Riddick is a nearly flawless blend of amazing melee combat and gunplay.

User Rating: 8.7 | The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape From Butcher Bay XBOX
The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape From Butcher Bay is quite simply the best movie-based game ever released on a major platform. The development team at Starbreeze, who have also created disappointing games such as Enclave, succeed in every way possible. Be wary, the game does indeed have its shortcomings. The game incorporates stellar gunplay with tight melee combat that provide an incredible first person experience. The story told on paper may be deceiving at first, because it seems to be a standard "break out of prison and kill everything that stands in your path" tale. But the beauty of the story is not by the way it is told, but how the game unfolds into nicely accomplished cutscenes using in-game graphics. Though the games drawbacks are few and far between, they're definitely noticeable. It must be noted that the developers were allotted just less than two years to complete, that said, it is blatantly obvious that Starbreeze made the most of that time. Not only is The Chronicles of Riddick the very best movie-based video game ever released, but it also ranks up pretty high on the list as one of Xbox's best games. Set before the events of both Universal Pictures’ summer release, The Chronicles of Riddick, starring Vin Diesel, and the 2000 cult classic, Pitch Black, which first introduced Diesel as the enigmatic anti-hero Richard B. Riddick. The game tells the story of Riddick’s dramatic escape from the previously inescapable triple max security prison, Butcher Bay, home to the most violent prisoners in the universe. Riddick is your typical gaming badass. He remains nonchalant, even in the most treacherous conditions. Since the story takes place before both movies, it is not necessary for you to view the films to understand Escape From Butcher Bay's plotline. Before you are dropped into the shoes of Riddick and begin playing, a very stylish and well-put together cutscene commences as you see Riddick plodding through an icy shelter. But before long, you see our audacious protagonist lay waste to a wooly beast. It is only after this sequence when the actual game initiates. You see Riddick strapped by metal clamps as a man known as Johns talking about his captive as if he is a prize of some sort, almost like an animal. When the action finally begins, you are set directly in front of Butcher Bay High Security Prison without guards patrolling about or even watching your movements, you will discover why this is happening as you traverse through this first "level", so to speak. It serves as a very good tutorial for the stealth and melee elements that are implemented into the games fighting mechanics. In the end, the story wraps the game into a tight package that keeps you wanting more. The melee combat is one of the games better aspects. Although you only start off with your fists and your wit, you will voyage throughout Butcher Bay acquiring knuckledusters, shivs, clubs, and screwdrivers, which all have their strengths and weaknesses. Clubs deal a tremendous amount of damage, but can take a few seconds to actually swing due to their massive weight and clunky handles. Though weak, hand-made shivs and screwdrivers give one the ability to use their own strategies when encountering an enemy because of their easy grip and light mass. If you are going to use a more stealth-oriented tactic to take out a human enemy, it is wise to use a shiv because you can sneak up behind your adversary and kill them in one silent stab. The same cannot be said about the club, whose attack always consists of the one powerful but lengthy swing no matter if you are standing two inches from your oppositions face or directly behind him. When completely unarmed, it is best to use a counter move that you can perform against any human who is also using melee attacks against you. You can do this by simply pressing the R button (which is also the attack button) when your enemy is about to strike you. It is little touches such as these that make Escape From Butcher Bay stand out from the rest of the games in the FPS genre. You can certainly try to use the same approach with every enemy, but don't expect to come out of the fight alive. Escape From Butcher Bay's shortcomings are few and far between, but they are still noticeable and irritating. For instance, the good portion of the second half of the game completely defeats the purpose of its stealth elements. If you try to hide in the shadows, you will remain unnoticed by guards, but there will be no where to go, because of the vast amount of lighting and the fact that many of the games later enemies (mainly mechs and elite guards) will turn around even if you are not making a sound. As minor as that may sound, it really isn't, because there is a section of the game where you enter the mining area of Butcher Bay prison and you are completely bereft of guns which can become frustrating, especially if you are low on health and playing on the most challenging level of difficulty. Another irritating aspect of Riddick is the rather lengthy load times, which often stops the momentum that