The Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena
Games based on movies are bad… with that in mind, Fragland editor b|0-0|n started his review of The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay. The game however, proved the opposite and swiftly became a top title for the Xbox console. A successor was obvious to come and five years after the first time, Richard B. Riddick gets the chance to once again fight himself a way through mercenaries in Assault on Dark Athena.
A quick explanation for those that don’t know the Chronicles of Riddick. It all started with Pitch Black and The Chronicles of Riddick, the movies followed the life of fugitive criminal Richard B Riddick, a Furyan who after a rebellion against the army unjustly went to jail and since then was known as the most dangerous criminal in the entire universe. The first game (Escape from Butcher Bay) was a prologue to the movie and went a little deeper into the character of Riddick and his eyeshine possibility. Dark Athena is a direct successor to Butcher Bay and continues where that story ended. On both stories we won’t say much as those that buy Dark Athena get the HD upgrade of Escape from Butchet Bay for free as a side dish. A nice present for those that have never played the first game.
The Chronicles of Riddick can best be compared with Thief, the shadow is your best friend and thank to the eyeshine ability you’ve got near-perfect vision in the dark. Sneaking past enemies to afterwards gruesomely taking their lives with your ulaks (two sharp bent knives) immediately puts a smile on your face. As you progress it all becomes a bit more difficult as the guards more and more start using their flashlights and hear the sounds you make.
The stealth gameplay in Assault on Dark Athena is again solid but still Starbreeze chose to add more shoot-outs. Unfortunately you cannot escape using fire arms as when opening certain doors you’ll suddenly see guards standing in front of your nose or have to go through hallways that are so narrow that sneaking past them is simply impossible. The necessary F-words will flow out of your mouth but also other characters in the game have a complete dictionary of swear words. Rarely have I heard so many different names for genitals thrown at me. This certainly explains the +16 rating on the packaging.
Graphically Butcher Bay managed to do really well in 2004 and now the remake seems to do beautifully as well. Only too bad that the typical fish-eye effect from the old FPS isn’t gone. Assault on Dark Athena is graphically equal but for this day and age things could have been better. We saw clipping errors just a bit too often and spastic hostiles tend to have a problem with the La Tourette syndrome. Some unclariry in level design also makes for some running back and forth. A typical problem with Starbreeze it seems as also their other game, The Darkness, suffered from this. Graphicaly the consoles versions are almost equal but a trained eye does spot some differences in the less extensive color palette, not so great shadow effects and an overall less fluid view, but in the end these elements don’t disturb the gameplay.
The game controls seem perfectly balanced, only the weapons choice is a bit slow, something that luckily was solved with two shortcuts. Aiming is very secure eventhough a somewhat bigger aiming point wouldn’t have hurt as shooting lights far away is a bit more difficult than it should have to be.
Another small point of frustration is that only TL lights without protection can be destroyed but probably the developers wanted to keep a bit more control over what is and isn’t possible to encourage you to a certain playing style. A bit more interactive environment, however, would have added another layer of fun. I only discovered one example of such possibilities and that an air lock that opens up and sucks enemies in as you shoot htem. Too bad we don’t get to see more of such events.
The biggest shortcoming of Butcher Bay was the absense of multiplayer but Starbreeze this time has added it. We mostly get the classic modes like Deathmatch and Capture the Flag but two unique ones have been added including Butcher Bay Riot and Pitch Black. The first addition has you playing in three teams of four players who take on each other to activate a power cell, but the most fun is Pitch Black. Here the environment is completely dark and one player is Riddick while the other hunters are equipped with a weapon and flash light. The rule for the hunters is: the stronger the weapon, the weaker the flash light. The one who kills Riddick first plays as hero of the game in the next round.
Thanks to the addition of Achievements and Trophies where you need to get 1000 wins (yes, you read that correctly!) Starbreeze hopes for a long lifetime for the multiplayer, but the game does have the same problem as their previous shooter, The Darkness. There are no, or very few, players online due to the very high level of lag that results in a less good playability.
Assault on Dark Athena is certainly a strong game but the big surprise we got from its predecessor is absent here. Still we get variation in gameplay and good action which bring an urge to keep playing. The voice-acting remains of equally high level and Vin Diesel puts down a strong performance as Riddick. The game has some downpoints but these never take the upper hand. Definitely one to check out thanks to getting both games for the price of one and for the Playstation fans it’s finally their chance to meet Richard B. Riddick!