While the 2004 classic, Butcher Bay, is still as good as ever, it's brought down by the uninspired sequel.
Butcher Bay holds some of my fondest memories from my formative years in gaming. It combined adventure, action and stealth, cobbled together by a decent narrative that had enough of Vin Diesel's presence to make it feel authentic. And no, it wasn't based on the film. Many years later and how does it hold up? Quite well, actually. It doesn't look half bad considering, and the amazing voice-work hasn't paled one iota. Audio wise, it's still one of the most satisfying games I've played.
So, in this compilation, Escape From Butcher Bay is unchanged and still a great game. About the only thing missing is the commentary from the Starbreeze team, which was available on the PC Director's Cut edition. The opportunity to re-listen to the team's thoughts regarding Riddick's adventure would have been nice, but just the oppertunity to play the game on the Xbox 360 is good enough.
It took me six hours to finish. Like a nice, brisk jog through memory lane, it was refreshing and certainly enjoyable, but having already played the game to death some six before, I was more excited about sampling Assault on Dark Athena, newly-released and with contemporary competition to fend off.
Here's where things get disappointing.
Assault on Dark Athena just isn't much good. Graphically, it's better than Butcher Bay, but the gameplay is not even in the same league, the same ballpark. It's strange that a team as talented as Starbreeze could deliver something so uninspired. Gone are many of the adventuring elements from the first game -- which included side-quests and interesting characters to converse with -- while the Dark Athena simply isn't as interesting a setting either. Aesthetically it plays host to largely the same environs throughout. The developers try and change things up with a visit to a colonial planet at the end of the game, but this is probably the game's lowest point. It sinks into running-and-gunning territory, a far cry from the careful, though-provoking scenarios that Butcher Bay presented you with. In fact, Dark Athena feels a lot more like an action game. It's like any other shooter on the market, just not as refined or tight or graphically pleasing. Butcher Bay succeeded in melding genres and producing something innovative and memorable. Starbreeze, in tacking on this sequel, has lazily doled out a game that never does more than it needs to.
It's a crying shame. For the price of a standalone game you get two Riddick adventures, both at around six hours in length. That means that despite an incremental advantage, Riddick's outings are still no longer than the norm. But, I'd be missing the point if I nit-picked the length. What really matters is that Assault on Dark Athena fails to match its forebear. It doesn't even provide a satisfying follow up. You're left with one, six year old game, and a sequel which is strangely flat.
I'm afraid it's a compilation I can't recommend. Who would have thought?