PC Gamer
Blood Dragon

A static-filled cartoon depicting the post-post-apocalyptic wastes left in the aftermath of Vietnam 2? A cheesy live-action trailer detailing the neon war between man and android? Nope, this time Ubisoft have taken the bold move of just showing a chunk of the game they're promoting. Here's 8 minutes of Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon's creative director Dean Evans talking you through the game's laser-weapons, glowing beasties and cheeky euphemisms.

Given such an unbroken run of footage, you can see how they've warped and twisted the Far Cry 3 DNA. Base infiltration, animal behaviour, side-missions and dynamic open-world encounters are all familiar, but run through an 80s-inspired futurism filter of ridiculous machismo and over-the-top violence. Basically, it looks like they've isolated Far Cry 3's best bits, and pumped them full of silliness. It sounds great.

Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon is out May 1st.
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PC Gamer
Cyber War

We've seen it in (brief) action, we've even played it, but a part of me still worries that Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon is an elaborate joke. May 1st will come around, and instead of the weird 80s-inspired neon expansion/total conversion releasing, Ubisoft will instead collectively jump out of their carefully chosen hiding spaces and shout "April Fool's Month!" This live action trailer isn't helping. It's a very silly thing, and all the better for it.

Surviving a nuclear explosion by hiding behind an evil virus-infected android? It's the retro-future post-post-apocalypse version of Duck and Cover.

In the increasingly likely event that it is real, Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon will be released May 1st.
PC Gamer

Preview by Ben Griffin.

This first slice of DLC for mega-shooter Far Cry 3 is a laser-guided love letter to the greatest period in human history: the 80’s.

As a Mega Drive-inspired cinematic explains through crudely animated pixel art and lashings of dramatic synth, it’s the near future (that is to say, the 80’s vision of the near future, which is actually 2007), and the world is on the verge of the nuclear war. This, obviously, prompts the rise of cyborg soldiers.

"It’s part Apocalypse Now, part The Terminator, and an all-round send up of the videogame industry."
Freedom fighters such as Sgt. Rex ‘Power’ Colt (Aliens’ Michael Biehn, in a master casting decision). Colt’s on a mission to stop Omega Force, led by a rogue robo-colonel called Sloane, from turning the world’s population bionic. It’s part Apocalypse Now, part The Terminator (in which, as it happens, Biehn also stars), and an all-round send up of the videogame industry.

But wait: what’s that game director Dean Evans is saying? “We’re really proud of our bad script.” Oh. He goes on: “In an age where polygons equal emotion, we went for something a bit different” – and with that he triggered the next slide which boasted “1D characters, terrible story, minimal emotions”.

And that’s exactly why you’ll love Blood Dragon.

Your playground is a crimson-skied open-world island about half the size of Far Cry 3’s and similarly packed with animals and outposts. While both games see you hunt an unhinged mastermind, Blood Dragon puts a spin on things: mercenaries are not men but cyborgs with heads that satisfyingly burst into showers of blue sparks; organic wildlife is swapped for artificial beasts like robo-crocs, cyber-sharks, mutant turtles and devil goats; zip wires are Tron-like beams of light, the radar’s a stark green and black grid, and blood dragons are... well, they’re new.

"Packs of neon Godzillan quadrupeds freely roam the island."
Packs of neon Godzillan quadrupeds freely roam the island. Blind and relying on smell, they’ll charge if you don’t exercise stealthy caution, but they function best as attack dogs. Killing mercenaries, for instance, lets you scavenge their hearts in the same way you’d skin animals. Throw these hearts and blood dragons will attack anything in the vicinity.

Force fields prevent the monsters from entering and running amok, but luckily – awesomely – their LASER BEAM EYES can penetrate the defences from distance and instantly melt targets. To think, we once thought a few rogue buffalo threatening.

The ludicrousity meter is ringing right from minute one; even the tutorial gets in on the act, devolving into an elaborate trolling attempt via the sultry voice in your ear, Dr. Darling. “Use the thumbstick to move in many exciting directions,” you’re told. Colt’s response: “Motherfucker! Just let me shoot things!” “Tired of tutorials?” the next obtuse pop-up goads, “Upgrade to the premium edition today.”

"There isn’t a spot in Blood Dragon not slathered with 80’s gaudy neon taint."
But once this is done, as is Far Cry tradition, you’re free to do what you want: hunt rare animals, blaze through bases, scout collectibles (here: VHS tapes) and more, even if it’s the story missions that offer the expansion’s most thrilling moments. The first sees you man a helicopter chain gun and rampage through a modernist settlement, exploding numerous bio-fuel tanks and scorching the sleek black geometric structures as Little Richard’s Long Tall Sally blasts over the top.

