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The Chronicles of Riddick is not only a decent first-person-shooter, but swings the entire genre on its head...
A lot has already been made of The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay, starring Vin Diesel in a prequel game to the cult-hit 2004 movie Pitch Black and the forthcoming sequel The Chronicles of Riddick.
Upon its release in America the videogame went on to garnish more attention and critical acclaim then the movie of the same name, and itâ??s quite easy to see why; Escape from Butcher Bay ushers in the next-generation of first-person-shooters and is quite honestly one of the most impressive titles to be released on the Xbox.
The fact that itâ??s based on a movie license certainly surprises as we all know that movie tie-ins are usually a cause to run, however Starbreeze have created an exceptional title
As fans of the movie will know, Vin Diesel stars as the games enigmatic anti-hero, Richard B. Riddick, who as a hardened criminal grants the main character a level of style and aplomb never usually witnessed in videogames; weâ??re not massive Vin Diesel fans, however what he brings to the main character just cannot be understated, it is quite honestly as revelation in the videogames sector.
Although no previous knowledge is needed to appreciate the game, fans of Pitch Black will appreciate the appearance of key characters and the explanation of such crucial moments as Riddickâ??s EyeShine ability.
The game begins with Riddick being transported to the inescapable, triple-max security slam, Butcher Bay; having been caught by a bounty hunter and Riddickâ??s nemesis Johns. The events of the game depict Riddickâ??s dramatic escape from the clutches of Butcher Bay, setting up events for the Pitch Black movie and subsequent adventures in The Chronicles of Riddick.
You can immediately notice that a lot of thought and effort has gone into the creation of Escape from Butcher Bay, and that there are a number of little features that lift this title above what the best the genre has to offer. Although Butcher Bay is fundamentally a first-person-shooter, the various elements lift it beyond the restraints commonly associated with the genre, creating a title that is refreshingly different and packed with quality.
For instance your first moments within the game will be spent getting accustomed to your new surroundings and taking in the variety of characters that also dwell within the walls of Butcher Bay. Each character within the game has been painstakingly created, each with their own name, voice and appearance; however youâ??re also free to choose your alliances and rivalries, opting to select or decline certain missions and objectives that they wish you to complete. Certainly this level of depth, personality and open-ended design lends the game an overall degree of immersion and style that cannot be touched by other titles in the genre.
Whereas most videogames that feature one or two A-list celebrities fall down in regards to secondary characters, this cannot be levelled at Escape from Butcher Bay; sure Vin Diesel steals the show with his witty lines and gruff style, however virtually every single character in the game features astounding voice-acting and personality.
As we said before, Escape from Butcher Bay transcends beyond traditional first-person-shooters in the fact that itâ??s not all about getting increasingly more powerful weapons to challenge harder and harder opponents. The game mixes up your objectives brilliantly; one moment you could have access to powerful weapons and having to dish out as much carnage as possible, the next you find yourself without any weapons and having to take on a stealth approach to complete the mission. This variety ensures that youâ??ll be playing this through from start-to-finish and hardly taking a break in between, it never grows tedious and it always keeps the player guessing as to whatâ??s going to happen next â?“ quite simply a Grade A in game design.
Certainly a lot of the time youâ??ll find yourself without a weapon and only your fists and cunning wits to protect you. Thankfully Escape from Butcher Bay features the best execution of melee combat that weâ??ve seen in a first-person-shooter to date. Riddick can pull of a huge variety of jabs, uppercuts and combos through the analogue stick and the right trigger button; whilst he can also perform a stealth kill by sneaking up behind an opponent and snapping their necks â?“ perhaps the most impressive move and one youâ??ll want to pull off again and again is when tackling an opponent with a gun, get close enough and marvel as Riddick grabs hold of the gun and forces his opponent to shoot himself in the head! Unlike other first-person-shooters that have attempted to incorporate melee combat, Escape from Butcher Bay feels solid; when you get hit Riddick will stumble back, creating the effect that youâ??re really being hit.
