|System: X360, PS3, PC||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Starbreeze||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Atari||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Q1 2009||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: TBA||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: TBA||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Adam Brown
December 10, 2008 - When The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape From Butcher Bay was released for the Xbox over four years ago, it surprised many in the industry. With its amazing graphics, excellent storyline, and well done gameplay, it bucked the trend commonly found in movie-based video games.
Escape From Butcher Bay was one of the best games on the system, and perhaps even of the generation, despite its association with the ill-received film that accompanied it. Unfortunately, due to the fairly limited Xbox user-base and the ever-present fear of terrible movie tie-ins, the game received a lot of love from critics but not many people actually played the title. Luckily, this partially led us to the perfect storm of random occurrences that has provided us with what looks to be another amazing outing for Riddick.
It's not often when the story surrounding a title's creation is every bit as interesting as the game itself. With Escape From Butcher Bay being so well received by critics but played by so few gamers, Starbreeze sought to make the game available to a wider audience. Because of the different tricks that were utilized to make the game look and play so well on the Xbox, they were never able to make the original title compatible on the Xbox 360. Due to this, they decided to remake Butcher Bay with a little added content for the new consoles, so that more players would get the chance to experience the title. Assault on Dark Athena was announced over a year and a half ago as just that, but then the publisher of the game Vivendi merged with Activision. Suddenly, the press coverage on the game went dark and Starbreeze found themselves with an extra eighteen months of unexpected development time in which to continue adding content to and polishing the entire package. So, instead of just getting a remake of Butcher Bay with a small tacked-on hour or so of gameplay, we are receiving what is essentially two full games in one package in Assault on Dark Athena, now being published by Atari.
The events of the Assault on Dark Athena portion of this game are a direct continuation of the story from Escape From Butcher Bay. Picking up right where the original title left off, Riddick and his relentless Merc pursuer Johns are floating through space in cryo-sleep when their ship is taken by the pirate ship Dark Athena. Riddick is fortunate enough to wake himself and hide in the ship but Johns isn't quite so lucky, being taken prisoner by the pirates. Just as in Butcher Bay, escape is the name of the game and the opposition is just as tenacious as ever.
While sneaking around the Dark Athena, Riddick will have to contend with the Merc crew as well as a plethora of drone soldiers. These cyborg soldiers will mostly meander about the ship, mindlessly patrolling in a very sluggish and laidback manner. That is unless they are being piloted by a member of the ship's crew, in which case their awareness rises greatly as does their overall speed and intelligence. Of course, the ability to pilot a drone soldier works both ways. If Riddick finds a drone control station, he can also pilot these cyborgs, essentially giving him an expendable walking turret. When controlling a drone, the game will play more similarly to a run and gun experience rather than the sneaking and stealth that is normally required, adding a good amount of variety to the formula.
Aside from this function, these drones have a few other important uses as well. Piloting drones will also play an important part in some of the game's puzzle solving. Since they are totally expendable, piloting one into a rotating fan would seem to be an effective way of bringing said fan to a halt, allowing you to safely pass through. After being dispatched with, Riddick is also able to heft their corpses, utilizing their gun arms for added firepower and their carcasses as a makeshift bullet shield. While this does have its benefits, there are also a few drawbacks such as decreased mobility and a fairly obscured field of vision which should help to keep it balanced.
While Starbreeze has clearly spent a ton of time working on the Dark Athena portion of this game, the Butcher Bay portion, thankfully, hasn't been overlooked. All of the upgrades found in Dark Athena have been implemented into the remake of the original as well. Players can expect to find greatly improved visuals, smarter A.I., some design enhancements, remastered audio, and a better user interface for switching between weapons. The game will also include some multiplayer options, Butcher Bay shipped as a single-player only game, although no specific details have been announced yet.
With all of these major improvements, the addition of another game that is said to be just as long as the original, and some multiplayer options, Assault on Dark Athena looks like it should provide a package overflowing with content. If you happened to miss the Xbox version of Escape From Butcher Bay, first of all, shame on you, second, thank you, and lastly, you may not want to make the same mistake twice. The combination of this game's extended development time, the power provided by this generation of consoles, and Starbreeze's clear devotion to the game should amount to an experience that you won't want to miss when it is released this spring.
CCC Staff Contributor