From the Terminator-style infrared interface which replaces your digital camera, to beautifully tacky weapons like the Fazertron laser rifle and light bow, to the stripped-back ranking system which replaces skill trees with linear level-ups (thankfully, old skills like takedown-chaining and aerial assassinations needn’t be relearned), even down to the desert chrome logo font – there isn’t a spot in Blood Dragon not slathered with 80’s gaudy neon taint.

Game director Evans’s take? “It’s fun, it’s bullshit.” It’s hard to disagree.

PC Gamer
Far Cry 3 Blood Dragon - Trailer

This trailer for the ridiculous Far Cry 3 expandalone Blood Dragon is like a powerful cyborg punch to the nostalgia glands. It's got everything: 80s people eating greasy breakfasts, grimy shop fronts, spandex, lasers, the post-post-apocalypse, and cartoon metal men battling around the sickening fuzz of a VHS filter. Somehow, amidst all this, there's also some footage of the game.

It's such a bizarre direction for Far Cry 3 to take that I almost still don't believe it's real. Except it is. You can pre-order it on Steam and everything. Ubisoft sum up the plot, such as it is, like so: "The year is 2007 and you are Sergeant Rex Colt, a Mark IV Cyber Commando. Your mission: get the girl, kill the baddies, and save the world."

From the footage, you can see it's still unmistakably Far Cry 3, only soaked in a bath of neon and testosterone. There are robots, there are laser knives, there are green-eyed panthers and a command to flip your enemies the bird. This is all as it should be.

Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon is due out May 1st, for £11.99.
PC Gamer
Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon

Here's a generous 15 minute video of Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon. It hasn't come through official Ubisoft channels, but it's unmistakably Red Dragon because it confirms a lot of what we've gleaned from the game's official website and screenshots. It basically re-skins Far Cry 3 with a colourful 1980s sci-fi action aesthetic. All the mechanics appear to be intact - including enemy tagging and stealth - and the environment has been confirmed to be open world.

According to recent reports, the game will be standalone and is set to release on May 1. That's only a matter of weeks away. Oh yeah, and Michael Biehn will be in it. Expect gratuitous violence, cyborgs, and foul language.
PC Gamer
Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon

Ubisoft's left-of-field Far Cry 3 expansion Blood Dragon will be standalone, which means you won't need to have purchased a copy of Far Cry 3 to play it. The news comes via a listing on the Xbox Marketplace website, which points to a May 1 release date and (take a deep breath) the involvement of Michael Biehn.

You should know who Biehn is already, but if you don't: he played Dwayne Hicks in Aliens and Kyle Reese in Terminator, which means that for any high-budget project trading on VHS '80s nostalgia, he's a perfect fit. Just in case the retro-futuristic sci-fi aesthetic of Blood Dragon isn't already abundantly obvious thanks to these screenshots, here's the official blurb on the Marketplace page:

"Far Cry 3 Blood Dragon is THE Kick-Ass Cyber Shooter taking place on a bizarre open-world island crawling with evil. Welcome to an 80’s VHS vision of the future. The year is 2007 and you are Sargent Rex Colt, a Mark IV Cyber Commando who’s fighting against a cyborg army gone rogue. Your mission: get the girl, kill the baddies, and save the world. Experience every cliché of a VHS era vision of a nuclear future, where cyborgs, blood dragons, mutants, and Michael Biehn (Terminator, Aliens, Navy Seals) collide. Playing Far Cry 3 Blood Dragon doesn't require a copy of Far Cry® 3."

So yeah, this is definitely a thing, and it's coming very soon.
PC Gamer
Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon

Far Cry 3 might very well rival Saints Row for the "biggest shark jump" award with its retro-rocking Blood Dragon DLC. The more distance each day increases from its sudden April 1 appearance hints increasingly strongly that this totally rad homage to '80s action flicks is a real thing, where psychotic pirates and killer valley kids melt away for oversaturated colors and a hero named Rex Power Colt.

If that isn't enough cheese for you, it seems Australian electronica group Power Glove is contributing a few synth-tastic tracks. Ubisoft hasn't announced anything official yet, but something likely lurks on the VHS-fuzzy horizon soon.

