The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay
Starbreeze Studios, Tigon Studios
XBOX, PC, 360, PS3 (Remastered with AODA)
First-Person, Action, Stealth
June 1st, 2004 & April 7th, 2009
For Fans of: Vin Diesel, Splinter Cell, Pitch Black
It seems that most gamers if not all, have the same feelings towards movie games, they suck. Well what if I stepped out of that circle and defended a section of that very vaugue, mostly true statement? I present you with The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay, a movie-tie-in game developed in part by Riddick himself, without all the suckage of most movie games.
This is part one of my review for The Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena
which can be found here!
First off, I want everyone to go out (or stay in via Netflix) and watch "Pitch Black"
, one of my top ten movies.
Acting as a prequel to Pitch Black and the lesser counter-part The Chronicles of Riddick movies, Escape from Butcher Bay follows Riddick and his journey in trying to escape the Slam. After being captured by Jhons, Riddick is brought to the infamous Butcher Bay, a maximum security prision isolated on a desert planet. Inmates who escape are ethier sand blasted to death by wind storms or blasted to pieces by one of the many minefields surrounding the facility. To put it bluntly, there is no escaping Butcher Bay. After a series of events, and attempts of escape without success Riddick is continually put into higher levels of confinement and continually finds a way out of them showing exactly how resourceful he can be at rock bottom.
What I enjoyed about the story is how it was pieced together, with the three levels of security which progressivly became more and more difficult. I also liked that we learn more about Riddick, like how he actually got his trademark eyeshine ability which bestows vision in the darkest of areas. Personally I got nerd chills when some of the stuff he refered to in Pitch Black happens in Butcher Bay.
Now I should probably mention here that I have been playing the Remastered version on the 360 so what I say here for the graphics is for that particular version and not the 2004 version on the Xbox.
The graphics in general have some flaws but its the details and work that went into them that shine the most. You don't see Butcher Bay through your monitor, you experience it. The grime on the walls, the dirty looking inmates, everything works together to generate that feeling like your really there in the slam. The flaws I mentioned are the occasional shown seam, but nothing major. What I enjoyed most was the lighting, and how it works with the gameplay.
One thing that is a huge plus to the game is it actually has Vin Diesel's likeness and voice to back it up, I mean how couldn't it when Diesel's Tigon Studios co-developed the game? Aside from that the voice acting is surprisingly good and the music is nothing to boot ethier. Like I said earlier, you experience Butcher Bay and that expression entends over into the sounds of everything as well, from the chatter of the inmates to the ambience of the service areas.
Taking inspiration from a variety of games, Starbreeze along with Tigon have formed a sort of Franken-game, but not the kind you run away from, its the kind you spend all night playing with. Being a First-Person Stealth Action game, you can expect to find a number of different playstyles, and thats one of the main strengths of this game. It finds the right mix of gameplay as it has you stealthing around in the dark at parts preforming assassinations, fist fighting with inmates, and after putting your DNA into the system, first-person shooting.
The most important of these three main aspects is the stealthing around. Crouching in the dark makes enemies lose track of Riddick as long as they didn't have line of sight on the action. This can work wonders for evading enemies or switching gameplay aspects because after they lose track of you, you can assassinate them from behind, provided your still crouching while approaching them. This is made ever so much better with the ability to shoot out the lights and create "Safe Spots" if you will that you can lure the suspecting guards into. Your able to drag bodies into the darkness but I have yet to encounter a situation where I've needed to do so.
The hand to hand which was appearently inspired by "Punch out!" feels a bit stiff at first but once you get the timings down you can pull off some pretty wicked looking counters. Countering gun weilding enemies is perhaps the most satisfying as you actually turn the gun back on them and blast them to thier maker. The hand to hand uses the analog sticks to switch up the moves that Riddick will pull, for example: pulling down on the left stick while pulling the R trigger will cause Riddick to uppercut, carefull though, your enemies can use these attacks as well and do not hesitate to do so.
Third, and perhaps the most basic of the three aspects, first person shooting. Nothing special to be noted here except its all you can do against the mechs so why not? I did however like how Riddick assumed that I wanted to shoot over the crate when I ran up to it without snapping into a stupid cover shooting mode. That was nice.
As I moved around in Butcher Bay crouching in vents and shimmying along edges I started to appreciate even just the simple platforming of it all. Although there were parts where I had no idea where to go and with no help from the objective tab in the start menu, I lost a lot of time to just wandering around till I found a dimly lit ladder. While frustrating at first, it made me look in every corner, like the old games used to do.
Perhaps the blunder of Butcher Bay is almost how fast Riddick can escape it. In about twevle-ish hours you can be completing the main story line and with no multiplayer there is hardly a reason to play again. There are collectibles in the form of smokes to collect which will open up extras in the main menu but you can get the majority of them on your first playthrough of the game. This is of course if your unlike me and decide to re-watch/play the sci-fi epic series everynow and then.
The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay is one huge exception to the movie game rule, possibly because Vin Diesel himself was behind it one hundred percent. With an almost endless amount of detail poured into this game, mixed with a legitimatly fun gameplaying experience and way above average sound quality, Butcher Bay is an experience those of us old enough to play it won't want to miss. Although it is lacking in replayability, I suggest this game (and on a sidenote, Pitch Black) to everyone. There is few beings in any sci-fi universe cooler then Riddick and even less games, give it a try.