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The Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena Review
|ESRB rating: M
release date: Apr 07, 09 (released)
|» All About The Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena on ActionTrip|
Starbreeze Studios really made an impact back in December 2004 with The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay. The game made its way to both Xbox and PC platforms and received excellent reviews. Assault on Dark Athena continues in the spirit of its predecessor, delivering a combo of stealth and action, all neatly packed in a cool-looking sci-fi atmosphere. That's exactly one of the things that made the previous game enjoyable - the atmosphere. Starbreeze has done a terrific job of conveying the unique setting Riddick finds himself in. Now, this game is a good opportunity for those who are unfamiliar with the original to get to know the character a little better and help him overcome perilous situations and endless foes. Does this game deliver an equally engaging experience as the previous one? Well, that's what we're here to find out.
Dark Athena picks up where Escape from Butcher Bay left off. Riddick and Johns (who took our hero to the Butcher Bay in the first game) both come across the Dark Athena, a huge space vessel crammed with unfriendly mercs, who are led by this bad-ass chick named Gale Revas. Riddick manages to avoid capture, while Revas takes Johns away. Creeping through the dark corridors of the mysterious ship, Riddick continues to elude the guards and automated drones. The drones turn out to be humans with implanted machine parts.
The game received a solid makeover to make it look more up-to-date or current gen if you will. Unfortunately, most of the traditional and retro visual elements linger, which tends to ruin the experience. Unconvincingly shiny wall textures and clumsily presented ground texture are, well, tacky and over-the-top and most of the environment simply lacks polys. In this day and age, it certainly appears behind the times. It still looks way better than the original, but nowhere near enough to compete with the likes of modern day triple-A releases such as Gears of War, Mass Effect or the latest Call of Duty game.
When it comes to gameplay, Dark Athena is a bit rough around the edges. At times it appears too dynamic for a stealth game, while shooter fans are liable to get frustrated for a number of reasons. The game suffers from what I'd like to call "The S.T.A.L.K.E.R. AI Syndrome." This denotes inconsistent AI behavior patterns that make enemies insanely accurate, not to mention the fact that their bodies are extraordinarily resilient to gunfire. Once I emptied an entire clip into an enemy soldier and it still kept going. The same soldier fired 2 rounds straight at me and I was dead in a matter of seconds. While this puts emphasis on the stealthy aspect of gameplay, it greatly diminishes the game's shooter elements. Dark Athena has a strong accent on shooting and given the aforementioned downsides, you won't be too keen on getting into action this time around; at least not if you're used to today's standards. Since we're on the subject of bad AI, I have to note that it really exhibited some weird actions, especially during the Aguerra mission. One time I fired a few shots at one of the drones. It immediately turned and started running towards me. Instead of avoiding a huge gap right next to the road, the drone dimwittedly fell deep into the chasm instead of heading in my direction.
Despite its flaws, most of which can be extremely irritating, Dark Athena is still entertaining, thanks to its excellent, immersive ambiance, superb soundtrack, great voiceovers (compliments of Vin Diesel, of course), as well as the choice of long-ranged and melee weapons. The hand-to-hand combat brought some truly great moments and it felt as fun as in the original. Boss fights range from challenging to quite difficult, so don't expect to dash through the main campaign in a jiffy. Mark my words; you'll die in this game very often. At first I found the entire experience annoying, but after a while I started to understand how it all works. In addition, I really enjoyed controlling some of the huge drones, huge robotic monsters and mechs.
Completing the single-player campaign (which thankfully is longer than I anticipated - around 8 hours max.) leaves gamers with a more or less standard multiplayer component. Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch and CTF modes are on offer, along with modes like Pitch Black. There's also Butcher Bay Riot - a sort of Counter-Strike style shootout. The greatest problem with the multiplayer in general is that not a lot of gamers are currently interested in playing, particularly on the PC (and I hear the PS3 suffers the same symptoms).
The truth is that I enjoy a decent challenge, being a veteran gamer and all. Most titles nowadays do not deliver on that particular front. That doesn't seem to be the case with this game. Regardless of its AI drawbacks and certain technical glitches, both Butcher Bay and Dark Athena seem to put a rather challenging experience before players. This is one of the reasons why I decided to give this product a slightly higher score.
Ultimately though, I'm afraid many people will just feel dissatisfied with the game.
The Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena doesn't know what it's supposed to be. It shifts from being an intense, yet frustrating shooter, to a buggish sneaker. Starbreeze didn't make the most out of this recipe. There's so much wasted potential.
Immersive ambience, voiceovers, cool boss fights, altogether challenging, combat can still be fun;
Crammed with annoying technical glitches and unbalanced AI, mundane multiplayer, visuals too retro.
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