Chronicles of Riddick is surprisingly good, with some unique gameplay ideas and phenominal production values.

User Rating: 8.8 | The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape From Butcher Bay XBOX
Games based on movie licenses have historically been awful products. The majority of developers with access to a license try to exploit its success in its other industry, while creating an overall terrible and uninspired game around it. But the Chronicles of Riddick is unlike any movie-based game seen in a long time. This is not a playable version of the upcoming motion picture of the same title, but a complete extension of the Riddick universe. The game also provides unique game play and phenomenal production values, which helps to produce one of the best games on the Xbox to date. The game stars Richard B. Riddick, played by popular actor Vin Diesel. Riddick is a tough, no-nonsense criminal, who will do what ever it takes to survive. Vin Diesel first introduced his character in the 1999 sci-fi horror film, Pitch Black. Escape From Butcher Bay takes place before the events of Pitch Black, and is a vital part to understanding the world of Riddick in its entirety. The story has you fighting to survive and escape the most dreaded prison in the galaxy, Butcher Bay. Along the way you’ll encounter a number of appealing characters, explore large areas of the prison, and learn more about what makes Riddick who he is on the movie-screen. While the story never takes center-stage over the actual game play, the story sequences you will encounter are very entertaining to watch. The Chronicles of Riddick is a completely immersive experience. A good part of this has to do with the amazing graphics of the environments you will explore, but the actual game play design draws you into the world. The lack of a cumbersome on-screen interface works to the games advantage. The only thing that ever pops-up on screen is your health bar, which goes in the top left corner and is barely noticeable. The aiming reticle is your guns own laser sighting, not a crosshair found in most other shooters. The amount of ammunition you have remaining is shown on a little readout on the gun itself. These little touches help draw you into the world Butcher Bay prison, and make you feel like you are actually there. The game is remarkably well paced for a single player action title. The game always keeps you guessing and features diverse game play sequences. The developers at Starbreeze were able to incorporate stealth, gunplay, hand-to-hand combat, and role-playing elements. All these elements are well implemented and flow seamlessly. Designing a hand-to-hand combat system that works in first-person perspective has been a perplexing task for all developers who try and implement the idea, but Starbreeze has pulled it off flawlessly. The system strikes a perfect balance, giving you enough options to keep things interesting, yet keeping it simple enough to pick up and play without any prior experience. You will find a moderate amount of weapons with which to dispose your foes with, such as brass knuckles and shivs. While these weapons are equipped, you can use the left analog stick to create various devastating combo moves. You can also block attacks using the left trigger, which comes in handy during all the fights you will encounter. But the most important aspect of this fighting system is the solid feel Starbreeze has endowed upon it. Riddick’s attacks look plenty powerful, while getting punched yourself sends your first-person view careening to the side. It’s as close to the real thing as you can conceivably get. Riddick also has an impressive array of counter-attacks at his disposal. The most surprising of these is his ability to grab an enemy’s gun and use it to shoot his own brains out. You execute these moves by pushing the action button, but sometimes they happen accidentally on your part, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Riddick can also sneak up on enemies, and he has a set of moves for these opportunities, also. You can snap an enemy’s neck, slit his throat with a sharp object, or wallop him with the butt of your gun. These can be performed after grabbing the enemy with the left trigger, and are very satisfying to use. During most of the action sequences in the Chronicles of Riddick, you have two options with which to complete the job. One being the aggressive shoot every enemy approach, and the other being the option to use stealth. It is rarely a necessity to use stealth, which gives you some freedom to go with your style or personal preference. Stealth is implemented in a unique way, and it really helps the game feel fluid. When you enter a shadow, you merely push in the left analog stick to duck down, and the screen turns to a bluish tint. This indicates that you are hidden from the enemy’s sight, and now you can go about your plan of attack. From here you can sneak up on enemies and perform a number of deadly moves, as already mentioned. You can also use Riddick’s signature “eye shine”, which allows you to see in the dark. Another way to maintain a low profile in the game is to move the bodies of fallen foes. You can drag them to the shadows by holding the action button, and even throw them with the right trigger, which is nice for a good laugh. And if stealth isn’t an inclination of yours, there are many instances during the game where you will carry and deal death with some heavy firepower. The developers at Starbreeze chose to put in bold, in your face weapons, rather than long distance sniping weapons. You will find and utilize an assault rifle, shotgun, and even a mini-gun. All of these