The Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena Hands-On

A new chapter in the Riddick chronicles opens in March, and we had a hands-on with the first three hours of the new story.

Earlier this week, we braved the cold London weather to visit Atari's worldwide headquarters to play the first three hours of The Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena. On arrival, we'd not even removed our jacket, gloves, or scarf before our representative was attempting to set the record straight on what the game actually is. "There's been a lot of confusion surrounding Dark Athena," he said. "I've had people asking if it's a remake of the original, a multiplayer expansion, a new game. In truth, it's all these things." This is most definitely a full game, with a brand-new story and multiplayer mode, as well a remade version of 2004's Escape from Butcher Bay as a bonus. With the record set straight, we were let loose on the story part of the game, playing nonstop for three adrenaline-packed hours.

Atari promises that Dark Athena's story will take about 11 hours, compared to Butcher Bay's nine.

Dark Athena continues the story from Escape from Butcher Bay, with Riddick and the bounty hunter Johns in cryostasis, drifting through space. Their ship is eventually picked up by a pirate vessel--the titular Dark Athena--and though Riddick manages to wake up in time, Johns' pod is infiltrated and he is taken prisoner. Hiding in the shadows, Riddick steals the captain's hairpin and is soon scouting the ship with nothing but the darkness and the hairpin as his weapons. However, before getting into the story, you have to play through a tutorial that is presented as one of Riddick's deep-sleep dreams. The basic movements remain the same as in Riddick's Xbox debut, but he has picked up a couple of new moves during his time in stasis. Many weapons are ID-tagged to their owner, but Riddick can now pick up dead bodies and manipulate them to fire. This is useful in a firefight, but at the start of the game, it's actually more useful for puzzle-solving--dragging a body around to shoot out glass windows, for example. Playing on the Xbox 360, we were also able to use the left bumper to pop our gun around corners, which lets you take cover while still going on the offensive. Atari promises that Dark Athena will be much more focused on gunplay than Butcher Bay was, and it was only a short time before we had regular access to guns. We ended up using the tranquiliser gun most frequently, temporarily stunning opponents before slicing them up in incredibly stylish fashion using the ulak blades. There will even be mechs that you can jump in, although we didn't make it far enough to see them.

It doesn't take a lot of play time to realise that the pirate ship is taking humans and converting them into drones, which are slaves that will automatically patrol a given area, or that can be controlled from afar by another person. Their faceplates change between red and white to indicate their current state, the former meaning that they'll follow set movement patterns, the latter meaning that they're more alert and looking for something specific. The game still favours the stealthy approach, at least during the time we played, and to enhance this you can still enter a crouched mode to hide and activate Riddick's night vision to help you in the shadows. What's most surprising is that the game still uses the NanoMED system to replenish health, so you need to collect med canisters and use them at certain points to regenerate. It feels more retro than the regenerative health system favoured by most shooters these days, and it results in quite a tough game even on the normal difficulty setting.

We managed to meet some of the major characters and get a feel for the overall story. The first person we spoke to was a young girl hiding out in the ventilation system; her mother was taken prisoner, and her father was "turned into a monster." Then there is the captain--played by actress Michelle Forbes--who clearly has a history with Riddick, and you can overhear soldiers talking about wanting to become her sex slave. Indeed, the world of Dark Athena is a very seedy place, from the conversations held by its crew, to the military pornography such as the Warchix magazine, and characters who masturbate as you walk past. The game's story is told completely using the in-game engine, with excellent lighting and character modelling, particularly for Vin Diesel's Riddick. Atari also teased us with news that 80 percent of the game will take place on Dark Athena, but a final act will offer something "completely different."

Dark Athena certainly looks more action-based than its predecessor, with a greater variety of weapons.

Although Dark Athena is often shockingly violent and even depraved, it manages to remain mature thanks to some excellent dialogue and voice acting. About an hour and a half in, we came across prison cells housing about eight different prisoners. Some of them were vital to our progress, whereas others were merely there to fill in the backstory. One female character had clearly been wronged by Riddick and told us that, among a shower of expletives, she was going to kill him. One particularly nasty character called Jaylor explained how he wanted to rape one of the other female inmates, after which he referred to you as a c***. Thankfully, this was offset by more sympathetic characters such as Senate, who had previously captained the ship, and Dacher, whose story about losing his wife was quite touching.

