Being Badass – Riddick’s Still Got The Moves

“I’m a messenger from Hell,” says Riddick to a prisoner on the Dark Athena, and he’s right. Riddick’s second video game adventure is a new one for me, but his first, Escape from Butcher Bay, was finally ticked off the list of games I need to complete last week and although the game suffers from some crazy difficulty spikes and a slightly padded out middle section, it’s still a wonderful game and on the whole has aged pretty well, even picking up a few new graphical tricks along the way.

Being a fan of Vin Diesel is something of a pre-requisite for investing your time in The Chronicles of Riddick, such is the way developers Starbreeze have embodied not just his visage and voice but also his heavy posture and his always purposeful walk.  Despite being a first person adventure you’ll see lots of third person cutscenes and even when walking the smart lighting effects will cast Diesel’s looming shadows at every opportunity.  Fortunately I’m a big fan of the big guy, so this is all plus points for me.

Escape from Butcher Bay starts with an odd prologue that seems completely unnecessary, but that aside once the game starts for good you’re in for one hell of a ride.  Riddick starts amongst fellow prisoners, weaponless but cocksure and damned handy with his fists.  From slight beginnings, the player must find their way out of the vast penitentiary, building up their arsenal and working their way up the ranks of fellow inmate.  Naturally, several plot twists (and at least one deus ex machina) put an abrupt stop to any easy escape.

The game constantly surprises you, delivering challenge after challenge and all the while adjusting the pacing and mechanics to keep things fresh.  Yes, there’s too much exploration in the middle section once Riddick escapes the lower level security and the backtracking isn’t nearly signposted enough (even on my second playthrough I needed the odd glance at a walkthrough) but the game practically forces you, once you reach the relevant section of the story, to use the darkness to your advantage.

No other game has done this as well as Riddick did.  When hidden the screen tints blue to show the player that, flashlight aside, you’re safe.  Naturally those muscles aren’t just for hiding and whether you’re equipped with bare knuckles or blade, the classic attack from behind is brutal, swift and silent.  This means that a good portion of the exposition involves Riddick mapping out the paths of any guards before striking, but stand up fist fights and ultimately gun battles round off the combat nicely.

If you’re yet to play the game, the PS3 and Xbox 360 versions come complete with a full second story set aboard a pirate vessel, continuing directly on from the first game’s ending, respresenting extraordinary value for money.  If you have played the game, presumably on the original Xbox, then the remake features somewhat better graphics and a few new sections to the game slotted in seamlessly, including a wonderful excursion in a heavy riot guard that’s just begging to be replayed.

I loved going through Butcher Bay again, 5 years on.  A lot of the game (especially the beginning and end) was familiar enough for me to relax and soak up the scenery and just enjoy the ride and the areas I didn’t gel with so well turned out to be those I didn’t get as much from the first time around too.  And with regards to Dark Athena, the second chapter, well, I’m about 3 hours in and loving the shift in styles and gameplay (lots more stealthy goodness) but Riddick’s just as badass as he ever was.

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