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Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher's Bay

Developer: Starbreeze | Publisher: VU Games
Players: 1 Player Game | Release Date: 06/01/04 | Genre: FPS

In the crazy world of gaming sometimes things can happen that just don’t make much sense at first. The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher’s Bay is one of these things that do not make much sense, but that’s a good thing. If the law of licensed materials were quantum physics then Riddick is a square planet and I hope there are plenty more where this game came from.

When Starbreeze Studios first began work on Riddick, they probably knew they had their work cut out for them. Not only were they going to have to impress us reviewers, but they were going to have to impress their publisher, IP owner and the ever judging gamers that scoff at movie-to-game titles such as Riddick. The best thing about Riddick is the attention to gameplay that Starbreeze Studios obviously spent most of their time on.

There are three aspects of gameplay to Riddick; melee fights, gun fights and stealth. Each one of these is not only easy to get into but loads of fun.

There’s something to be said for the onscreen display in Riddick, or the lack there of. The only thing you’ll ever see on your screen are little white squares in the top left of your screen and those are only on your screen when you take damage or get healed. Things like each gun having the ammo displayed on the gun itself or the screen turning to a hue of blue when you’re crouched and hidden from view are just two of the ways Riddick immerses you into the role of playing as the anti-hero.

Normal mapping is an awesome thing; it goes to show what using the most cutting edge technology can do for a game. Graphically speaking Riddick is a six legged spider-tank of the future among everyday tanks. Everything from the shadows that fall over every character’s face and body to the extremely realistic detail put into those characters’s bodies is beautifully rendered. Few games cause you to sit there and just explore the levels, wanting to feast your eyes on every inch of every level in the game.

But it’s more than just the graphics in Riddick that are amazing; the audio is equally well done as well. Every sound, every little nuance of clonks, claps and clanks are perfectly placed within the game. Then you have the music, which is entirely fitting and equally adrenaline pumping at the right moments. Lastly but most certainly not the least is the voice over quality of The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher’s Bay. If ever there was a game that proves the importance of digital acting in a videogame it’s Riddick. Not just Vin D., but each and every actor does a top notch job in voicing their role exactly. Even the obligatory swearing that comes with a prison is done right, which is usually something that is overused or overacted.

So with amazing presentation, graphics and amazing audio coming together perfectly did the gameplay follow? Yes, of course it did. Because of the time and effort put into making this game a wonderfully gratifying experience. When you throw a punch, you really get the feeling that it hurt when it hit. The screen shakes with force and the victim of Riddick’s fist grunts and jerks with the proper amount of pain, in fact the longer you fight the more painful each hit looks. It’s really quite a fun experience, fighting hand to hand in Riddick. Sneaking is a very important part of the melee combat in Riddick, which isn’t quite as focused as Splinter Cell, MGS or Thief but of course that’s perfectly acceptable. The reason that is acceptable is because Riddick could have easily had a so-so stealth aspect and it still would have been a very fun game, however Starbreeze went the extra mile and gave us a very solid fun stealth property in Riddick.

As said before you can crouch by pressing the left analogue stick, while crouched the screen gets warped a bit in a fisheye-lens fashion. Once hidden in a shadow your screen turns to a noticeable hue of blue so you don’t have to keep looking at an onscreen indicator to make sure you’re hidden. Of course a ways into the game you’ll get Riddick’s eye shine, this allows you to press the right analogue stick to see in the dark. Although if you’re not careful and use eye shine while a guard is aiming a light at you or in a lighted room the entire screen will become nearly impossible to see.

However the real fun starts with the guns, right? Well of course Riddick does this right also, in fact I haven’t felt this much satisfaction from firing a weapon since Halo. The flashes of light and blasting sound of gunfire, the shaking motion of the gun and the screen; it all comes together as you fire at your enemies to give you a joygasm of death and destruction. When foes fall to the ground, when they’re flung across your screen causing giggles of entertainment and comedy to anyone in the room; you just want to do it more.

Possibly the only flaw in Riddick is that it’s fairly short, but that’s almost unfair when you consider the amount of detail and effort put into Riddick. If nothing else this shows just what can be done with Hollywood and videogame developers work closely together. Hopefully we’ll be seeing more titles like The Chronicles of Riddick, because if we do then crappy movie-videogames could become a thing of the past.

By Kyle Horner - 06/28/04
ESRB Details: Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Strong Language

Screenshots for Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher's Bay

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