Dark Athena is a worthwhile adventure but adding Butcher Bay makes this a great purchase for action fans.

User Rating: 8.5 | The Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena X360
Back in the last gen days I never owned an Xbox, and my PC probably couldn't have handled Butcher Bay very well so along with the game not being backward compatible I never had the opportunity to play that game which received many great reviews. When I first heard about Dark Athena my interest was perked but when I found out that it would also include the original Escape from Butcher Bay upgraded for the 360 this became a must-buy for me. This review is a bit different as I'm going to attempt to write about it from my experiences from both games.

GAMEPLAY (8.5) - The actual gameplay stays pretty much the same for both games as it plays out as a FPS that encourages stealth when possible. If any of you are familiar with Riddick then you know he has the advantage of being able to see in the dark, and there will be many opportunities to use this enemies stumbling their way forward with a flashlight. Of course this isn't to say that Riddick can't handle a fight, as he is quite proficient in not only ranged weapons (shotgun, assault rifle, machinegun) but in melee combat as well. One of the most satisfying parts of the gameplay is sneaking up on guards and silently taking them out with a blade. One thing I have to mention is that Athena involves a lot more full-on shooting then Butcher Bay. Many times I found it to be almost impossible to sneak through an area, even though it seemed I was safely in the shadows. Still, staying in the dark corners will be necessary in order to take out the large groups of enemies that you will encounter. Both games start you out without being able to use ranged weapons due to DNA encoding but Athena does let you get your hands on guns earlier by allowing you to pick up and use guns attached to drones while you use them as a shield, though you can only move backwards while doing this. Another difference is that the amount of sidemissions and interactions with NPCs seemed to be quite a bit less in Athena, though what there was were interesting and made sense as far as either progressing the story or in acquiring bonus items. There really isn't any problems as far as puzzles or platforming. If Riddick needs to climb an area or make a jump most of the time a simple button press will make him automatically pull off the stunt.

GRAPHICS (8.0) - As I mentioned Butcher Bay was upgraded for the 360, and while it certainly looks better than a basic Xbox game it now comes across as more of an early 360 game. There isn't as much detail in the people and environments as you would typically see in today's games, or in as much as you will see in Dark Athena for that matter. The environments in both games tend to be on the dull side, though this makes perfect sense in that Butcher Bay is a prison and the Dark Athena is a dark and dreary spaceship. Dark Athena does have some levels where you are in a small village on a planet which gives a welcome change to the scenery. Both games also had a fair amount of graphical glitches and it became quite common to see the weapons and items from enemies floating in the air after the previous owner had been brought down. On the plus side the rendering of major characters, and especially of Riddick himself, is done quite well.

AUDIO (9.0) - One quality element of Butcher Bay that definitely stands the test of time is the voice work. Both games feature great voice acting, which is more noticeable in Butcher Bay as it has more opportunities for conversations. Ron Perlman and Cole Hauser still sound great from Butcher Bay while Lance Henriksen and Michelle Forbes do an excellent job with their parts in Dark Athena. Even the minor characters sound believable and naturally Vin Diesel talks in the way that only Riddick can, though admittedly the almost constant one-liners can get to be a bit unintentionally humorous after awhile. The soundtrack is superb, and is of action-movie quality. In addition all sound effects, whether it is from weapons or just the background noises coming from a prison or spaceship are done very well. One thing I feel I should mention is that these games, and in particular Dark Athena feature an excessive amount of profanity, which is realistic for a prison or a ship full of evil mercenaries but it could be quite offensive for some players and I would definitely say this shouldn't be played if young children are within earshot.

VALUE (9.0) - Having both Butcher Bay and Dark Athena makes this game a great value for anyone that never played the original Butcher Bay. Combined they provided well over twenty hours of gameplay. Both games have collectible items to keep an eye out for, and each one that is collected will unlock either concept art or pictures from the Chronicles of Riddick movie, which understandably would have been quite a fun bonus from several years ago before the movie was released. There are several different multiplayer modes available. In addition to the standard deathmatch, team deathmatch, and capture the flag there are some modes that involve players getting to play as Riddick with his ability to see in the dark going against others that will play as basic guards trying to see with flashlights, and whoever is able to kill Riddick can then begin the next round as Riddick.

SUMMARY/STORY - Both stories take place before the movie Pitch Black, with Dark Athena pretty much directly following the events from Butcher Bay. Actually both stories are pretty similar as they each involve Riddick trying to escape from horrible places run by sadistic rulers while running into people that can offer their help in exchange for Riddick taking them along with him. Admittedly the story isn't anything you haven't seen before but what helps these games rise above others are the interesting people you meet and your interactions with them. Of course in the end it's about how much fun you'll have playing these games and while I wouldn't say this is game of the year material I did have a good time with both of these games, and would recommend this deal to FPS or action fans.
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