Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon is out this week. VG247’s Dave Cook met a strange time travelling game designer who explained to him just why its worth your time.
It was a warm night in 1981. There I was, bloodshot eyes glued to the flickering screen of a Donkey Kong cabinet in one of Blackpool’s many seaside arcades. I was close to getting my first killscreen, and the tension was almost unbearable, but the blaring guitar chuggery of Survivor’s ‘Eye of the Tiger’ drove me onward.
I had been at it for over an hour, and my sweaty palms, combined with the grease from the pizza I had been chomping on between stages caused the joystick to slip as I tried to get Jumpman to leap over a wave of incoming barrels.
He missed and died. The dream was over. My patience and last 20 pence piece spent, I headed out into the night to go back to my hotel. “I’ll try again tomorrow”, I thought. But as I walked through the quiet back streets, the smell of sea air on the breeze, I started to feel like I was being watched.
Suddenly I heard a loud bang, followed by blasts of lightning from behind a nearby kebab shop. I thought about walking on, but my curiosity got the better of me, so I walked around the building to see a passed-out man lying there, in the middle of a steaming crater.
He looked odd, and wore a t-shirt that bore a strange purple symbol. The letters read “Ubisoft”. I helped the man to his feet as he regained consciousness. I asked him who he was and where he had come from. He told me his name was Phil Fournier, production manager at Ubisoft.
I asked him what a Ubisoft was and he said there was no time to explain, and that I had to go with him if I wanted to live. Nervous, we headed back towards the arcade as he started telling me about his mission – to document as many 1980s action movie references in one single gaming experience.
It’d be the greatest 1980’s parody ever created. It would be called Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon. If his team failed to capture the spirit of the decade accurately, mankind would suffer a terrible apocalypse in 2013, caused by mediocre games, brown colour palettes, over-worn premises and DLC season passes.
So I listened, and he told me about the future, about the birth of the Blood Dragon, “The idea was born around 1989 when most of the production team were still kids or teenagers playing worn out VHS tapes of the best action movies of that era like Robocop or Terminator.
“Growing up in the 80s and early 90s we witnessed the birth of video games and dreamed of one day being able to work on such cutting edge technology: cartridges in which you had to blow on them to get them to work, 8 bit graphics and square-shaped game pads.
“Working on Blood Dragon was like giving our inner child the chance to live its dream: design a game in 1989 that was set in 2007: The Future. To get the feeling right, we had Terminator posters on every wall and a VHS running the best and worst action movies of that era. Everybody had He-Man figurines on their desk, it was radically awesome.”
I had no idea what the fuck he just said. I asked him what a Terminator was, and why games would appear on cartridges when tapes worked just fine, but he told me to just shut up and listen. He said the future rested with a Hollywood actor called Michael Biehn, the one who would go on to save mankind from the Terminator menace in 1984.
“Having an iconic actor like Michael Biehn starring in Blood Dragon just glued every piece of the puzzle together,” he told me. “We travelled back to 1986 using our Delorean, showed him the script and I guess it just made sense for him to play a Mark IV super cyber commando.
“Michael’s character is Rex “Power” Colt, a Mark IV cyber-commando sent to a remote island to investigate the evil plans of world domination from his former commanding officer Colonel Ike Sloan. It’s a terrible script, a terribly ridiculous script filled with 80s action movies one-liners, some bromance, a hot girl and more.”
I asked him what kind of game Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon would eventually be, and he explained it to me, making comparisons to the original Far Cry 3. It meant nothing to me, but I listened intently, going over everything in my brain as we picked up the pace. The future started to feel more colourful and joyous as he spoke.
“It wouldn’t be a Far Cry game without the open world. We wanted it to have its own special ingredient and we decided to throw in an actual Blood Dragon that shoots lasers from its eyes. Imagine having a pet dinosaur at your command to help you take out garrisons (outposts) filled with evil cyborgs.
“You can actually lure dragons by throwing cyber-hearts that you picked up from offline(dead) Cyborg bodies. Obviously the dragon is my new favourite weapon, however, people can also expect to shoot their way through hordes of cyborgs with brand new weapons like a minigun, a quad barrel shotgun and like any Mark IV cyber commando, Rex has all of those awesome ninja skills.”
Quad barrels, ninja skills and dragons. Just moments earlier I had been playing Donkey Kong, one of the most advanced games in existence, and here was Fournier, making it all sound so primitive, almost asinine.
I simply had to ask. What were future generations of gaming really like? Would we be able to walk around in holographic worlds, and physically hold Jumpman’s hammer then start swinging it about using real motions?
He replied, “If you’re referring to the Commodore 6400 we’re super excited to see how it looks and we definitely hope it will keep its nice chocolate brown colour.”
It sounded exciting. I couldn’t wait. I gazed up at the stars hanging in the moon-lit sky and tried to picture what this Commodore looked like, and I turned to ask Fournier if he had ever played one, and to describe it. But he was gone, vanished as quickly as he came.
What was the point of his visit? Was he there to show me that gaming doesn’t have to be all serious and dark, that the glory days of colour, fun and humour would eventually return?
It’s now 2013, and Looking back through the years, I’d have to say yes, those days are back with us once again. Thanks to re-releases, digital channels, re-makes and parodies like Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon we have a chance to go back there, back to that special place in time.
Disclosure: Dave was not born until 1983. This entire article is a paradox of time-travel, dimension-hopping and utter nonsense based on an interview that gave me plenty of laughs, but little in the way of actual information. He hopes you enjoyed it anyway.