Video game adaptations of movies have a long and glorious history of being astoundingly terrible. Most are quickly produced for the sole purpose of riding a hype wave on a movie’s release.
Thankfully, “The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay” is not one of them. It not only manages to escape the trend, but also establishes itself as one of the best first-person shooters on the X-Box today.
With the movies, the animated feature “Dark Fury,” and the game, there’s a cult following developing around this story. “Butcher Bay” tells the story of Riddick’s exploits before “Pitch Black,” making the game worth playing just to unravel more of the mythos built up around Riddick’s character.
Within a few seconds of playing, it’s easy to see, the game is absolutely gorgeous. The lighting and textures combine to create the dank, dark and dingy atmosphere that makes the game so involving. The characters can look downright spooky as well. Sometimes it’s easy to fool your eyes into thinking Vin Diesel is on screen instead of a CG model.
All the graphics in the world can’t make a game fun, however. The controls really allow the player to feel like the efficient killing machine Riddick is. Hiding in the shadows is simple. When Riddick is hidden the screen will take on a blue tint. It’s easy to sneak behind a guard (or whoever happens to be in your way) and snap their neck, stab them to death, club them out; any variety of gruesomely satisfying takedowns.
Speaking of gruesome, this game is rated M (17 and up), and rightly so. This is not a game for kids. There’s plenty of guilty satisfying violence to be had. However, the game manages to be violent without being gratuitous.
For instance, I was fighting an inmate with a shiv. He took a swing at me, and Riddick blocked the attack and buried the shiv in the inmate’s eye, resulting in a spout of blood and a scream of pain. Everyone in the room, including me, gave a whoop to that one.
Hand-to-hand and knife fighting in the game is very well done. By pressing various directions on the control stick while attacking, Riddick can string together punches for a flurry of attacks. It’s one of the few games that stabbing is arguably more fun than shooting.
So, the game looks great and plays well, but the clincher is that the story keeps the game moving all the time. In a lot of shooters, the game basically consists of running down hallway after hallway shooting bad guy after bad guy. Riddick puts the player in different situations, constantly changing the direction of play, and keeping the game from getting stale. It’s obvious a lot of effort went into the pacing of the game.
“Butcher Bay” delivers an enjoyable experience on all fronts: graphics, story, music, and raw gameplay are all tight and above all – extremely fun. Whether or not you are a fan of the growing Riddick story or just a gamer looking for a good game – Butcher Bay should not be missed.