The game continues to impress when you find yourself a weapon that you can use; handheld weapons such as shivâ??s and scalpels are vicious and nasty, whilst ranged weapons such as the shotgun and assault rifle are both enjoyable to use and pack a punch. To begin with itâ??s hard to get your hands on a gun as theyâ??re all DNA encoded and give Riddick a short, sharp shock whenever he tries to pick one up. This sets up a nice mission objective where you have to infiltrate the control room and supply your own handprint to gain access to the weapons; suffice to say when you do actually get your hands on a gun, the ensuing combat is fast, frantic if a little straight-forward.
Away from combat Riddick has access to one or two tricks that are essential to survive. Simply by tapping on the thumbstick Riddick will crouch and enter stealth mode; simple enough however Starbreeze have implemented a novel little feature that applies a blue filter to the screen to depict how well youâ??re hidden. Similarly Riddick is an athletic chap who can lift himself on to ledges and climb across railings; when doing this the game switches the view to a third-person to allow players a better viewpoint of the scene. These two small features add to the game immensely, allowing the game to incorporate features not usually associated with the first-person-shooter genre and avoid many of the misgivings when previous titles have made an attempt to do so.
Later on in the game Riddick gains the ability of â??EyeShineâ? which as the movies tell you, allows Riddick to see unlike no other â?“ essentially itâ??s night vision and boy are you going to need it. Escape from Butcher Bay makes heavy use of the dark to create a foreboding atmosphere, however after gaining the â??EyeShineâ? ability youâ??ll learn to use the darkness to your advantage. Much like Splinter Cell, Escape from Butcher Bay features dynamic lighting throughout, so you can shoot out the lights and create a pitch black environment, ideal for when youâ??ve got a couple of guards chasing after you.
If the lighting within Escape from Butcher Bay is impressive, the overall visual effect is simply unbelievable; quite honestly weâ??ve never seen an Xbox game look so good, and to be entirely truthful it certainly holds its head up high with the likes of Doom3.
Utilising a new rendering technique known as normal mapping, every object within the game feels strong and has a real sense of depth; it all just looks so much more lifelike then anything weâ??ve come to see in the past. As weâ??ve said the characters throughout are stunning with a full range of animations and lip-synching, whilst itâ??s the little details such as red-hot bullet holes gradually cooling off over time and blood splattering realistically across environment objects, that truly creates the effect that youâ??re really there.
Sure there are one or two problems; occasionally youâ??ll notice seems between objects and character models, however this rarely detracts with the sheer amount of effort put into creating one of the most believable game worlds weâ??ve had the pleasure of taking a trip through.
When a game usually has so much going for it, thereâ??s usually some aspect where it falls flat on its face; however we can honestly say that Escape from Butcher Bay pretty much has everything spot on. Even the sound stands out as being particularly noteworthy, as weâ??ve said all characters within the game have been expertly crafted and feature outstanding voice acting and tightly written scripts. The sound effects also help to create the overall atmosphere, with fists striking faces sounding particularly nasty and gun-fights sounding as chaotic as they need to be. Finally the game features a dynamic soundtrack that rises and falls away depending on the onscreen action; again yet another element that adds to the overall creation of a masterpiece.
A lot of effort has gone into making Escape from Butcher Bay far more then what we come to expect from a first-person-shooter and it certainly works. Everything from the open-ended structure to the inclusion of currency and a wide cast of secondary characters creates an experience that truly feels alive, that sucks in the player and refuses to spit them out.
Because of its open-ended structure and the ability to collect various extras throughout the game, Escape from Butcher Bay is likely to be a game you’ll come back to, even when you’re not bringing it out just to impress your mates.
Movie adaptations have long had a history of being, well quite frankly crap; however Escape from Butcher bay changes this, it creates an experience that is not only the best movie tie-in we’ve ever seen but one that actually improves upon the experience you get from watching films.
Cinematic, exciting, detailed and enjoyable… The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher bay is hands down the best movie tie-in ever made…