The Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena Multiplayer Hands-On
As well as two single-player story modes, the latest Chronicles of Riddick will ship with a multiplayer component. We went online and played against the developers.
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When we reviewed The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape From Butcher Bay, we didn't bemoan its lack of multiplayer. In fact, we said that it "only bears mentioning because of the assumption that first-person-perspective games all ought to have both single-player and multiplayer features in them." Despite our satisfaction, developer Starbreeze clearly thinks that now is the time to change that, and with Assault on Dark Athena, the developer will bring 12-player online multiplayer to the Riddick universe. Publisher Atari hooked us up with a preview build of the game and then invited us to play online with Starbreeze all the way over in Sweden.
In terms of gameplay, Dark Athena resembles the fast-paced arena-style combat of the Quake and Unreal Tournament series. The likeness doesn't seem to be accidental, either, as there's an overexcited announcer on hand to shout out phrases like "murder spree" in the same ironic vein as the Unreal guy. The game has a retro feel to it, and it's actually a pretty welcome antidote to the many serious shooters on the market.
We got used to the game by playing a few rounds of team deathmatch, which pitted prisoners against guards in a number of large-scale environments. You start off with a lowly pistol, but more powerful weapons can be found around every corner--submachine guns, grenade launchers, and sniper rifles are all in plentiful supply. There were also some weapons specific to the Riddick universe, such as the SCAR gun, which fires a sticky explosive that can be activated remotely. You can fire these blue orbs in a group and set them up as a trap, but it's far funnier to hit someone, because you can watch him run around before you choose to end his life remotely.
Dark Athena supports a maximum of 12 players, and the collection of journalists and developers averaged about 10 people in the games we played. The size of the maps we played never felt confined, with plenty of room to run away before you'd encounter another player. Most maps also feature multiple levels and open areas that allow you to snipe or drop grenades from above. The one constant in the level design is that they're all devoid of gimmicks--this is straight-up corridor-based shooting with the occasional open area.
As you'd expect from a multiplayer first-person shooter, there's a Capture the Flag mode, as well as a slight variation on this theme called Butcher Bay Riot. In this mode, three teams battle it out to steal a power cell and return to their base to charge it up for around five seconds to win the game. If you die, you're removed from that round, and scoring kills gives you more money to spend on armour and weapons in the next round. It's a neat take on the standard game, and we especially liked being able to change our loadout options throughout the game.
Our favourite mode, though, is called Pitch Black. In it, six players take the role of soldiers, and one plays as Riddick. As a soldier, you have access to weapons such as rifles and shotguns, but as Riddick, you have only your ulak blades. The soldiers start out in a well-lit room packed with weapons, and after stocking up they drop down into a much darker area, with only a flashlight to help them find Riddick. Riddick, meanwhile, can see well in the dark thanks to his eye shine, and it's easy for him to track the flashlights of his adversaries from far away. All in all, it's a great mode--a mad race for the soldiers and a tense battle for Riddick.
We played four hours of multiplayer Riddick and we enjoyed every minute. We would have loved to see more multiplayer modes, but at this stage the team wants to keep some of them under wraps. The good news is that we'll have more footage of the game going up on the site shortly, so if you want to see it in action in both single- and multiplayer modes, stay tuned to GameSpot.