Electronic Theatre In-depth Reviews: The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay

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riddick.JPG (1808 bytes)          This year saw a rapid expansion in the Riddick story. From his first appearance in the much-underrated Pitch Black through to the anime adventures Dark Fury, and to the blockbuster Chronicles of Riddick hitting the cinemas this year, Vin Diesel has made every effort to tell the public the story of the only three-dimensional character he’s ever been blessed to play.

            So then, this self-financed venture created by Vin Diesel’s own games studio has done more then enough to push Vinny into my good books… a star willing to put their own money into groundbreaking games development as opposed to a rehash of their favourite game now starring themselves if something quite monumental in our beloved games industry… where efforts by the Wu-Tang Clan and the Wachowski Brothers have failed, could Mr. Diesel succeed?

            Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay was a surprise shock for the Xbox. At its first viewing it looked little more than a half-decent Half-Life rip-off, a £20-weekend jobby. But then, within a year the game had turned around, now looking like one of the best games to grace the Xbox, the puzzle-based First Person Shooter had not only grown legs, but also learnt to walk. A quick glance at a few screenshots and a brief description of the game might have you thinking: “Ahh… Halo, but a bit darker…” but then, what else have we got to compare it to?

            Well, it’s nothing like Halo. It doesn’t need to be. The title plays as a series of events, each event requiring you to solve a certain puzzle or reach a destination. The usual “blast everything in sight” rules don’t apply here. For much of the game there are huge bosses and corridor-based baddies, but the emphasis is definitely placed on finding the key, or talking to the other inmates, or reaching the infirmary before getting fried. This is also how the plot advances – each new puzzle solved will allow a further part of the story to be played, either using in game characters or, occasionally, a cut-scene.

            The title’s controls are reliable, but the first-person combat hasn’t quite lived up to expectations. It’s brutal, bloody and certainly rewarding, but often a bit hit and miss. The default aiming controls are a little tetchy, so it’s generally best to tweak the sensitivity until you’re comfortable.

            The graphics in the game are remarkable. The characters Riddick interacts with all have individual personality and the lighting effects on the guards’ armour parallel even some of the GameCubes’ finest work. Some of the environments can be relatively sparse, but the game is based in a prison and what little variety of textures could be used have been implemented to full effect. Never did I feel the effects of slowdown, or have to put up with the irritating pop-up that STILL plagues our consoles to this day!

            The system of advancing within the game is not entirely original, but perfectly suits the effort the team have tried to achieve. The major downfall with the title is the lack of replay value. Being heavily story driven, replaying occasional levels is not an option, and the only effort to bring you back to the game is to find all the cigarette packets and unlock the special features, but even this will eventually become a tiring effort for the most die-hard Riddick fan. No multi-player features and no mini-games, the title feels a little empty when compared with the depth of Metroid Prime or wealth in Halo 2, but none of this can deter from what is a more than rewarding, brutal, first person rampage fit for all First Person Shooter and Riddick fans.



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