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The Chronicles Of Riddick: Escape From Butcher Bay

Platform(s): PC, Xbox
Genre: Action
Publisher: Vivendi
Developer: Starbreeze Stud.
Release Date: June 1, 2004 (US), Aug. 13, 2004 (EU)


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Xbox Review - ' The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape From Butcher Bay'

by Corey Owen on June 17, 2004 @ 1:22 a.m. PDT

Set before the events of both Universal Pictures' upcoming summer release, The Chronicles of Riddick, starring Vin Diesel, and the 2000 breakout hit Pitch Black, which first introduced Diesel as enigmatic anti-hero Riddick, the game tells the story of Riddick's dramatic escape from the previously inescapable triple max security slam Butcher Bay, home to the most violent prisoners in the universe.

Buy 'RIDDICK: Escape from Butcher Bay': Xbox

The day is finally here folks. After 20+ years of waiting a game based on a movie has been released and it doesn’t suck. As a matter of fact it is one of the best games on Xbox. The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay blends a variety of genres into one cohesive masterpiece of gaming. Tigon Studios and Starbreeze have put together a game with that excels in every aspect with very few downsides. Once you take hold of the controller for the first time you will be hooked. Let’s see just what makes this game so good.

You will, of course, play the role of Richard B. Riddick as he attempts to do what has never been done before, escape from the triple max security prison Butcher Bay. You will punch, stab, shoot, sneak, break necks and do whatever else it takes to survive the prison life. When I said this game blends a variety of genres I wasn’t kidding. While it may be a FPS at heart there are also stealth elements as well as the relatively new first person fighting experience. These secondary elements aren’t just thrown in either, they are well fleshed out and extremely fun to play. When you enter into stealth mode Riddick goes into a crouch and his view of the world goes into a fish eye type effect to give you a broader view of his surroundings. When you go into the shadows a blue tint will cover the screen to let you know you are hidden from view. This system works very well which is a good thing because stealth is such an important component of the gameplay. There are a lot of shadows in Riddick for hiding in and since they have a powerful dynamic lighting engine you can create your own ala Splinter Cell. Unlike Splinter Cell though, the stealth kills are incredibly brutal, not to mention a blast to watch. Each weapon type has its own kill animation more brutal than the last. The majority of these kill make a good bit of noise and will alert other guards and inmates, but they do have attacks you can do to keep your cover. For billing itself as a FPS Riddick certainly excels in stealth.

The first person fighting is another extremely important element of gameplay. For a large portion of the game you will rely on hand to hand and melee combat to survive. The prison security system tracks the DNA of every guard so when someone not in their database tries to use a guard’s weapon they are greeted with a nasty shock. The simplicity of the combat is the key to its success. To punch with your right hand simply press R and right on the left thumbstick, to punch left press R and left on the thumbstick. The same goes for uppercut and elbow, just press a direction with R. You can chain these together to perform combos, which is not only useful, but essential to defeating many enemies. The best part of hand to hand combat though, is the disarms. While blocking, if you time it just right, a quick press of R will turn your assailants weapon against himself in what is a truly memorable gaming experience.

With these unique gameplay elements Riddick really sets its self apart from other FPS. In addition to these innovative features there is also great depth in the story and mission aspects of Riddick. In many FPS your mission consist of basically finding someone and shooting them, but they have implemented new mission types as well as innovative ways of completing the typical FPS style quests. You cannot carry weapons out in the open and if you kill someone in sight of the cameras the automated security will gun you down almost instantly so you have to use clever tactics and stealth to accomplish many of the missions rather than brute force alone. It is the intricate balance between the two that makes the game so enjoyable and never stagnant.

Now on to the part that has made Riddick so famous, the graphics. Let’s just say that its reputation is very well deserved. This game easily has the best graphics of any game yet to be released for any console. The characters have a level of realism that most games only dream of coming close to. The facial maps are highly detailed and Riddick looks identical to Vin Diesel. Each and every character has a unique personality and a distinctive look. They have a powerful facial animation system to accompany the robust graphics to give expression and authenticity to the acting. They have left no graphical technique unused and it shows. The normal mapping technique, which is really a bleeding edge technology, is used flawlessly in everything from characters, to weapon, to environments to bring Butcher Bay to life. You really have to see it to believe it. All of the impressive modeling and outstanding texturing is capped off by the stunning lighting engine. Other than Splinter Cell no game, especially a first person game, has had a lighting system this powerful. Every static and dynamic object in the game casts shadows in real time. This feature in conjunction with the normal mapping gives incredible depth and detail to every aspect of the game. The incorporation of a ragdoll physics engine also adds to the overall realism, bodies flail when you shoot them off ledges and slump over rails as the life is taken from the unwilling host, tiles explode off walls and floors when grenades explode. The world of Butcher Bay is alive.

So far we have all of the elements of greatness, innovative gameplay, rich story, and near flawless visuals. The only element left is the audio. Not one to buck trends Riddick excels in here too. Of course all ingame audio comes in clean, crisp Dolby Digital. The gunfire sound effects are some of the best out there. The guns seem to have more base than in most games which gives them an authoritative punch. With the right surround sound system you can feel like you are engaged in a small war at times. It’s really quite impressive. One of the standout features or Riddick is the voice acting. Unlike many games where you have a few actors who play tons of roles Riddick has a fairly large cast where each actor is responsibly for only a few roles and in many cases only one. For the actors that do have several roles you never really notice. It’s not just the quantity of actors in the game that makes it a standout feature. The quality of acting is far above that of most titles. One of the best parts of the acting is that they manage to use explicit dialogue that doesn’t sound forced/thrown in for shock value or to sound cool. There is tons of ambient dialogue between inmates and guards to suck you in to the prison universe. With riveting sound effects, great ambiance, and some of the best voice acting in a game to date Riddick is a game that makes you appreciate a surround sound system all the more.

With so much to love about this game it really is a no brainer to go out and pick this one up. There is tons of variety in the gameplay to suit the various tastes out there that almost everyone can enjoy this one. The graphics are simply the best around hands down. You have to see them to believe them and if you have any friends who still doubt the power of the Xbox this is the one to show them. The audio is remarkable and seals the deal. There is only one real complaint that I have with the game and that is the length. If you just run through the main quest it will take somewhere between 8 and 10 hours to beat and you can expect about 2-3 more hours of gameplay if you do all of the quests. There are cartons of cigarettes hidden throughout the game that unlock concept art. If you don’t happen to find all of them on the first run through you unlock a list of their locations so you can get them all on the second run through. This adds some replay value, but most players will only play through once. This is really a minor gripe though because the game is so good that even with a relatively short length it is well worth playing. This game bodes well for things to come from Starbreeze and Tigon. I cant wait to see what these guys can do with the next generation hardware. Note to devs, begin work on sequel for Xbox 2 immediately.

Score: 9.4/10

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