PC Gamer
Cart Life

This year's GDC has been the source of many interesting industry tidbits. But forget them for now, because it also hosted two award shows last night. Shiny, slightly crass and easily digestible in a handy list format - we've got all the winners from the Independent Games Festival Awards and Game Developers Choice Awards right here. Did Hotline Miami's masked protagonist beat the living snot out of the FTL crew for the Seumas McNally Grand Prize? Did Incredipede's creepy-crawly monstrosities scare away the other Visual Art nominees? Did any game not called Journey win a GDC Award? Read on to find out.

We'll start with the IGF Awards, primarily because its the one that wasn't dominated by a PS3-exclusive game about plodding through a desert.

Independent Games Festival Awards

Seumas McNally Grand Prize

Hotline Miami (Dennaton Games)
FTL: Faster Than Light (Subset Games)
Cart Life (Richard Hofmeier)
Little Inferno (Tomorrow Corporation)
Kentucky Route Zero (Cardboard Computer)

Excellence in Visual Art

Incredipede (Northway Games and Thomas Shahan)
Kentucky Route Zero (Cardboard Computer)
Guacalamelee! (Drinkbox Studios)
Loves in a Dangerous Spacetime (Asteroid Base)
Year Walk (Simogo)

Excellence in Narrative

Thirty Flights of Loving (Blendo Games)
Cart Life (Richard Hofmeier)
Kentucky Route Zero (Cardboard Computer)
Dys4ia (Auntie Pixelante)
Gone Home (The Fullbright Company)

Technical Excellence

StarForge (CodeHatch)
Perspective (DigiPen Widdershins)
Little Inferno (Tomorrow Corporation)
Intrusion 2 (Aleksey Abramenko)
LiquidSketch (Tobias Neukom)

Excellence In Design

Samurai Gunn (Beau Blyth)
FTL: Faster Than Light (Subset Games)
Starseed Pilgrim (Droqen & Ryan Roth)
Super Hexagon (Terry Cavanagh)
Super Space (David Scamehorn and Alexander Baard/DigiPen)

Excellence In Audio

Kentucky Route Zero (Cardboard Computer)
Bad Hotel (Lucky Frame)
140 (Jeppe Carlsen)
Hotline Miami (Dennaton Games)
Pixeljunk 4AM (Q-Games)

Best Student Game

Back to Bed (Danish Academy of Digital Interactive Entertainment)
Blackwell's Asylum (Danish Academy of Digital Interactive Entertainment)
Knights of Pen & Paper (IESB - Instituto de Ensino Superior de Brasilia & UnB - Universidade de Brasilia)
the mindfulxp volume (Carnegie Mellon University Entertainment Technology Center)
Pulse (Vancouver Film School)
Zineth (Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute)

Nuovo Award

Cart Life (Richard Hofmeier)
Spaceteam (Henry Smith)
Dys4ia (Auntie Pixelante)
Bientot l'ete (Tale of Tales)
7 Grand Steps (Mousechief)
MirrorMoon (SantaRagione + BloodyMonkey)
VESPER.5 (Michael Brough)
Little Inferno (Tomorrow Corporation)

Audience Award
FTL: Faster Than Light (Subset Games)

Thoughts? Firstly, congratulations to Zineth, deserved winner of Best Student Game. It's great, and you should play it. More obviously, well done to Richard Hofmeier for the runaway success of Cart Life. I'm sure many will be surprised by just how well it's done, especially among such a strong list of contenders for the Seumas McNally Grand Prize. If you're currently thinking "Cart What now?" let Christopher Livingston's Sim-plicity column on the game fill you in.

Elsewhere in the list, I'm surprised to see Little Inferno getting a Technical Excellence award (it had nice fire, I guess), unsurprised to see FTL nab the Audience Award, and marginally disappointed to see Hotline Miami go back to its DeLorean with nothing. Although, hey, it's still got a chance at a Games Developer Choice Award! Haha, no, just kidding. Journey won everything.

