From the outstanding melee combat and excellent storyline to the incredible graphics, Butcher Bay is brill in all ways.
So, I feared for the game of it. I heard it was to be called "Escape from Butcher Bay", mentioned once in the film. I expected it to be a rock-hard crap game all about guys in the 82nd century with swords.
Boy, was I wrong.
As soon as I started playing, I knew I was in for a treat. The melee combat was incredible. Combining movement with punching caused you to do cooler attacks. Although it is a tad simple, it's incredibly satisfying. However, the combat doesn't look as cool as the movie's combat that has Riddick doing action worthy of Mr. Thomas Anderson. At least let us kick!
Also, the controls have been welly integrated for the PC edition. The lean ability, while not particularly realistic (as enemies can't see you as long as you're leaning), is done by holding down one button (Ctrl by default) and moving up, left, or right. It's not too useful to FPS enthusiasts, as you cannot shoot while leaning, but you can jump in and out of cover (or roll, if you're crouching).
The game says something like secondary fire which is actually your melee attack. If they had attached the already deep melee system to this, you would've had some really cool attacks.
Another thing I forgot to mention about the melee attacks would be the awesome grabs. Sometimes, on accident, you'll run towards a guy and melee like crazy, accidentally snapping his neck. It looks cool and it's welcome, but it never feels like you did it on purpose.
Keep in mind, the whole game is a blend of melee combat, prison life (incredibly welly done), shooting (not so welly done), and stealth (simply brilliant).
The prison life is surprisingly welly done. You'll accept (or decline, for that matter) bribes, you'll beat the *** out of others in a sparring arena, you'll mow down a gang of prisoners, you'll put poison in people's foods, you'll get interrogated (or rather, have the stuff beaten out of you by Abbott). Also, you'll meet old bums who've been here for the last 10 years, you'll meet guy's beaten up by others, you'll meet drug addicts, you'll meet leaders, and you'll meet people who want to kill you. The whole thing is done excellently, and makes you want to shout with glee.
The stealth action. The whole game is based around stealth (kind of). Much like Thief or Splinter Cell, you have a "visibility" meter, only it's not in the form of a meter. When you crouch, the screen turns a blue tint depending on how visible you are. If you're in the dark, very blue. If you're in the open, normal. It's not just an intuitive function, it's a function that works in a way far better than you would've expected. Also, you have a variety of stealth kills, like your conventional (but loud) stealth kill, a not-so-conventional kill, (slightly quieter). You can also drag bodies about, and this works great too, but there will be some times when you can't get a body to go where you want it to. It's not a big problem, but it arises every now and then in places you really wouldn't want. You can also shoot out most lights. This is a pretty old function, and the AI doesn't react welly to having a light blown out (unlike Splinter Cell). However, in most cases, the AI is absolutely top-notch… but that's for later. Anyways, shooting out lights is an incredibly useful function, and though you may not have night vision at first (like in Thief), you'll eventually gain it through eye-shine, which puts a nice spin on night vision. It looks slightly pink, and you'll turn the thing off a lot because it's extremely sensitive to light, which does get old eventually. However, the developers probably could've put some more thought into the idea of eyeshine. It could've been a lot more, but it doesn't really matter too much.
Another great thing about the PC edition is that there is a scene where you can play as a Riot Guard, a very powerful suit that, while not as good as you would hope, is still pretty sweet to use. It also blends seamlessly into the game. The sequence isn't that good, because you have to get out of the suit like 4 times or so. The melee attack with the suit is awesome, though.
Now we move on to the negative bit. Notice that I haven't been lauding the shooting. That's where the problem waits. There are only 3 weapons. The pistol, the assault rifle, and the shotgun. That's it! The pistol is super accurate, the assault rifle is the fastest, and the shotgun is the most damaging. However, the shooting isn't done too well, because you can't shoot while leaning, and, the enemies have lots of health.
After a while, you receive a new weapon, but it isn't shown during the time that you would hope for. It's the tranquilizer gun, a gun that shoots out a burst of electricity that freezes someone in his tracks, and though it doesn't kill him, you can run up and step on him (ouch). It hardly appears at all (like for some 30 minutes), which is why I didn't mention it above. Thankfully, there are no snipers, or else the game would be way to easy, and the zoom function would be useless.
Later, you get yet another new weapon, the minigun. It's pretty stupid, as there is no laser dot for the reticle, it makes Riddick move as slowly as a snail heavy on alcohol, and it really is hardly used. However, you can kill a riot guard in some 30 seconds with it, and you can kill the final bosses in like 1 minute of concentrated fire.
Even with all the variety, the shooting really isn't that good, and the inventory interface still is pretty clunky for the PC. It may sound ok, but seriously, when you play it, you discover how clunky it is.
Also, another negative: It's WAY TOO SHORT. I completed the game in 8 hours my first time through, and when coupled with quick saves and such, you can run through the game in 6 hours in case you fail one way. While there is an excellent commentary mode that adds in bonus levels and extra content explaining why they did something one way or another.
The voice acting is utterly top-notch. Xzibit did an awesome job as Abbott, and whoever portrayed the guards really threw his heart into it, yelling out appropriate swear words whenever Riddick slips away again. Also, Vin Diesel does Riddick's voice in an absolutely brilliant way, with the usual monotonous (in a good way, mind you) tones that Riddick always does. Also, the inmates sound really pissed at various others, and sometimes, the voice acting is so authentic, you just have to sympathize or hate them.
The final, climatical ending has you fighting two of the coolest enemies that I've ever seen. It's fun to play, as they look absolutely awesome.
In the end, Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay is a game worthy of the license and is way up there in my "Greatest game of All Time" list.