Some of these characters also turned out to be necessary in progressing through the game. Jaylor requested that we kill one of the pirates onboard and return his gold tooth, and in return he gave us the access code for a locker. Silverman was an engineer who made us a tool to enter certain other areas, and she also turned out to be the mother of the girl that we saw in the vents. And Dacher, the widower mentioned before, helped us hack into the ship's communication system and make it down to the drone control area. Our play time drew to a close with two fantastic set pieces. The first was one we'd seen in a previous demo, in which we jumped into one of the remote drone terminals and caused havoc from afar. You have access to only a limited number of drones, but running around and shooting up everything was great fun. The second was at the heart of the ship and its gravity generator, wherein shooting people sent them flying into the huge gravity pillar at the centre.

Before we left Atari, we also managed to take a quick look at the remake of Escape from Butcher Bay. Fans of the original game should remember that it was released in 2004, fairly late in the Xbox life cycle, which means that it was one of the most visually attractive games ever released on the system. The remake improves these visuals even further, with new textures for the environments and characters. The new weapons and moves have also been included from Dark Athena, and consequently you'll be able to pop your gun out from behind objects for the first time in the game.

Our three hours with Dark Athena were incredibly enjoyable, and we really wanted to stay longer and play more. The game offers all of the elements that made the first game so great, and the voice acting, set pieces, and new combat elements added even more to the experience. Atari claims that the game is finished, and that the team is now bug testing and polishing ahead of the March release date. We've also been promised a chance to play the multiplayer game against the developers very shortly, so expect to hear more on this promising package very soon.

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Discussion

100 comments
laqa18
laqa18

Was looking around and just heard this game coming, seems a very nice idea and glad they decided to include the first game, kudos for that to the developers :D

Rhastafurion
Rhastafurion

Never played the original, will probably check this out.

jagus12
jagus12

" Then there is the captain--played by actress Michelle Forbes--who clearly has a history with Riddick, and you can overhear soldiers talking about wanting to become her sex slave. Indeed, the world of Dark Athena is a very seedy place, from the conversations held by its crew, to the military pornography such as the Warchix magazine, and characters who masturbate as you walk past." ... O_O

Derek1177
Derek1177

i just watched teh chronicles of riddick recently. And then to hear there makin a new game about Riddick. This is totally Awsomness!!

Krazy-K
Krazy-K

This game sounds so awesome. I was jealous that the XBOX had a exclusive right to Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay but now that Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena will come out for the PS3 as well, and will have a full verison of Butcher Bay I will finally be able to enjoy an awesome game from 2004 and enjoy a brand-spanking-new kickass game!

jdiego82
jdiego82

"Then there is the captain--played by actress Michelle Forbes--who clearly has a history with Riddick, and you can overhear soldiers talking about wanting to become her sex slave. Indeed, the world of Dark Athena is a very seedy place, from the conversations held by its crew, to the military pornography such as the Warchix magazine, and characters who masturbate as you walk past." I lol'd.

trax0r1990
trax0r1990

Escape from Butcher Bay was an awesome game, completely under-rated. I bought it for a fiver from Play a year after it came out and spent a day playing it... It was awersome :)

machockey
machockey

Great. Escape from BB was amazing... cant wait to replay it and play this new one. with this and fear 2 we should have an entertaining winter :)

FirstDiscovery
FirstDiscovery

Amazing stuff, i would buy it for the third time EVEN if DA was just a small add-on Hopefully this sells well!

Stalker700
Stalker700

I really like the first Riddick. This one looks even better.

zxssded
zxssded

masturbate while you walk past? who the hell does that in public let alone next to you haha

gio88
gio88

I'm waiting for this :)))))))

dvs1270
dvs1270

Agreed Butcher Bay is a classic, you can get it on pc for $10 & it is definitely worth playing. been waiting on this for awhile, thought that it was dropped.

OHSO
OHSO

I haven't yet played the first Riddick game and now that I invested in a 360 Elite I see where some of my rubles will be going this March. Love the FPS genre and when developers include top rate voice acting and a stimulating storyline it truely makes the whole experience worth spending the 70-80 bucks. Decent review guys...thanks for the heads up. Peace.

eyet00th
eyet00th

Butcher Bay is a classic. Hope the emphasis is on stealth and sneaking on the new game too

podliver
podliver

I cannot wait any longer for this game to come out. I played Butcher Bay soooo much.

cbk_stimpie
cbk_stimpie

finaly some news !!! this is the game whe all waiting for more then a year . it must be good otherwise they make fun of there own name. whe give them all the time of the world nobody was complaining abou it that i takes so long !

lathan94
lathan94

Xxgood-timesXx The first game escape from Butcher Bay was 9 hours the new Dark Athena campaign is 11 hours. Read the article before posting an ignorent comment. I think 20 hours is going to keep me occupied for a long time.

mrmoto
mrmoto

a must play game for any fps fan, and a must REplay for me!!!!!!!!

