Reaper has sent in an awesome review of the Chronicles of Riddick: Escape From Butcher Bay. As he mentioned in the article, keep in mind that the screenshots shown are from the official site, the actual game is way more jaggy than shown here. Big thanks to Reaper for sending in the piece, let's get to it! Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay is a story about a man and the trials he faces in every day life. Or it would be if every day life consisted of escaping from a maximum security PLANET, snapping necks at will, violently murdering other prisoners with shivs, and getting impaled at random intervals by conveniently placed health stations.
It also has the dubious honor of being a game based on a movie license; historically reason enough to run screaming from the game in question. Well, let me tell you something, you should not run screaming from this game! In fact, you should run screaming towards it! Or possibly just very coolly walk up to the game and purchase/rent it. Whatever you want.
One caveat: as a concerned older person type and role model (scarily enough, I am a role model for certain younger people) you should screen this game and decide if the constant use of the f-word and other adult language (both verbal and written) is suitable for your young persons in question. ItÃ‚'s interesting that I take concern over the naughty words and not the violence and brutality that pervade this game. But then again thatÃ‚'s what makes me American!
Riddick is played from a first person perspective but to call it a first person shooter is wrong. You will shoot people with a firearm from a first person perspective but thatÃ‚'s where the similarity ends. The biggest difference is that there is no HUD of which to speak. YouÃ‚'ll have little white boxes that represent your health that show up when youÃ‚'re hurt or you tap the X button, an unobtrusive inventory cycling option, and little info boxes that pop up over items, people etc. ThatÃ‚'s it. No graphical representation of Riddick, no ammo-counter on the screen (except on the gun itself), no compass nor crosshair, nada. And I love it! We see what Riddick sees (especially after he gets his eyes shined) and yet still have a very game-able encounter.
The game also makes the daring choice of trying to have a workable melee model from the first person. The game more or less succeeds in this point. There were several times when I became confused as to the location of my enemies and I wished for a more traditional third person model butÃ‚"… really, I never should have let the guy hit me in the first place. Where it really succeeds is in the melee combo system and the way you land blows. If you want to throw an upper cut you simply press Ã‚"downÃ‚" on the d-stick and the Ã‚"fireÃ‚" button. A left hook, you press Ã‚"leftÃ‚" and Ã‚"fire,Ã‚" etc. ItÃ‚'s so intuitive youÃ‚'ll hardly realize youÃ‚'re doing it.
And thatÃ‚'s what I love about this game, I never really needed to learn it, I simply played it. You want to snap somebodyÃ‚'s neck, sneak behind them and wait for RiddickÃ‚'s hands to come up. Press Ã‚"fireÃ‚" to outright snap his neck or Ã‚"blockÃ‚" plus Ã‚"XÃ‚" to very silently dispatch him. I prefer the latter, all the while with me whispering, Ã‚"˜Go to sleep! Sssshhh! Go to sleep!Ã‚' You want to steal a guyÃ‚'s gunÃ‚"… wellÃ‚"… I leave the bloody surprise for you to find out.
Probably the best single game play experience is the stealth mode. When Riddick is stealthed, the screen turns a soft blue and the fade effect back and forth is really super. In stealth mode, youÃ‚'ll often find yourself hidden behind or near crates, waiting for a guard to pass so you can sneak by or snap his neck. As the guard approaches youÃ‚'ll hear RiddickÃ‚'s heart beat steadily increasing in tempo and volume. The resulting experience is very satisfying.
You donÃ‚'t have to play this game from a pure stealth approach, nor do you have to simply blast your way through it. You can do whatever you want. IÃ‚'ve destroyed all the lights in a room to stalk two guards who were hunting me with flashlights and snapped both of their necks. I could have easily blown them away, disarmed them, introduced them to the business end of a screwdriver, or simply snuck away.
My last comment on the game itself is that it is very short. IÃ‚'ve read that the play time clocks in at ten hours but IÃ‚'ll be honest, I think I played it for around eight. This fact doesnÃ‚'t really bother me because it accomplishes the task of expanding an already existing story that is passive in nature. So being able to snap someoneÃ‚'s neck and then enjoy a pretty decent cutscene featuring Vin Disel shortly afterwards is a nice treat.
