Saturday, 20 March 2010

Review of The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape From Butcher Bay and Assault on Dark Athena

Alright, time for another review. I have just finished The Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena, which as some of you might know also includes Escape from Butcher Bay. I am reviewing both of these games, since I had not played Butcher Bay before. So without further adieu, let's start.

Finally! I have finished a game with an awesome title!

First off, one thing: I dunno who this Riddick guy is, and I haven't seen the movies and stuff he's from. I certainly will be seeing them sometimes soon, though, for this was pretty awesome.

The story is rather simple, I'll admit. You're some psycho badass (the namesake of the games, Riddick) who loves the dark and says some really badass existential stuff. He is played (voiced and apparently motion-captured) by the awesome Vin Diesel. Riddick has been captured by some mercenary guy, and is sold to the high-security prison Butcher Bay. You must then play as Riddick and break out.

This is a dark game. I mean that both literally and figuratively. Riddick is an almost frightful character, a complete antihero has no reservations in killing people. Characters quite frequently curse (which can become comical at some parts), which makes sense in a prison setting yet can be more unpleasant in some situations. You of course kill a lot of people, quite violently in most cases, and there are a lot of unpleasant events that you can hear or are being talked about by the other inmates.

Trust me, screwdrivers are threatening.

Literally, the game uses shadows in an interesting way. It combines stealth tactics and shooter gameplay in an interesting way that forces you to use strategy, but also makes it very fast-paced. A fair number of lights in the game are shootable to make them go out, which then changes the lighting in areas, giving you more darkness. And after you get the shine-eyes ability, it becomes merely an advantage to you. Not only do you get to do a lot of shooting, but there are a variety of melee weapons in the game which work quite effectively and realistically do a lot of damage. Though just make sure you don't bring a knife to a gun fight - unless they don't notice you, of course. Silent take-downs are an integral part of the game, and succeeding them, followed by pulling the body into the shadows, is very satisfying.

Sneak up, snap neck, drag away. Quick and clean.

The gameplay in this game is mostly good, I would say. There are two major problems I noticed, though. One, that melee counters are very hard in the game. Unlike in, say, Assassin's Creed, where countering is very intuitive and almost always reacts as you want, there is no specific counter button in this game. You have to attack while your weapon shines or your hands are open, and then you'll counter. If you're off, you usually end up taking a signifgant beating. It is difficult to pull off in some of the more important fights, and makes them much harder than they feel they should be.

The other is that one of the frequent bigger enemies in the game, the riot guard, is too tough. To defeat him you have to shoot him with around twenty shotgun blasts in the back, two to three grenades, or about ten straight seconds with the minigun. On top of that, he has good eyesight, and will see you if you get too close, regardless of how dark it is.

When you finally get to play as one of these and kill the other ones it is so satisfying.

Riddick as a character is interesting because he gets very existential during conversation. It really adds to his character and makes him actually interesting, because it makes you wonder more about him. I have to say that the dialogue in this game is really good. In a lot of games I tend to read subtitles and skip dialogue, but it was good just to listen to it in this game. Vin Diesel does an excellent performance as Riddick, giving him that sexy-badass voice which seems to just fit perfectly. All the other actors (forgive my forgetfulness but I don't recall their names) bring about great performances as well. This is some of the best voice-acting and dialogue I've ever heard in a game, and it's one of the things that kept me going.

Because here's the major problem with Butcher Bay. It's too long. The payoff is great, and the first part is excellent, but it starts getting a little same-y and boring towards the end of the double-max section. (About 17 hours in when I was playing.) It's by all means great, but I think if it had been shorter it would've been sweeter and felt a little more tight.

I rank this game at:

Vin Diesel
(Badass and Awesome)

Now let's move on to the next game.

Is "chronicles" not one of the best words ever?

This game is a lot like the previous one. It feels like a good sequel, continuing with the same stuff we loved yet changing it up. Picking up where Butcher Bay left off, Riddick has escaped Butcher Bay (I won't ruin how) and is travelling through space. Did I mention these games are sci-fi? (These games are sci-fi.) Suddenly though, the ship is attacked by a mercenary ship called Dark Athena. Or maybe it was just Athena. Can't remember. Either way it sounds awesome.

So... yeah, basically the same gamplay, yet with some new additions. There are some new guns, some new mechs to pilot, some new types of enemies, some new environments, a continuation of the story... it's all great.

Riddick approves. It may not look it, but trust me, he does.

Its length is also better. I know some people really hated how short it was, and they probably had already played Butcher Bay and therefor ignored it in the package. But honestly, looking at them seperately, I think Assault on Dark Athena gets the pacing down better. There aren't any more of the annoying Riot Guards, and the replacement bigger bads are much more reasonable to deal with. The game just consistently flows, and although it is perhaps only four or five hours long, that's a good thing. The story feels a lot more condensed and tighter, with the same amount of stuff going on but it all happening with good beats.

I dunno, maybe the price was the issue to some people. But I thought Dark Athena was actually better than Butcher Bay. Hell, even the credits had better music. I'm not saying Butcher Bay was bad, but Dark Athena was a little bit better.

So, I am giving Dark Athena, as well as the combined package, a rank of:

Thumbs-Up Vin Diesel
(Badass and Really Awesome)

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