Game Developers Choice Awards

Game of the Year

Dishonored (Arkane Studios/Bethesda Softworks)
The Walking Dead (Telltale Games)
Mass Effect 3 (BioWare/Electronic Arts)
XCOM: Enemy Unknown (Firaxis Games/2K Games)
Journey (Thatgamecompany/Sony Computer Entertainment)

Innovation Award

Mark of the Ninja (Klei Entertainment/Microsoft Studios)
Journey (Thatgamecompany/Sony Computer Entertainment)
FTL: Faster Than Light (Subset Games)
The Unfinished Swan (Giant Sparrow/Sony Computer Entertainment)
ZombiU (Ubisoft Montpellier/Ubisoft)

Best Audio

Journey (Thatgamecompany/Sony Computer Entertainment)
Hotline Miami (Dennaton Games/Devolver Digital)
Sound Shapes (Queasy Games/Sony Computer Entertainment)
Assassin's Creed III (Ubisoft Montreal/Ubisoft)
Halo 4 (343 Industries/Microsoft Studios)

Best Debut

Humble Hearts (Dust: An Elysian Tail)
Polytron Corporation (Fez)
Giant Sparrow (The Unfinished Swan)
Subset Games (FTL: Faster Than Light)
Fireproof Games (The Room )

Best Downloadable Game

The Walking Dead (Telltale Games)
Spelunky (Derek Yu/Andy Hull)
Trials: Evolution (RedLynx/Microsoft Studios)
Mark Of The Ninja (Klei Entertainment/Microsoft Studios)
Journey (Thatgamecompany/Sony Computer Entertainment)

Best Game Design

Dishonored (Arkane Studios/Bethesda Softworks)
Mark Of The Ninja (Klei Entertainment/Microsoft Studios)
Spelunky (Derek Yu/Andy Hull)
Journey (Thatgamecompany/Sony Computer Entertainment)
XCOM: Enemy Unknown (Firaxis Games/2K Games)

Best Handheld/Mobile Game

Gravity Rush (SCE Japan Studio/Sony Computer Entertainment)
Hero Academy (Robot Entertainment)
Sound Shapes (Queasy Games/Sony Computer Entertainment)
The Room (Fireproof Games)
Kid Icarus: Uprising (Sora/Nintendo)

Best Narrative

Spec Ops: The Line (Yager Entertainment/2K Games)
Mass Effect 3 (BioWare/Electronic Arts)
Dishonored (Arkane Studios/Bethesda Softworks)
The Walking Dead (Telltale Games)
Virtue's Last Reward (Chunsoft/Aksys Games)

Best Technology

Far Cry 3 (Ubisoft Montreal/Ubisoft)
PlanetSide 2 (Sony Online Entertainment)
Halo 4 (343 Industries/Microsoft Studios)
Call of Duty: Black Ops II (Treyarch/Activision)
Assassin's Creed III (Ubisoft Montreal/Ubisoft)

Best Visual Arts

Borderlands 2 (Gearbox Software/2K Games)
Journey (Thatgamecompany/Sony Computer Entertainment)
Far Cry 3 (Ubisoft Montreal/Ubisoft)
Dishonored (Arkane Studios/Bethesda Softworks)
Halo 4 (343 Industries/Microsoft Studios)

Ambassador Award
Chris Melissinos, curator of The Smithsonian's The Art of Video Games exhibit

Pioneer Award
Spacewar creator Steve Russell

Audience Award

Lifetime Achievement Award
BioWare founders Ray Muzyka and Greg Zeschuk

Conclusion: award show judges really love Journey.
PC Gamer
Far Cry 3: Ziggys Mod

I'm bouncing and bumping down a dusty road in Far Cry 3. On my to-do list: nothing, really. There are a couple different plants I'm keeping an eye out for, and a particular animal I'm hoping to spot, but that's about it. I haven't looked at my main map in over an hour, I haven't thought about Vaas or Citra or my friends all day, and I haven't felt a single pressing need to do anything but what I'm doing at this particular moment: bouncing and bumping down a dusty road.

It may sound like I'm playing a game in which I've already completed the main storyline and am looking for some random distractions, but this is actually a new game I've started with the assistance of Ziggys Mod, which has made me realize two things. First, Ziggys Mod should have an apostrophe in it. Second, Far Cry 3, the original version, actively prohibited free-form exploration.

In its original, un-patched form, Far Cry 3 was incredibly fearful that you might stop playing at any moment unless it threw constant reminders in your face of all the things you could be doing. There were notifications about the mission you were on, the minimap was cluttered with icons showing all the plants and loot boxes in your vicinity, and the main map was dotted with even more information. Here's a glider! Here's a collectible! Here's a boat! Here's a good place to find and shoot a boar! JUST DON'T TURN ME OFF, IT'S ALL DARKNESS WHEN YOU'RE NOT HERE!

There are roughly ONE JILLION tweaks and changes made to the game by Ziggy's Mod (screw it, I'm adding an apostrophe), but let me pepper you with a few features that, working in conjunction with each other, turn the game into what I really wanted it to be: a giant open world that doesn't care what I spend my time doing.

