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The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay
(hx) 02:34 AM CET - Feb,02 2005

The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay - Developer's Cut (Escape from Butcher Bay) is a first-person shooter/adventure game loosely based on Pitch Black and the last year's "The Chronicles of Riddick" movie, starring Vin Diesel. For fans of the films, the game is more like Pitch Black in terms of atmosphere. If you haven't seen the movies, Riddick is a classic antihero, an unscrupulous villain and tough guy who ends up doing good in the end and killing a lot of people who deserve it along the way. Although no previous knowledge is needed to appreciate the game, fans of Pitch Black will appreciate the appearance of key characters and the explanation of such crucial moments as Riddick's EyeShine ability.

As mentioned, the game is a prequel to the events in the first Riddick based film Pitch Black where we see the title character being transported to the penal colony Butcher Bay - the most notorious penal planet in the galaxy. This is the kind of prison where the guards casually murder prisoners if they feel like it, and prison gangs defend their turf and social hierarchy with blood. As the subtitle, "Escape from Butcher Bay" suggests, Riddick (voiced by actor Vin Diesel) is trying to escape from prison. Not once, not twice, but three times! This is a multi-stage process, as you might expect, and you can be sure you'll get to examine all parts of this huge prison, as well many different characters, before you're done.

The gameplay is an interesting hybrid of various genres. The game has four basic gameplay elements: dialog, hand-to-hand combat, shooting and stealth. Most of the missions in the game are short and fairly easy to complete. Thus, the gameplay changes up frequently so it never gets boring or repetitive. By far, the best part of the game is the dialog. You can go around the hallways of the prison, interacting with the prisoners and occasionally, the guards. They will give you missions and sometimes, money or cigarettes. The characters are surprisingly well acted, and the cut scenes are short enough to keep the pace on target. Since the story takes place in and around a prison, the weapons are initially little more than shivs (makeshift blades), knuckledusters, screwdrivers, scalpels, clubs and an occasional guns. And since most of the guards are heavily armed, Riddick has to be extremely careful in dispatching them. Fortunately, if discovered, Riddick can still kick ass the old-fashioned way. Melee combat is handled exceptionally well for a first-person game, including the ability to string together combos. Fistfights have a savage feel to them, since you get such a closeup view of your fists hitting the other guy's face. The best part about the fighting is watching your opponent's face get bruised and bloody as you smack him down :)

Of course, the game has also some serious gunfights, be it with assault rifles, shotguns, pistols or tranquilizer guns (which shock the enemy and stun them for a several seconds. The guards are sadistic lowlifes that you will have no moral qualms about killing. Later in the game, you can get on board a mech and turn the guns on the aggressors - the mech is so heavy you can actually see the metal plates on the floor come out of the ground!

There's also some focus on stealth in the game, apparent when making Riddick crouch. Basically, press [C] to crouch and enter stealth mode (you only toggle on the crouch, instead of holding it down while moving). When you are in stealth mode, you can drag dead bodies out of sight, sneak up and kill enemies from behind or most importantly, slink right past them. As you progress through the levels, you will also receive a super-natural "Eyeshine" ability which helps seeing through the dark but blinds your vision when you see the light. Basically, it's like you have built-in night-vision goggles inside your skull, which you can turn on/off at will. You will need it because the enemy A.I is fairly intelligent and will be willing to use tactics to bring you down. All enemies use combos, some are more aggressive than others, some punch faster than others, etc.

This is the PC port of the same Xbox game, just as you may expect. But the PC version is dubbed Developer's Cut for a good reason: once you beat the game, you unlock the ability to play back through "Commentary mode". The commentary mode is almost worth the price by itself, because it adds replayability to what is basically a 10-hour linear game. This feature allows you to play through the game again, while listening to literally hours and hours of interesting developer commentary. The developers point out the techniques that they use to draw you into the game, and they also point out areas that they don't feel turned out very well.

Overall, playing Riddick is very enjoyable whether or not you are a fan of the movie series, and much more if you already know about Riddick. The gameplay is neat and slick and incorporate many type of gameplays. The stealth is incorporated extremely well, and the hand-to-hand fighting is extraordinary, though the controls could be a bit smoother in this area. But for a game that was designed exclusively to make the most of the Xbox, it's a major surprise just how smooth its transition to the PC really is. The only downside of the game is that you need a high end PC to run it

Note: The game is probably best suited for adults because its ultra violent and the language rivals Manhunt for worst language.

related links: homepage, v1.1 patch, savegames, cheats, editor/SDK.

System requirements:
Minimum: Pentium 4 1.8GHz or AMD equivalent, 256 MB RAM, 64 MB AGP OpenGL 1.5-compatible video card, supporting programmable shading. (ATI Radeon 8500 or NVIDIA GeForce 3 and above - except GeForce 4 MX, DirectX 9-compatible sound card, 3.7 GB hard disc space (recommend 4.4 of uncompressed disc space), 16x CD-ROM or DVD-ROM drive
Recommended: Intel Pentium 4 2.6 GHz or AMD Athlon XP 2500+, 512 MB RAM, ATI Radeon 9700 or NVIDIA GeForce FX 5900 or better
Optimal: AMD Athlon 64 or better, 1024 MB RAM, NVIDIA GeForce 6800 GT or better NVIDIA card.

snd: 5/5 - top-notch voice acting Vin Diesel, Joaquim De Almeida (Ramon Salazar from 24), Xzibit and Tony Plana (Manny from Grim Fandango), great music and effects
gfx: 5/5 - absolutely gorgeous, some bizarre-looking characters, some minor bugs, framerate drops
playability: 5/5 - rich atmosphere and gameplay, good stealth elements, various optional sub-missions, solid AI, keyboard controls can be completely altered, open-ended structure, sloppy shooting controls, useless map, short (10-12hours), no multiplayer
genre: 1st-person sci-fi adventure/shooter
platform: PC (also available on Xbox)
release: December 2004
developer: Starbreeze Studios
publisher: VU Games/Sierra
Overall: 92%

last 10 comments:

xxxx(07:05 PM CET - Feb,03 2005 )
Not saying anything negative of the review, but everyone I've heard from on this game has had negative comments, plastic looking models, bad AI, boring scenery. I'll see if I can pick this game up some way, but, there is no multiplayer! Just don't see the worth..At least the price, I guess, is somewhat reasonable.

EDIT: I got the game last night...try it tonite. Hope it's good.

v1m(05:08 AM CET - Feb,08 2005 )
I like the game. As with Enclave, Starbreeze's level and character design is top notch. Gameplay is intriguing--through several levels, there's an emphasis on stealth, but at times it really rips open. The engine is nearly Carmack quality, while the gameplay is more involving and enjoyable than Doom III. Starbreeze will do some great things.

FX5900(01:40 PM CET - Feb,08 2005 )
I heard Vin Diesel is a gay 'butch'. Any true to that because he acts gay. :D

xxxx(09:59 PM CET - Feb,08 2005 )
Ya I heard he was gay too.. lol. Probably is and in denial.. Stay tuned for when big baldy comes out saying he's gay.. needs more millions first before he can say he is.. that's my look on it. Hehehehe.

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