are satisfying to use against your foes, who will fight back rather well. The A.I. carries out basic battle tactics against you, such as taking cover behind objects and trying to flank you. They will also search for you with their flashlights when they are aware of your presence. But the A.I. is overall a mixed bag. While they definitely perform their fair share of commendable tactics, you can’t help but get the feeling that the A.I. is unpolished. They do abnormal things like find a fallen comrade and barely give it a thought, or they will sometimes be completely oblivious to your presence. The A.I. is also unrefined during combat, as they will only throw grenades during scripted sequences, and wont even bother to go through a door if you runaway. Which happens to be one of the games biggest faults. Instead of taking your time to sneak through a section and avoid enemy fire, you can just run to the door of your destination while alerting the guards. It is often the quick and easy way out, which is disappointing to say the least. The level design is proper for a game based on escaping a prison, giving you plenty of basic tasks for you to accomplish. You will find keycards, push buttons, crawl through vents, and climb objects such as ladders and hang rails. Nothing really creative or complicated, but anything else would have been entirely out of place for a game like this. The game also implements a unique system which allows you to interact with the environment. For example, standing next to a gun will cause a tag appear with the name of the object, and you can then pick it up using the action button. It works smoothly and is used to help solve the simple puzzles you will come across. You will also come across brief role-playing elements during the course of the game. Some inmates will have extra missions for you to complete, which will score you some cash or other necessities. You might be asked to waste another inmate, or find an object of value for that person. These are a great way to break up the game play, and make the inmates feel like they truly interact with the game world. The controls of the game will feel similar to anyone who has played a first-person shooter on the Xbox. You move with left analog stick and look around with the right. You can adjust the sensitivity of movement to suit your likings. Everything else feels great, too. You use the left trigger for grabbing foes and the right trigger for your attacks, whether it be with a gun or during hand-to-hand combat. All the other buttons are used for basic actions such as reloading, turning on your flashlight, and switching weapons. It takes little time to adapt to the controls, and they are highly responsive. The Chronicles of Riddick has the best visuals of any console game to date. The game uses a new graphical technique known as “normal mapping”, which allows for some of most detailed and vivid environments seen. All the characters you will encounter look unique, and are detailed well if you look from up close or far away. You will see Riddick from third-person view during many instances in the game, which helps to showoff just how real to life he looks compared to his counterpart, Vin Diesel. Butcher Bay has such a multitude of small details, such as writing all over the prison walls. The prison is dimly lit, but the light that can be seen looks terrific. It reflects and highlights all the textures in the environment, which helps make everything even more believable. The frame-rate runs consistently, with only a few skips in frames once and a great while. But as fantastic as the graphics are, there are a few noticeable problems. Some scenes in the game are plagued with “jaggies”, or jagged lines, so much so that it really becomes an annoyance. The graphics also suffer from some clipping issues. You might perhaps notice a characters leg going straight through a concrete bench, but these clipping issues are few and far between. The game also sounds outstanding. Vin Diesel lends his gravely voice for his character Riddick, and it could not have fitted him any better. All the inmates you speak to have their own unique voices and personalities, which brings the prison to life. All the lines are delivered well and fit perfectly into the game, although some might be turned off by the extensive use of foul language. The music also fits well into the game, offering movie-like quality. The game is of average length, taking anywhere from 8 to 10 hours to complete. Multiple difficulty levels are offered to make things more challenging, and the single player is honestly good enough to warrant another play through. During the course of the game you will collect packs of smokes, which unlock little pieces of concept art or movies. These are nice to look at and read about, but do not add a significant amount of value to the overall package. The lack of a multiplayer option may disappoint some, and would have been nice if implemented. But you have to take the game for what it is, and it is not a multiplayer online shooter, but a terrific single player game you can experience again and again. The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape From Butcher Bay is a unique accomplishment. Being a movie-licensed game, it is surprising the amount of thought and polish went into the actual game. The game play has some unique ideas, which are implemented well, and it all flows seamlessly from one element to the next. The production values are phenomenal, helping to immerse you even more into the world of Butcher Bay. While the game has little replay value, what you have here is a remarkable action game that every Xbox owner should play.