Instead of a minimap, a simple compass. It's the little things that make a big difference.

Ziggy's Mod removes the minimap (as other mods have done), replacing it with a simple, nearly transparent compass. With no plant and treasure icons, I rely on my eyes for my looting and gathering needs, which means I'm done with an area when I think I'm done, instead of when the minimap tells me there's simply nothing left to collect.

Adding to the relaxed, do-what-you-want nature of the mod, the entire map world map is completely unlocked from the start, including the second island. All weapons are unlocked and purchasable (including signature weapons), meaning radio towers no longer need scaling (though you are still awarded XP and medical supply-run missions if you choose to climb them). There are no longer any mission-dependent skills, either: you can play Build-a-Brody at your own pace. The wingsuit is yours immediately as well. These changes mean you can completely ignore the main missions for as long as you want (example: forever).

Enemies no longer wear bright red. Smart! Not smart enough to save them, though.

I think we can agree that the crafting system was pretty derpy in the original game. It never made sense that to craft a holster you needed a goat skin, but to craft a second holster you needed two deer skins. I would have thought the solution would have been to remove crafting entirely, but Ziggy's Mod actually increases the requirements: instead of two skins from one animal to make your 'nade pouch, you might need three from one animal and two from another, plus a handful of different plants. And yet, even with Ziggy's Mod doubling down on the derp, it somehow works better than the original.

First, extra slots have been added to the pouches you craft, so you wind up being able to hold more in exchange for the extra work. Second, while the hunting grounds are still shown on your main map, they are non-specific. The little silhouettes of which animal is likely to appear there is gone, so if you're looking for a buffalo, you're not quite sure where to start. I know it may sound tiresome and irritating, but it actually encourages exploration.

I know it's a tough sell, but making crafting harder makes crafting better.

In the unmodified game, what did I do if I needed a tapir skin? I drove in a straight line to the spot on the map that showed the outline of a tapir, I shot a tapir in the face, I turned it into a purse, and I raced back to whatever it was I'd been doing. That's not exploration, that's a fetch quest. If I need a tapir now, I have to go out and find one, on my own. It can take hours, and since I'm not really sure where to look, I look everywhere, and thus end up genuinely exploring the islands.

The overall effect of Ziggy's Mod, I've been finding, is that Far Cry 3 feels a bit more like the better parts of Far Cry 2. I bounce along dirt roads in my car, or tool along rivers in a boat. I get out if I see something interesting or someone starts shooting at me. I take down outposts when I come across them, rather than ticking them off my map one by one. I haven't even considered rescuing my stupid friends from their stupid suffering at the hands of insane thugs. I explore way more. Ziggy's Mod lets me do what I wanted to with Far Cry 3 in the first place: whatever the hell I want.

No more tags on enemies. Bonus: no more stupid squares cluttering the camera lens (what were those?).

Another nice change: the camera, when you use it, doesn't tag enemies with icons. I liked this feature the first time, but without it, outpost battles and wanted missions are more challenging and exciting. Weapons generally have more attachment slots, which is a plus, and they don't reload automatically when your clip is empty, which is a minus until you start remembering to do it yourself, and then it feels more realistic (there's nothing like dry-firing on a charging komodo dragon to wake you up).

Since this mod is for gamers who have already played Far Cry 3 once and want to start a new game, it completely skips the intro, the initial escape from Vaas, and Jason's annoying scaredypants whimpering, and just starts you off with Dennis rudely hammering the first tatau into your forearm. You still have to do the first three things Dennis asks you to: buy your first gun, climb your first radio tower and craft a couple things, but once you're done you never have to see Dennis again.

One note on the first crafting mission: with the extended recipe requirements of the mod, you probably won't have enough to actually complete all the recipes Dennis asks for, but simply trying to craft an item (even if you can't) will satisfy Dennis. And then you're free get on with your exploring.

Thanks for the loan! See you again, um... NEVER ha ha ha ha

Installation: Find your Far Cry 3 directory, make copies of the "bin" and "data_win32" folders, and put them somewhere safe. I do not recommend simply dumping them in a folder called "New Folder (9)" on your desktop, but we both know that's nearly inevitable.

Open the Ziggy's Mod zip file and drop the new "bin" and "data_win32" folders into your Far Cry directory, and when prompted, overwrite the original files, then start the game. And, if you decide to complete the story missions, say hi to Vaas for me. I haven't seen him in a while, and I don't plan to.

Relevance? None. I just like killing these jerk birds because they are jerks.