GRAPHICS AND SOUND
The screenshots IÃ‚'ve seen online and some I include in this review are not from the retail version on the Xbox, of this IÃ‚'m sure. IÃ‚'m convinced that theyÃ‚'re from a PC with ungodly power or possibly from the imaging software used by the Matrix.
ThereÃ‚'s some serious jaggy-action that goes on in-game. However, I never found this to be distracting at all. The game is compelling enough that it always suspended my disbelief. Plus, I only encountered one serious frame rate hit and that was in a later level with about twelve light sources while I was stealthed with eyeshine activated. As soon as I turned eyeshine off, the frame rate bounced back immediately.
Speaking of which, the eyeshine effect is probably the best representation in a game IÃ‚'ve seen of how actual night vision works. While all of the true night vision IÃ‚'ve used has been in hues of green and eyeshine is in crazy purpleÃ‚'s and pinkÃ‚'s, the effect is the same. Your depth perception is all screwed up and your peripheral vision gets all fish eyed and crazy. And donÃ‚'t even bother looking directly at light sources. Very impressive and IÃ‚'m glad the developers pulled it off so well.
The graphics in this game are so good they really give me great hope that Halo 2 wonÃ‚'t look horribly dated following the release of several upcoming PC games like Doom and Half Life 2 simply due to the fact it will be released on the Xbox. The shadow and lighting effects are top notch. They easily rival the Splinter Cell series for best use of light spilling out of a door way.
The character models are usually all of a very high quality. There are two notable exceptions. One is that of the warden. His head looks like a pink raisin with his body just kind of being round and lumpy. The other is of the sub-humans called the dwellers. They lookÃ‚"… wellÃ‚"… generic. But Riddick, Johns, Abbott, Jagger, and even the guards all look great.
Sound is extremely solid and the firearms have great effects. The mini-guns found on various power armor guards late in the game have a great spin up sound that is suitably full of bass but also has the trademark high pitched electric whine.
The voices are also very clearly recorded and crisp. Some of the various guard quips get a little annoying after youÃ‚'ve heard them several dozen times but usually the guards wonÃ‚'t be around long enough for you to notice.
One of the best features of the game is the quality of voice acting. Vin Disel, Ron Perlmann, and Xzibit all deliver very good performances as their respective characters and the dialogue is of a higher quality than usual.
IÃ‚'ve read in various reviews that they loved the soundtrack but IÃ‚'ll be damned if I can remember even a single jingle from the game. That isnÃ‚'t bad because that means I havenÃ‚'t got some damnable midi-techno number stuck in my head nor is it good because I canÃ‚'t recall being charged up by some of the sweeping tracks like in Mechwarrior 2 or Metal Slug 3Ã‚'s Camel Assault music from Mission 4.
Escape from Butcher Bay is probably one of the best Xbox games available now but that doesnÃ‚'t make it for everyone. I can see where some one would be frustrated by the first person fighting. Couple that with its extreme brevity and itÃ‚'s hard for me to whole-heartedly recommend this game as a purchase. In the same vein as Far Cry I say itÃ‚'s worth owning just to say that you have it but I honestly wonÃ‚'t be playing it again any time soon. If youÃ‚'re curious about the game, try a demo of it or rent it. If you own an Xbox and donÃ‚'t at least try it, youÃ‚'re missing out. If you like the taste you get from the demo, then I say pick it up. I would really like to send a message to publishers that if you publish a game that kicks ass, you will be rewarded.
Let me leave you with this thought. The game play really is only limited by how you handle any given situation that you find in the game. I was getting my ass handed to me by just two guards at one point, over and over again. I decided that I should tackle it the way Riddick would. Instead of being all Sam Fischer like and creeping about; I dropped from my perch dispatching one enemy with a drop attack and charged the other from behind and quickly snapped his neck, all in under five seconds. This five second span is what Escape from Butcher Bay is all about; being able to play a bad ass.