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The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay Review
publisher: Vivendi Games
PIV 1800, 256MB RAM, 3.7GB, 64MB video card
|ESRB rating: M
release date: Dec 08, 04 (released)
|» All About The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay on ActionTrip|
I love surprises. No, wait, let me rephrase that, I like *good* surprises. A bad surprise would be to have Michael Jackson entertain kids at your child's birthday party, or to wake up next to Elton John after a wild night of drinking. A good surprise on the other hand, is when you get a nice Belgian chocolate or when you realize that your lover enjoys giving oral sex (How long have you and Elton John been dating, anyway? -Ed). Those are good surprises. Of course, when you're a hardcore gamer there are other good surprises too... like a chick being really turned on by how well you play FPS games. OK, wait, let's stay in the realm of probable... or possible even; a good surprise for a shooter fan is when he gets to play two excellent shooters in one year in addition to playing the much ballyhooed blockbusters. The two shooters I'm talking about are Far Cry and The Chronicles of Riddick. Both titles were designed by relative newcomers to the industry (CryTek and Starbreeze Studios respectively), but they both show a level of maturity that can easily pit them against any other shooter on the market today, including the big boys. That in my book is a really nice surprise.
DO NOT go up against this guy. Just run.
The first thing that The Chronicles of Riddick does right is break one old and very unpleasant tradition: That tradition is that video games based on Hollywood movies suck worse than a drunken college girl at a frat party. (I know, sounds pretty unbelievable, doesn't it?) 'Riddick' came out for the Xbox a while back and it took both fans and critics by storm. It garnered all kinds of accolades and praise from the Xbox press, and rightfully so if I may add.
The player is cast in the role of Riddick. Set before the events of Pitch Black and its sequel The Chronicles of Riddick, both starring the Vin Diesel, 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 known universe.
One of the great things about the game is that VU Games had access to all the star talent they needed to make The Chronicles of Riddick a success. Obviously, Starbreeze did one helluva job, but it should also be said that Vin has one of the coolest game character voices I've heard and the famous rapper, Xzibit, is good in the role of the bad-ass crooked prison guard Abbott. The game does a great job of translating the feel of the Riddick universe, along with adding the most crucial ingredient for a successful shooter game: making a very compelling and immersive game world for the player to dwell in. Each of the characters you meet in Butcher Bay have their unique looks and personality and are voiced by a different person, adding a lot of depth and authenticity to the game world. In addition, the campaign is paced in such a way that it will seem like you're truly starring in an action movie, with intense action sequences followed by slower-paced ones that rely on well-written narration to tie the plot together.
To cut a long story short, The Chronicles of Riddick plays very well; it offers a refreshing mix of RPG elements, stealth-based combat and your run-of-the-mill shooter gunfights to keep any player glued to their monitor screen until Riddick escapes. The weapons feel great (especially when you get the mini-gun), but they're not the focal point of the gameplay. Unbelievably, even with Vin being as buffed as he is, Riddick still prefers stealth and exploration to brute force - there will often be multiple ways to solving a particular problem. That's one of the greatest things about this game: along with being highly cinematic, it also offers great-flowing and varied gameplay with great mechanics and a robust technology behind it - the best possible mix for a single-player shooter.
For example, the prison guards will run for cover and navigate around their environment quite skillfully. Occasionally, they'll run headlong into trouble, but overall I'd say that the AI is maybe a smidgeon better than in Half-Life 2. Most of the events in Riddick are scripted to a degree, but the AI is known to break this mold a bit by running after you even when you thought you ditched them. As I said, they exhibit good path finding so you'll often be pleasantly surprised.
Now, seeing how I'm reviewing the PC port, there are a few crucial things you need to know in regards to this before you go out to the store. Let's discuss the graphics first. The game looked good on the Xbox and looks even better on the PC.
Welcome, stay a while.
Those were some bad Burritos, man.
The textures are sharp and almost photorealistic and the characters look detailed thanks to the heavy use of normal mapping and other such pixel shader tricks. I think I'm not exaggerating when I say that in many ways, the indoor levels in Riddick look just as good as in Far Cry. However, the great visuals come at a price, as you'll need to have a very powerful rig to run this game with all the details maxed out. Performance-wise, The Chronicles of Riddick is a major hardware hog. Another thing is that, although the environments look crisp and are brimming with detail, there are a number of clipping issues with the shadows that lessen the overall visual quality of the scenes. Along with the graphics glitches, I also experienced a few broken cut-scenes, but as far as the bugs are concerned, that's pretty-much all you'll need to concern yourself with.
In all, Starbreeze did a very good job of porting this game to the PC. If we look past the minor bugs, the combat feels intense and the controls feel perfectly natural. The Chronicles of Riddick just feels right on the PC and it's as if this was a PC game from the get-go. Bottom line is any self-respecting PC shooter fan should play Escape from Butcher Bay: I've enjoyed every minute of the original, just as I'm enjoying the PC iteration. The only downside to it--and this is really something that bugged it and me about the Xbox game as well--is that it offers very little long-term replay value, and leaves things wide open for a sequel, as well as not being very long. But even so, it's still a shooter experience you won't want to miss, trust me.
Excellent shooter game with varied gameplay, Vin Diesel's voice, intense and great looking;
Not very long and offers very little long-term replay value, graphical and other minor glitches, hardware hog.
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