builds during tense action scenes or fire fights. While there are few deficiencies, it must be noted that they do in fact hold back many of the games strong points. Unfortunately, Escape From Butcher Bay’s similarity to a film extends to its linearity. There are two short episodes that are open-ended and non-linear, but most of the game involves skulking through a room or down a corridor and killing whatever you come across in order to advance to the next checkpoint save. Also, the plot threads introduced in these sequences never go anywhere. You never see any of the prisoners you speak to later, so there is no sense of plot continuity at all. What can immediately be found intriguing as you start the game is that there is almost no HUD (Heads-Up Display). The only item worth mentioning is your life bar which appears when you are either under attack or when you have pressed the X button on the controller. This creates a slick interface that allows you to immerse yourself in dark and grimy setting of Butcher Bay prison. There are no crosshairs to speak of, just an irritating laser that is emitted from your rifle. The red dot tends to "get lost" in dense fog and heavily lighted areas. While this is realistic, it's not ideal in areas that contain overly difficult enemies. While there is a small variety of guns that you will acquire throughout the game, there is a satisfaction to be had when holding the games more powerful weapons. It may be the electrifying sound that the firearms vent out, or just the amount of power that is bestowed from them. The gunplay isn’t quite as well implemented as the melee combat, however. Riddick will eventually find a tranq-gun, a handgun, a shotgun, an assault rifle, and a mini-gun. However, the hit detection isn’t great; most enemies don’t seem to react to getting shot physically until they die. If you manage to get extremely close to an enemy and blast him with the shotgun, for example, you may notice a slight flinch rather than a satisfying stagger. What’s so cool about the stealth/shooter mix is the way you’ll go from being entirely unarmed, to bristling with guns, to entirely unarmed again. After being a death-machine for a good hour, the player will have to read adjust to discretion. This adds a sensation of helplessness and vulnerability to the stealth portions, as well as a feeling of euphoria when you finally get your hands on a good gun again. Unfortunately, the enemy AI isn't as finely tuned as one might hope for. They aren’t unintelligent either, but they never go through doors after you have attacked them and frequently stand out in the open waiting for you to show yourself. They throw grenades, but only during scripted sequences. The enemy may dodge to avoid fire occasionally, but it usually ends up with them rolling in the middle of an empty room or hitting a wall. Once a guard is aware of your presence, he is going to warn others and will persistently look everywhere for you. It is at this point when stealth on longer matters and the only deals you can make with a guard is between his face and your fist. Part of Escape From Butcher Bay's praise might be attributed to the game’s outrageously good graphics. Using a cool new piece of technology called "normal-mapping", Escape From Butcher Bay shows off some of the most stunningly realistic environments ever displayed on the Xbox. The entire prison environment is beautifully conceptualized, from the sickly green and orange lighting to the cracks in the doors. Riddick himself looks exactly like Vin Diesel, which is accredited to the detailed character models, though during the scenes when you can see yourself, it's obvious that Starbreeze sacrificed anti-aliasing (It rids the appearance of jagged distortions in curves and diagonal lines) for smooth framerates. When someone says "Graphics don't matter", they've never played Escape From Butcher Bay, because its visuals draw the player into the damp and depressing setting. Escape From Butcher Bay sounds terrific as well, thanks to Vin Diesel and his supporting cast of voice talent. Diesel’s voice is perfect for video games, and his character manages to come off as a badass with a good sense of humor. The most notable cast member is Ron Perlman (Hellboy), who provides the role of Jagger Valance, yet this character only speaks a handful of lines. The bulk of the game’s sound effects are absolutely incredible, with blaring gun-fire, commanders barking orders through crackly PA systems, and generally excellent ambient sounds. The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay is good for about 12-15 hours of compelling single-player gameplay, but unfortunately there isn’t much keeping you coming back for more. A few other difficulty settings are here alongside some unlockable movies and stills which are available when you collect the countless number of cigarette packs, but that’s not much, and amazingly the game features no multiplayer at all, which is a shame. But despite the fact that The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape From Butcher Bay is a somewhat short, linear romp with limited replayability, it’s about as good as Xbox action gaming gets, from its fantastic delivery to its fun combat. Definitely an escape worth taking.