Riddick review

Oh, Vin Diesel. Even though I find it somewhat amusing that you feel the need to star in all of the games that you make, I actually don’t mind it when that game turns out to be pretty decent. The real question here is whether or not people are willing to pay full price for what is essentially a last-gen game with a facelift and an expansion pack. Do you really think your game is that good?

To be completely honest, I never played through the entirety of Riddick’s first Xbox adventure, Escape from Butcher Bay. I checked it out simply because of how awesome I heard the graphics were, and I was thoroughly impressed. I wasn’t impressed enough to keep the game long enough to beat it — I just wasn’t willing to fork over more of my cash to Blockbuster to re-rent it.

Fortunately, Assault on Dark Athena contains that entire chapter, so newcomers to the franchise won’t feel like they missed out on anything. They did, however, miss out on what made Escape from Butcher Bay stand out originally: the graphics.

Even though Assault on Dark Athena has upped the resolution and the textures for the re-release, it just looks like every other next-gen game these days. While that’s in no way an insult to what Starbreeze has done with the title, it simply doesn’t have the graphical edge that it had when you compared the original to its peers last generation, thus it is not the standout that it once was.

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Okay, so the graphics are fine, and that’s all anyone seems to care about these days, right? If you are actually interested in playing games, though, the package deal is actually pretty nice. Not only do you get the original Riddick game, but Assault on Dark Athena also adds a new campaign, cleverly titled “Assault on Dark Athena”. While it didn’t seem quite as long or as fun as the original campaign, it was a welcomed addition to the single-player experience.

Another reason to pick up this disc is the multiplayer component. While nowhere near as good as Team Fortress 2, Killzone 2, Halo 3, or even Gears of War 2, the multiplayer experience is good enough to be considered “fun” and just goes to add more value to the overall package. It’s relatively standard fare, with the exception that there is the whole stealth element involved.

I thought about giving a synopsis of the Escape from Butcher Bay campaign, but to be completely honest, nothing has really changed about it in these past five years other than the graphics. If you really feel you missed out the first time, you could just read the 500 or so reviews for it elsewhere on the internets. I will, however, sum it up for you by saying that it was a great game for its time and arguably the best-looking game to ever release on the Xbox.

Assault on Dark Athena picks up where Butcher Bay left off. Riddick’s in cryostasis aboard a ship leaving the prison planet he escaped from, which subsequently gets attacked by mercenary slavers (of sorts). Riddick gets transported aboard the Dark Athena, and of course he starts killing people.

A majority of your time will be spent in hand-to-hand combat, a lot of which you can shorten by sneaking up on dudes and stealth-killing them. You also have limited use of the guns that enemies drop. I say “limited” because it is almost always easier to melee guys to death, though you will find yourself in situations where a gun comes in handy. Generally, however, (at least in my experience) trying to run and gun got me into more trouble than it was worth.

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Sneaking up on guys, or around them, is generally your best option. It’s kind of odd that Riddick’s “see in the dark” abilities actually reminded me of The Darkness, also developed by Starbreeze, which I remember thinking reminded me of Escape from Butcher Bay. It’s funny how time affects things like that, huh?

The point is that Riddick does not play like a typical shooter. It’s not necessarily slower, but it does have a completely different feel. It’s almost like a mix between Splinter Cell and Condemned. While a lot of FPS fans will be turned off by that idea, I really feel that it’s worth checking out if you have any interest at all in action games.

Considering that Butcher Bay hasn’t been made compatible with the 360 yet, the only way to replay that classic on new hardware is to get Assault on Dark Athena. Even though the Dark Athena campaign isn’t as good as the original, and the graphics are not as mind-blowing for the time as they once were, the overall package with the added multiplayer makes this the best bundle since The Orange Box. In these tough economic times, Assault on Dark Athena is one of the best values you can get in a newly released game. There’s nothing necessarily new or overly exciting, but there’s a lot of fun to be had. And there’s Vin Diesel.

8.5