- The best graphics ever seen in a
- Stealth, Action, and Hand-to-hand combat meshed into one
- Voice acting done by Hollywood’s finest
- Multiple ways of killing an enemy supported by crisp
- Music doesn’t play a huge role
- Virtually no replay value
- Where is the multiplayer?
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Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay
Score: 9.1 / 10
Movie licenses in videogames have turned
out dreadful in the past. With an exception to a select few, movie
licenses usually serve as more advertisement for the film at hand. Now
as the summer films are nearing their release, these multi-million
dollar films need as much advertisement as possible. Thankfully, Tigon
and Starbreeze Studios realize that it is possible to make an
entertaining game of a movie license. The amount of detail and quality
drips from The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape From Butcher Bay (EFBB) and
is so beautiful that the game ranks among the top Xbox videogames.
Unlike most movie licensed games, there are two major reasons why EFBB
remains different. The first is that the game was developed by Tigon
Studios, a company Vin Diesel created specially to produce games for
movies he stars in. Even though
Starbreeze Studios had a huge hand in the
production of the game, Tigon did an incredible job. The second is that
the game takes place during another time than the movie itself.
Expanding on the character and story of Riddick, the game takes place
before the first film of the movie franchise, Pitch Black. Not many
movie licensed games follow down this path, but I know of one other game
that performed the same trick, and it didn’t do too badly – Star
Wars: Knights of the Old Republic.
EFBB starts off with Riddick telling the story of one of his many prison
breaks. He is sent to Butcher Bay, a triple-max prison home to some of
the most ruthless prisoners in the galaxy. The head of the prison,
Warden Hoxie, is not a big fan of Riddick and neither is his arch rival,
Johns (some will recognize from Pitch Black as the cop trying to make
some money off Riddick). Now, being dropped off in a prison filled with
guarded turrets, heavily armored guards, prisoners who want to kill
Riddick, and machines capable of mass destruction – Riddick must find a
way to escape.
What is directly apparent from the get-go are EFBB’s remarkable
graphics. You’ll notice the self-shadowing, accurate models, incredible
detail with no slow down at all. The reason behind this is a new type of
technology called “normal mapping” which takes low-poly models and
objects and makes them look high-poly even though the model you see is
still low-poly. If all of this sounds confusing, it’s because I still
don’t understand it completely myself. The only way I can sum it up is
by saying that EFBB displays the best graphics ever seen in a videogame,
and I’m sure you would think the same way as well.
Another big part of EFBB’s success is the amazing gameplay that fuses
together three different styles in one: Hand-to-hand combat, stealth,
and straight-up shooting.
Throughout the game you’ll have plenty of opportunities to use all three
styles (in 3rd and 1st first perspectives. Even if the opponent is using
a weapon, you can perform combos in order to neutralize the enemy. One
of my favorite moves is being able to turn a rifle against a guard and
shoot them for the kill. The clean-cut animations and easy to learn
gameplay make for some memorable sequences.
The hand-to-hand combat is a lot more fun than the other fighting
styles, but is also the most risky. The enemy AI wielding weapons will
hit you aside and then shoot you, instead of engaging in a fistfight. In
other words, the AI will utilize its own advantages over Riddick in
order to take him down.
In the hand-to-hand combat view you will also be able to pick up or
steal weapons, such as brass knuckles, screwdrivers, clubs, and knives.
Using these weapons limits the amount of combos, but does make for some
entertaining, and bloody, finishing moves.
The stealth portion of EFBB isn’t as fun as the hand-to-hand combat, but
it does get the job done. When entering into the stealth view, Riddick
will crouch down and the screen will turn into a vague dark blue showing
that Riddick is unseen by the enemy. In this mode Riddick will move
behind enemies and take them out a number of ways. Again, the
variability of neutralizing enemies is showcased with clean animations.
The final way to kill enemies is perhaps better represented as the
classic way. Pick up a gun, and just shoot everybody. This might sound
easy in theory, although it is difficult to perform realistically due to
the DNA-locked weapons. In order to use the guards’ weapon, Riddick must
have his DNA become valid in order to wield their weapons. Most of the
time throughout the game Riddick will be without a weapon, but there are
still lots of opportunities to dispense shells and pierce bodies. There
are some control issues, particularly in chaotic fights. In order to
throw a grenade you must first select it from the inventory, which is
done in real-time. The time used to select the grenade is very crucial
and can mean life or death, but overall, this wasn’t a major problem.
With all of the beauty in graphics and gameplay it was up to the sound
department to keep the same standards of quality – which they did
exceptionally well. Riddick is voiced by Vin Diesel himself and Cole
Hauser, the actor who portrayed Johns in the film Pitch Black returns to
do the voice of the distasteful character, even though he has no part in
the new film. Other guest voices include Xzibit (Rapper, Pimp My Ride
show on MTV) and Ron Perlman (Hellboy, Enemy at the Gates). Each voice
is done very well making each and every character believable. The
punches, weapons, and other ambient sounds are precise and pleasant to
the ears from beginning to end. (Don’t worry, Vin Diesel’s acting
doesn’t get in the way here.)
If there is any one reason why Riddick holds out from being the perfect
game, it would have to be the fact the game will last most gamers under
ten hours with virtually no replay value. The game runs by in a breeze
even with all of the side-quests and cigarette packs to pick up. (Each
pack unlocks a still from the new film, concept art from the game, and
other imagery from the Riddick series.) There aren’t any mini-games to
unlock or, the biggest travesty of all, a multiplayer mode. The lack of
replay value is disheartening when noticing all of the fine tuning
involved in EFBB and will always remain an enigma why there isn’t a
feature included? Even though I was disappointed with no extra features,
I was still extremely satisfied with the game as a whole.