The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay

Dom Robinson reviews

The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bayfor Microsoft Xbox
Distributed by
Vivendi Universal Games

  • Price: £39.99
  • Players: 1
  • Widescreen: Yes
  • Dolby Digital 5.1: Yes
  • Xbox Live content: No
  • 60 Hz: No

It’s quite incrediblethat it’s been five years since Pitch Blackwas released, and now this year we’ve got a sequel, an animated inbetweener inDark Furyand also this game, set before the original movie and one that tells of his background and how Riddickgot his unique type of eyesight which allows him to see in the dark (without eating carrots). Moviewriter/director David Twohy must be clicking his heels!

The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay has a very simple premise andone that’s been done to death in games over the last ten years, but manages to distance itselffrom most of the fluff because of the world into which it takes us.

Riddick has been captured by Johns and dumped in what feels like the prison at the end of theworld – Butcher Bay. As the title implies, you have to escape.

Getting the ‘stuff that’s been done before’ out of the way, the gameplay is very linear, i.e.person A tells you to talk to person B, who tells you to ice person C, or just talk to them andend up getting set-up so you’re attacked by D and E, etc., or do errands for people like Pope Joeand get attacked by baddies along the way, but that doesn’t feel like it matters because thewell-portrayed violence is short and sweet as you dish it out and receive it back, and, althoughI haven’t played through it all yet, ..Riddick is one that has a reasonably brief life-span.

There’s plenty of med stations at which to top up your energy, you’ll need to collect access cardsto move on to different areas, as well as packs of smokes, which dole out additional stuff likeconcept art in the ‘Collects’ menu.

Before delving in, check out the tutorial video. It’s well worth a look because it tells you howto play the game, giving examples of what actions cause what reactions, so you can deftly pull theleft-trigger while crouching behind someone and then a giving them a kicking, to break their neck,or as Riddick says – to skip the foreplay – just use the right-trigger for a quicker result.Pressing the right-thumbstick toggles the ability to see in the dark, and you can punch by movingyour thumbstick around to perform difference attacks, also scoring some brownie points for funby punching with the right trigger while blocking with the left. This works best when up againsta gun-carrying guard who goes after you, because in the ensuing tangle you’ll grab hold of thegun and blast his head off!

During such perfectly violent moments, you’ll also feel the vibrations on your game-pad while thumpingtheir lights out with a shiv (knife) or knuckleduster. Don’t try picking their guns up until you’vehad a trip to the DNA databank though. Many guns are DNA-encoded so you can’t pick them up withoutgetting electrocuted in trying.

Escape from Butcher Bay is proof that a game can look and sound fantastic and not get boggeddown in the ridiculous graphics engine that wasDoom 3.You see, iD? You didn’t need to waste time designing stupid OTT baddies that slow your PC down andcan’t even be seen because you have to put away your flashlight to shoot them (something remediedhere), just give gamers something they can see, a fast-flowing framerate for all, and an instillingof fear into the bloodstream! On a similar note, the look of the prison is reminiscent ofQuake II, before iD went the multiplayerroute with the franchise and threw it all down the toilet.

About the baddies, though, there is one type, the Dwellers, which look alarmingly like Ethopians from aBlue Peter 1980s Appeal!

Even the opening ‘name profile’ section and the rest of the main menu is so cool! As is theshattering of glass when shot at, the ragdoll physics of dragging dead bodies about orshooting people, collapsing metal floors as the baddies chase after you, shooting upwardsto dislodge them.

There’s no need for CGI cut-scenes here – all well-planned dialogue exchanges, occasionally selectablein terms of their outcome, use the same graphics as the game so fit into the environment perfectly,such as seeing that the med station behind me only has left the units of energy I didn’t require whenI just used it.

This game features excellent chase music, hotting up when the going gets tough, and Vin Diesel‘ssly and sarcastic comments make for an engaging movie-style romp. In fact, as well as Cole Hauser(Johns) from the original movie, there are several high-profile actors doing voice work in thisgame, such as The A-Team‘s Dwight Schultz, Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer‘sMichael Rooker, prolific ugly man Ron Perlman and Joaquim de Almeida, mostrecently seen in TV’s 24 as Ramon Salazar.

Even the background din that carries on throughout the menu screens is superb. I once had a soothingnight’s sleep “in” the bowels of a ship inThief II: The Metal Ageas the engine hummed away in a relentless, but patterned, way, which was actually rather calming. Thesame kind of atmosphere is continued here as I was able to drift away quite happily.

There are some slight jaggies on the graphics, but nothing major to worry about, and you can get ina bit of a tangle while changing weapons. You can’t save your position either, relying on checkpointsto go back to if you get killed, which isn’t a major hassle as there’s a fair number of them, butcan also be a chore if you get capped just before one.

That said, if Doom 3 failed to float your boat and you’re still in need of mindless violencethat’s actually fun, this is a must-buy.


Review copyright © Dominic Robinson, 2004.

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