The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay was one of the best titles on the Xbox. Now after fives years we have the follow up, The Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena. Fresh out of prison, our titular hero finds himself on a Mercenary ship. His next course of action? Kill them and steal their ride, which is easier said than done - but then again, this is Riddick.
This title mixes the gameplay up a lot more than Butcher Bay: in Assault on Dark Athena, Riddick goes from stealth, to fire fights, to mech combat effortlessly. The moment you start getting tired of sneaking around in the darkness, you’ll find a gun to start shooting with or a drone control panel to take a joyride through the ship blasting everyone in sight.
The levels are straight forward: NPCs will direct you to your next destination, tell you how to unlock doors or where to get a new weapon. They are essentially linear, keeping the gameplay flowing smoothly, the action consistent, and most importantly never letting you get lost due to lack of a map while giving the illusion of open-endedness.
One half of Riddick’s arsenal emphasizes the use of stealth, while the other features a selection of guns for those intense fire fights. He has about five different melee weapons including his Ulaks and hairpin, and if you slash at a wall, any scratches made on walls stay there for a long time – the strange thing is, doors don’t scratch. On the ranged weapon front, he has the usual FPS assortment of automatics, shotguns, and the Riddick-exclusive SCAR Gun, which fires a small dart you can detonate with the left trigger. The arsenal is very well balanced, allowing you to go all-out when the game calls for it, while having a decent array of melee weapons.
Visually Riddick is mixed bag. On board the Athena you’ll be treated to a largely drab environment with a few colourfully lit terminals. Once off, you’ll see a lot of ‘next gen brown’ visuals in town – even the plants are brown. The high point of the planetary visuals is definitely the ocean and scale of the environment compared to the ship’s small rooms.
This isn’t the longest game ever; it’ll take you a couple of days to beat on easy. However, the length works to Assault on Dark Athena’s advantage, as there aren’t any filler levels to drag the experience down. On top of that they have included the Xbox classic Escape from Butcher Bay, refurbished for the PS3/Xbox 360 in high definition - and it looks better than ever. Not only has it aged well but it adds a lot of value to the otherwise short sequel.
Once you beat the two single player titles, you can take the action to Xbox Live or PlayStation Network. Multiplayer modes on offer include the usual deathmatch, team deathmatch, and capture the flag modes, on top of Riddick’s most original mode, Pitch Black, in which players are thrown into a pitch black arena, where one player is Riddick and the rest are forced to hunt him in the dark.
As much as I’ve gushed over how the great this title is, there are some notable bugs, including a fight in Village Square where you meet the first alpha drone: it can fire grenades and its machine gun through a solid wall – it would be a huge problem if they weren’t so easy to kill.
Players looking for a pure stealth game will be disappointed, but everyone else will find in Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena a healthy mix of action, stealth and heavy weapon gameplay.