Action video game by Ubi Soft Entertainment for the Xbox
A game prequel to the film series featuring the sinister ex-criminal from the films Pitch Black and Chronicles of Riddick. The game features an advanced graphics engine which makes extensive use of normal mapping and other advanced texturing techniques … see full wiki
When a major franchise movie comes out, there is usually the obligatory video game tie-in. And usually that video game tie-in is ignored since most of them are pretty bad. Look at Catwoman: A game that was actually worse than the movie. Van Helsing is another example of the same. A few times it is done well such as Republic Commando which captures the look and feel of the Star Wars universe. And there are even rare cases where the game is better than the movie. Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay is such a game.
Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay was developed by Tigon Studio which is owned/founded by Vin Diesel. Mr. Diesel was obviously not interested in doing a mere port to as many consoles as possible to maximize sales. Instead, he chose to use the best hardware available, the Xbox. And this attention to the extra oomph of the Xbox is evident across the board.
The story of Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay is good, albeit not Pulitzer Prize winning. One of the strengths is that the movie does not simply repeat the storyline of the movie. It has a new and different story, supposedly one that occurs before the events of the film. The story starts off with a captured Riddick in the possession of a bounty hunter. He is delivered to Butcher Bay, an inescapable prison that naturally, he must escape from. Through the course of the story, the player as Riddick goes through mines, meets unsavory characters, and does bad things to the inevitable conclusion. Again, not deep, but entertaining enough to keep me playing.
Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bayis a First Person Shooter with the player as Riddick and it does this admirably well, but doesn't break much new ground. There is no dual wielding of weapons and the basic FPS functions apply here: Pull the trigger to shoot, A to jump, Click the thumbstick to crouch, etc. In addition, you can click the other thumbstick to turn on Eye Shine. The Y button lets you cycle through weapons in your inventory.
In addition, you have the X button which does context sensitive actions such as climbing or healing at a med station.
At heart, Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay is a FPS, but it has other elements as well which give it depth, but again, don't take it very far into new territory. A la GTA or any other RPG, the player can go to various people, talk to them, get information, buy things, or complete missions for them. A context sensitive menu appears during dialogue and gives the player a choice of 2 or 3 things. This is an interesting feature to have in a FPS, but it doesn't nearly achieve the level of depth of even the most basic RPG. The choices you make are not far-reaching and often the choices really aren't choices - Sometimes you have to choose the right things in order to progress. Regardless, the missions are varied, although usually revolve around killing/maiming/torturing someone for information/revenge/shivs/money. Speaking of money, Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay, has a basic money system that lets you buy things when someone is selling. Sometimes you can buy weapons, other times you can bribe the guards for things.
The level design is quite good, although the game is claustrophobic by design. It's a prison after all. There isn't a tremendous amount of open space, though there are a few large courtrooms with people milling about waiting to give you missions. When the game is in true FPS mode, the design is linear, which I prefer for FPS games. If I wanted to explore and find my way around, I wouldn't play a FPS. That's just my opinion, though. I did find myself in a maddening circular loop half way through the game. I kept coming back to the same place over and over. And when I would die, it would not put me back in the correct checkpoint. I think I did the mission backwards and confused the checkpoint engine. Regardless, the game is pretty clear about where to go.
Not only is Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay a First Person shooter and an RPG, it is also a stealth game, borrowing some elements from Splinter Cell. While crouched, Riddick is in stealth mode, which only works when he is in shadows. You can tell if you're safe from detection if your view takes on a blue cast. Of course, firing from your stealth position gives you away as does standing up. Being stealthed is great fun as enemies can't see you (unless they have a flashlight) and you can sneak up on them for a shiv in the back or a quick neck snap. No, this is not a game for the kids.
The AI is a mixed bag. I saw a few pathing problems especially with the larger riot control bots. They had a hard time navigating smaller places and would sometimes walk in place for a while until they found their path. In addition, the pathing back and forth got very repetetive. Otherwise, the AI was pretty good, particularly in combat mode. They often knew when my laser sight was on them and would roll out of the way. Their flashlights often found me crouched in the dark and they knew how to effectively block my melee attacks when up close. The AI wasn't particularly difficult, but it was effective enough to be fun.
Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay sports some interesting ragdoll physics which lended itself to gruesome fun. When you kill an enemy, you can crouch and drag the body around with the intent of hiding the body in shadows. I often found myself dragging the body to an open hole with a large fan or rock crusher waiting. This of course resulted in lots of blood spraying. My wife didn't find it nearly as funny as I did.
The graphics of Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay is what makes the title shine. An Xbox exclusive, it took the hardware to the limits. Bump-mapping abounds creating a hugely detailed environment. For the layperson, a console has a finite memory space which limits the amount of stuff the artists can cram in. By creating special textures which give the appearance of real texture, the artists can create very simple geometeric shapes which give the look of highly detailed objects but take up less space in memory. This savings can then be used elsewhere to further create a richer, more dynamic environment. And it seems that Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay uses bump-mapping on every single surface including the menus! The environments are large and detailed. I expected to find the same repeating textures over and over since the setting was a prison. I was happy to find a wide variety of textures and objects throughout the game. Minor details such as graffiti and bloods stains added a touch of character and creepiness to the game. Fantastic stuff.
The character models are very well done and detailed. The animations are fluid and plentiful. Being the creator of the develoment studio, Vin Diesel gave his likeness to all the Riddick animations. While there aren't a ton of them, the are very fluid and realistic. Riddick actually looks like Vin Diesel and that's a rarity. The other characters are on par with the main one, good animations, great colors, and fine detail. Kudos all around to the art team. This is one beautiful game.
The music of Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay is taken from the movie and fits in perfectly. It is subtle and at the same time dynamic. The music kicks up a notch when the game goes into combat mode and settles back to it's normal state when not fighting. The music is only obvious to those listening for it. Otherwise it sets the mood and adds to the overall creepy, claustrophobic feel of the game.
The Voice work is top-notch, again using the talents of Vin Diesel as Riddick and a few other name actors. There is a lot of dialogue in the game, most of it incidental. But they didn't slack off even when it came to the lesser characters. None of the voice-work stands out as bad or even mediocre. It is all good which is surprising given how much voice work tends to be an after-thought to most game developers. The dialogue is varied and offensive, containing much adult language. But it is precisely what I would expect from a prison game. Of note, prepare yourself for some cheesy one-liners from Vin, particularly after he kills someone.
The effects and ambient sounds are also well-done contributing to the overall creepy feeling of the game. Listen closely and you can hear the rumble of machinery, the chit-chat banter of guards or the torturing of prisoners.
Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay has no multiplayer, though it is Xbox Live aware, which means your friends can see what game you're playing when they are online.
Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay is rated M for Mature and is rightly deserved, There is much blood, scenes of torture, very strong language, and Vin Diesel acting. Keep it away from the kiddies.
I applaud Mr. Diesel and his company for not catering to the lowest common denominator by making a rudimentary tie-in game porting to all consoles. Obviously, they wanted their game to look their best even if it meant sacrificing the extra units they would have sold. An all-around solid title.
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