The Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena Review
The Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena is an unusual release to review in that it's really two games. In addition to the titular sequel to the Xbox game The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay, you get the Xbox original on the same disc. In addition, Butcher Bay has received an update to its graphics and while it may not quite look like a game originally developed for the Xbox 360 it certainly looks a lot better than an Xbox game. Now this is where things get a little tricky. Butcher Bay was an excellent game (check out our review of it here) and if you've never played it before then Assault on Dark Athena is a recommended purchase based simply on the fact that it gives you the opportunity to play Escape from Butcher Bay. However, if you're already a Butcher Bay fan and aren't necessarily looking to replay that game, then purchasing Assault on Dark Athena is no longer a no-brainer.
Before getting into Dark Athena I want to let you know that I did play the updated Butcher Bay and am not recommending it based strictly on fond memories of a game that hasn't aged well over the past five years. The graphics update is an improvement over the original game, but you won't mistake the game for a marquee Xbox 360 release. If you weren't aware that the game is an Xbox re-release, you'd probably consider it to be a bit ugly by today's standards, not just in terms of textures and lack of detail but also in the movements and facial expressions of the characters. Pretty pictures aside, where Butcher Bay really succeeds is in its gameplay, making it that rarest of animals, a game based on a movie that's not only better than the movie it's based on, but also quite good in its own right. Your basic goal in the game is simple enough - break out of Butcher Bay, the galaxy's most notorious prison - but you don't follow the standard shooter script of blasting your way past endless guards. In fact, often your only weapons are your fists or a shiv. Butcher Bay attempts to create the kind of experience that you would have if you were actually trying to break out of a futuristic prison, requiring that you elicit the help of fellow prisoners by working the jailhouse inmates' network, spend plenty of time sneaking through the shadows, and judiciously choose the right moments to take out guards. But rather than completely rehash what I've written before, I'll once again point you to the original Butcher Bay review and move on to Dark Athena.
I wish that I could say that Dark Athena is a worthy sequel to Butcher Bay, but unfortunately it is laden with many of those generic shooter conventions that Butcher Bay so expertly avoided. Dark Athena feels more like a game trying to imitate Butcher Bay rather than a continuation of the experience. Once again you're on the escape, this time from the Dark Athena station as well as another penal colony, but this time out the atmosphere's not quite the same and the escapes not nearly as engrossing. There are a lot of firefights in Dark Athena against numerous foes, none of which are all that exciting and gave me the distinct feeling that the AI was cheating a bit. The game also felt like it was padded to lengthen the playing time with the inclusion of some platforming sequences. These are more frustrating than anything else as the game just doesn't control all that well as a platformer. Collision detection is spotty, so you may need to jump four or five times and shuffle around a bit to get Riddick to grasp onto a pipe that you need to shimmy along, and you may find yourself accidentally switching directions along that pipe a few times before reaching the end and then struggling to get Riddick to drop from the pipe and onto the right spot.
Overall the game is a mix of some fun sequences, some very tedious ones, and a whole lot of ho-hum, leaving Dark Athena somewhere in the realm of just below average. There is a multiplayer aspect to the game, but it is pretty generic and makes you wish that the game had no multiplayer and that the developer instead spent those resources on improving the single player experience. With the great online experience provided by some of the shooters out there, do you really want to spend time with mundane versions of deathmatch and capture the flag?
So, where does that leave you? If you've never played Butcher Bay, then by all means check out the game. Its inclusion here makes this one purchase worthy. If you're a fan of Butcher Bay and are looking to revisit Riddick's world and extend the Butcher Bay experience … well, you may just want to hold on to those fond memories and let Riddick languish in Dark Athena.
In The End, This Game Hath Been Rated: 75%. Buy it to get Butcher Bay, but otherwise it's just another average shooter.