Xxgood-timesXx
Xxgood-timesXx

ewwww, 9 to 11 hours. definantly not worth buyin at all..

hexen22
hexen22

AWSOME Butcher Bay its the best game based on a movie EVER Gameplay looks good, and the history but Its the same Engine of DOOM3?!(it would be good news for my pc but... for the console gamers?)

XanderKage
XanderKage

Sweet. I wanted to replay EFBB recently, and now I don't have to!

Awful_Cleric
Awful_Cleric

This story is already shaping up to be far darker than butcher bay. I loved butcher bay when it was first released and it has always pissed me off to no end that MS never put this on the backwards compatibility list. Thank god we get treated to this release...CANNOT WAIT!!!

swamptick
swamptick

Looks like another good game. Bring it on!

Samfisher_1
Samfisher_1

Nice! Never got to play Escape from Butcher Bay but it looked fantastic

hassy94
hassy94

Codename, thanks for the info, but could someone please still answer my original question, which was: "Can anyone tell me if this is just a hip-fire shooter or a sight aim shooter?" I realise that this is a hybrid game, but for the shooting aspect, which part is it?

RyD3n
RyD3n

"DCtheGAME w8 w8 w8 can some1 answer me if this is a BUTHCERBAY REMAKE?!" It's both a remake and a sequel. The bulk of the release is the sequel, Dark Athena, but there is a remake of Escape From Butcher Bay as a sort of bonus...

mastertony88
mastertony88

Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay was one of the greatest games I've ever played BUT...the most underrated of its time...Gamespot rated it well but didn't make a big deal about it since they were overhyping games such as Halo 2, Half-Life 2, Doom 3, and many others. Now they make a big deal about it...it should have got that respect like 5 years ago. People who haven't played the original...give it a try...you will be surprised by how this game was ahead of its time.

NoseWeed619
NoseWeed619

Lots of cussing. Lots of shooting. Yay.

mastertony88
mastertony88

@Pyredine Mediocre movie...you are probably talking about the second movie (Chronicles of Riddick). It wasn't bad, just not as good as Pitch Black, which in my opinion is the best riddick movie.

Media_Mind
Media_Mind

Looks excellent, I hope they release the game on PS3 on the same day with 360 and PC, and not be forced to wait a week or a month for it, since Microsoft paid major $ to get a early release date like Rock Band 2 and others...

Spartan_418
Spartan_418

this will be 09's Orange Box. awesome.

Semaj62
Semaj62

the original butcher bay game was great I can't wait till this game comes out.

Pyredine
Pyredine

It's not too offen(if ever) that you see a great game based off a mediocre movie and if this one is anything like the first with the added content then this will be one of the best games of the year when it comes out

dmmmmee
dmmmmee

ohh I'm so excited been dying to play this, it'll be bought as soon as it's realeased!!..........graphics look excellent and game play sounds excellent......

thenephariouson
thenephariouson

cant wait for this as i loved the first one. Definately the best movie - game tie in ever made (in my eyes anyway).

funnysplay
funnysplay

Yeah dcthegame a butcherbay remake comes in the package. Also a whole new campaign that comes with it. Did you even read anything on this.

DCtheGAME
DCtheGAME

w8 w8 w8 can some1 answer me if this is a BUTHCERBAY REMAKE?!

LordInvernus
LordInvernus

This game sounds awesome. I am definitely adding it to my list of games for this year.

Trooperdx3117
Trooperdx3117

This game is looking like a must buy for 09 even if it was only Butcher bay on its own there

DaveA6489
DaveA6489

I NEED THIS GAME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

couly
couly

I hope this makes up for Alone in the Dark, Atari.

bodylotion
bodylotion

Escape From Butcher Bay was a great game, despite the fact that it may been a bit easy and finished quite fast. It will take some time for this game to release but i think this might be another hit.