and remind you that the 80s are long gone, and no amount of hot pink can bring them back.
The PS4 version of Trials Of The Blood Dragon was primarily tested for the purpose of this review.