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The Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena

version: pal (it) - year: 2009 - developer: starbreeze studios, tigon studios - publisher: atari - format: ps3, blu-ray - condition: near mint- rarity: common

Includes two games: Escape from Butcher Bay (EFBB) and Assault on Dark Athena(AODA) picked up and published by Atari after Activision Blizzard dropped them. The games were also published on the PC platform but Atari infuriated fans because of its obtuse DRM copy-protection system which only let you install the games 3 times.

 

AODA - A nice sequel of the original 2004 Xbox and PC game.

 

AODA - Enemy weapons are DNA-encoded, so no chance to grab them unless... you use gunned down enemy weapons, they are powerful but have a nasty tendency of overheating.

 

AODA - Enemy A.I. is unfortunately a bit lacking.

 

AODA - At heart, these games are stealth based FPSs although firefight and melee brawls play their part.

 

AODA - Vin Diesel might not be a great actor but he is the perfect match for Riddick because...he simply is Riddick, and doesn't need to act ;)

 

EFBB - Even if graphically overhauled for the PS3, Xbox 360 and the new pc gen, EFBB doesn't look as good as AODA.

 

"Pretty face" over here Jaylor must be the ruddest character in videogames history and he is also quiet a pervert. His acting is awesome though!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Review - Back in 2000, an underground low budget horror sci-fi movie called Pitch Black was released without much advertisement.

The film made extensive use of filters to represent the harsh surfaces of planet Hades, a planet with three suns which apparently would never see the dark. Or so we were made to believe...

Escape from Butcher Bay is a prequel to Pitch Black and it cleverly ties into the background story of Riddick himself, telling the story of how he managed to escape from a prison-planet while getting in the process his night vision ability directly implanted into his iris (the “eyeshine”).

Being a fan of the movies Pitch Black, and its sequel The Chronicles of Riddick, I immensely enjoyed Escape from Butcher Bay and the sequel Assault on Dark Athena because these games really fill some of the story gaps in the movies. Also, the direct involvement of Vin Diesel into these games provided (believe it or not) some extra flavor to the adventures, in terms of voice-acting, and character depth.

Vin Diesel is not the best actor out there of course, but there is no denial he can play the character of Riddick flawlessly. A brute animal with a soul, occasionally ironic, with mysterious origins and an unthinkable future...

Interestingly, the games were developed by Swedish software house Starbreeze Studios, which is not a huge company, but it made a few decent games like Enclave, Knight of the Temple and more recently The Darkness, adapted from the comic book series of the same name.

According to various web sources, what started like a project intended to give a facelift to the original 2004 Xbox game Escape from Butcher Bay (which was not backward compatible with the 360) evolved into something much bigger, specifically an entirely new, full fledged sequel called Assault on Dark Athena. So on this disc, you’ll have two full games, about 10 hrs each, and this is certainly awesome value for money!

About Escape from Butcher Bay: the enhanced graphics use an overhauled version of Starbreeze proprietary 3D engine previously used in The Darkness. Although good, the visuals don’t quiet feel so new , especially because textures sometimes pixellate and bend when up close.

Starbreeze approach on the FPS genre has always been a bit different: sidequests, branching paths and the illusion of freedom. Here, the gameplay further differentiates itself from other FPSs because of the heavy emphasis on close-quarter combat and stealth action.

Just don’t expect to often carry big guns to waste endless enemy waves. Here, you’ll often fight with a screwdriver as a weapon, and you’ll be using darkness as your ally. You’ll have to earn the right to actually jump into mech-suits and rain the apocalypse onto enemy forces!

Not everything is gold though because the game structure aged a bit, and enemy A.I. is especially lacking, as in most other Starbreeze games. Sometimes, you’ll be literally running over guards and they won’t even see you!

But overall, I would say the game brilliantly stood up the test of time because it makes the best out of its Hollywood roots and has an interesting storyline.

About the sequel Assault on Dark Athena, I would say it looks graphically more accomplished and diverse than Escape from Butcher Bay, although the backbone of the game is really about the same.

Some glitches left me a bit puzzled though, like right at the beginning when you wake up on the beach: walk on the dock there and you’ll have a magnificent view of the ocean with rough waves clashing onto the coastline, but try walking around and you won’t be able to because the game thinks you’re trying to walk onto the waves, and not on the dock. Glitches like this one right at the beginning of the game are a bit of a letdown and make you wonder how many people actually tested the game.

Some other times, if you do some actions not in the predefined order, the game might suddenly freeze, or save your game overwriting your last checkpoint, leaving you will little or almost no health! Not a clever design in this time and age. Also, I should add that loading time is a bit annoying, especially in the sections in which you get obliterated often...

Despite these programming flaws, Assault on Dark Athena is a really good FPS, which mix and matches stealth action and pure shooting hell. There are many nice touches, for instance you can use drone weapons once you gun them down. Drones are walking human corpses fused with machines, and controlled remotely by real humans. Kill a drone and you can temporarily use his gun by literally grabbing his whole body from the floor. And that’s even before you actually get into one of the drones control room and start controlling the drones themselves! Empowering!!

The mech sections are even better than in Escape from Butcher Bay, while you’ll also have a chance to walk outside the Athena spaceship for a truly memorable space walk, Dead Space-style!

The new enemies found in Assault of Dark Athena are certainly worth seeing, especially the Alpha Drones which require a specific tactic to be killed.

To conclude, I would say that Escape from Butcher Bay and Assault on Dark Athena play in a very similar way, but the first has a better story while the second looks technically much better. It is really an amazing package, which I fully recommend if you enjoyed the movies. Vin Diesel may be a bit of a poser, but he gives to both games some decent acting.

Bottom line: In the end, both these games shine bright among the murky sea of generic sci-fi FPSs out there, and they do complement the movies in more than a way. 8/10

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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