|System: X360, PS3, PC||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Starbreeze Studios||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Atari||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Apr. 7, 2009||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-12||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Mature||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Adam Brown
Back in 2004 The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay was released exclusively for the original Xbox. Although it was an excellent title, the game didn't do as well as it should have due to a few very important factors. The first is that it was a game based on a movie franchise, which more often than not is a completely legitimate reason for staying away from a title.
The next major reason was that there just weren't a ton of Xbox consoles in homes, leaving the game with a very small audience to attempt to win over. Lastly, even once the Xbox 360 was released and quickly gathered a much larger installed base than the original Xbox, the new system's limited backwards compatibility prevented any newcomers from playing this classic from the previous generation. While it is always sad to see any great game go underappreciated, Escape from Butcher Bay (EFBB) is finally getting its chance to shine thanks to the multi-console release of The Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena (AODA).
Much like the Orange Box before it, AODA is another prime example of getting loads of gaming bang for your buck. Aside from containing the entirety of the classic EFBB, this package also comes complete with a full-length sequel called Assault on Dark Athena, as well as an additional online multiplayer component. Both of the included single-player campaigns will take around ten to twelve hours apiece to play through, and it can be quite easy to spend just as much time dispatching foes online. As an added bonus, EFBB is also more than just a straight port of the original version, as it now includes a mech driving segment that was previously only available in the PC version and has gotten a complete HD graphical overhaul.
For the uninitiated, both EFBB and AODA's events take place before those of Pitch Black, the movie that started the franchise, and provide players with insight into a few of the characters' pasts. EFBB's story follows the series' main character Riddick, who is taken to a prison named Butcher Bay by his bounty hunting nemesis Johns. Not wanting to take up permanent residence, players are tasked with escaping this previously inescapable slam using any means at their disposal, including Riddick's trademark ability to see in the dark. In fact, players will actually get to see how Riddick came to acquire this built in night vision during the course of EFBB.
Players will spend a good amount of time conversing with and doing favors for other inmates trying to find their best possible exit strategy. Aside from these conversations, the gameplay consists of a mix of action, stealth, platforming, melee combat, and some more traditional first-person shooting. While this may sound like a weird blending of elements, it actually ends up being very satisfying. Since you are in a prison, much of the game revolves around using stealth instead of just blasting through waves of enemies. Even after you've found a gun, it is often more useful as a tool to shoot out lights to create darkness than as a weapon. Instead, most of the enemies you'll need to dispatch will be killed using a melee weapon such as a screwdriver or a shiv. Players can take out enemies by either sneaking up behind them and quickly executing them, or by using the game's hand to hand combat. Melee combat works quite well, using the left trigger to block, the right trigger to attack, and the left analog stick to perform different attacks. Players can even counter an enemy's attack by pulling the right trigger at just the right time while being attacked.
AODA picks up right where EFBB left off with Riddick and Johns in cryosleep flying through space. Their spaceship is found and taken aboard a massive merc ship named the Dark Athena that is under the control of an unstable captain named Revas. Of course, as Riddick, you evade the boarding party and must make your way through the Dark Athena in order to escape with your life. This is made more difficult because of the army of drones, think remote-controlled Borg without the hive mind, that are constantly patrolling the ship's hallways. Sadly, while some of the early parts of AODA will allow players to continue using the mixture of stealth and melee combat that was so satisfying in EFBB, most of the game encourages you to play it like any other first-person shooter. This can be fun at times, especially when making use of powerful new weapons like the SCAR gun that allows you to shoot sticky mines that can be detonated at will, but it definitely feels like a step backwards for the series.