Reviewed by Adam McCabe
Available for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC
Developed and Published by Atari Games
Developer Starbreeze Studios and Atari have finally released the long-awaited sequel to the modern classic Escape From Butcher Bay with The Chronicles of Riddick: Assault On Dark Athena and this 2009 Riddick release comes packed to the brim with enough content to fill a black hole!
Does it live up to the hype … or would you rather have more fun frantically flipping a light-switch on and off while shooting spitballs at your TV? Well I’m about to tell ya!
Valve combined their greatest games to create The Orange Box a while back and for a long time it was one of the best deals in gaming history. Seemingly as a means to give them a run for their money Atari has crammed enough content into Dark Athena to knight this one The Black Box. With this package we not only get a sequel to the 2004 XBox blockbuster, additionally there is a completely revamped version of the original Escape From Butcher Bay. If that isn’t enough, it also comes with an above average multi-player mode that, while not treading any new ground, is a great addition to an already complete package.
Butcher Bay remains the same stellar stealth-fest it always was. While lip-syncing issues from the XBox generation still remain, the complete graphical overhaul is a welcome (and beautiful) change. Graphically it still manages to school most of the next-gen titles on the market. I noticed a few visual hitches in the new adaptation, such as choppy-looking shadows and sometimes awkward enemy AI, but once again, this is an eight-hour bonus feature. The fact that this game is even included in this Black Box is more than enough to make up for a few forgivable quirks.
Now for the new stuff: Assault on Dark Athena takes place right after the first game. Instead of being a prisoner, you’re a stowaway trying to out-smart the merciless crew of the predatory Merc-ship, Dark Athena. And merciless they are! The AI seems to have been ramped up significantly from the previous entry, and the new content just feels more at-home in the new engine. Cut scenes are more cinematic, lips match the speech, and the gameplay seems to give the player a little more freedom over their actions. This is done in the same way Metal Gear Solid 4 gave gamers the option to either go each mission in stealth, or jump into the fray, unloading rounds of bullets into unsuspecting drones. This new approach to a classic twist on first-person gameplay is a breath of fresh air, and a welcome change.
The multi-player mode is pretty standard, but it’s still a great addition. My favorite option had to be the Pitch Black Mode in which a bunch of guys are brainless Mercs, and one lucky dude is Riddick.
All the lights are out. Ready? GO. Seriously … that’s it. There really is nothing like sneaking up on a punk and breaking his neck while all his squad buddies freak out and start shooting frantically into the darkness in which you’re hiding. On the other side of things, it’s really creepy if you’re inching along a hallway with your buddy, and suddenly … he’s gone. You’re alone. Riddick is in there somewhere, and you know you’re about to eat blade.
What about replay value? This really depends on how engaged you are by the multi-player and how quickly you’re willing to return to the stories. There are always new strategies in hunting down your prey, so you probably wont mind coming back every now and then to kick a few more asses.
While Assault On Dark Athena is a complete package and an insta-buy for any gamer, it still has a few awkward scripting moments and a select number of graphical hiccups that hold it back from absolute greatness.
If Starbreeze had just spend a little more time tweaking these nuances, Riddick would be an unstoppable force. I guess it will just have to settle for really awesome. Aw shucks.
4 1/2 out of 5
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