Xbox 360 Review: The Chronicles of Riddick – Dark Athena

Riddick returns to the consoles, but has the wait been worth it?

The Chronicles of Riddick series of games takes the player deeper into the universe of Universal Pictures’ films The Chronicles of Riddick and cult classic Pitch Black, which first introduced Vin Diesel as enigmatic anti-hero Riddick. In The Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena the player takes the role of Riddick using stealth and action to overcome the merciless crew of the predatory Merc-ship Dark Athena which awaits its prey in the dark reaches of space. Cheating death through a series of spectacular battles and events, Riddick will fight for his life amid a storm of malevolence and horror.
Most of you will know that I was a late adopter to the Xbox, so I missed out on Escape from Butcher Bay and regretted it. Assault on Dark Athena gave me a chance to see the original game with today’s visuals, but the same gameplay. While Dark Athena’s campaign is separate and a bit different, it’s clear that Escape from Butcher Bay is still the better game, even if it is starting to show its age.

Escape from Butcher Bay has received a makeover and it looks great. The gameplay remains unchanged, but it’s different from most FPS’ in the way it starts and the way it handles combat. When the game begins, you don’t have any weapons apart from your fists and darkness is your only friend. Riddick can enable his special vision to sneak in the dark and remain hidden; you can also drag bodies into the dark so nobody can find them. It’s rare to see stealth in FPS’ today, so it’s a welcome addition.

FPS controls are the same as in most games, but hand-to-hand combat is all down to timing. I remember my first fight against Rust, he completely owned me on Normal difficulty. It all comes down to blocking and then counterattack, it’s hard and even if you win the fight but die soon after, you have to do the fight all over again. That annoyed me a lot since I already earned the achievement for it…speaking of achievements, this game will push you quite far to the edge of madness…

The prison feel of Butcher Bay fits well and there are a few side-quests to be found, as well as collectable cigarette packs to hunt. While, Athena’s areas feel more recycled and less impressive overall. I wanted to be wowed by Athena, but instead I was more impressed with a game that is 5 years old and this is my first time with it.
Assault on Dark Athena isn’t a bad game either, it just lacks the edge that EFBB has and since the original came out a few years ago, you would think that a newer version would be the superior one, not the other way around. It’s a pity and it seems like a wasted opportunity, the sad bit being that if the game didn’t contain a remake of Escape from Butcher Bay, then the final score would be pretty low as it offers nothing new to the table and lives in the shadow of its predecessor.

There are multiplayer modes and some are okay, the best mode to be found is Pitch Black where one character is Riddick and the rest are trying to hunt him down. The rest is standard fair, which is ultimately disappointing. The AI in the games isn’t great, but they can still be quite challenging to defeat. In fairness, Athena feels more like Riddick 1.5 instead of 2.0, but it doesn’t mean that it isn’t a good game; it just can’t live upto the greatness that is Butcher Bay. Voice-work is almost movie-quality and near as perfect as you can get. The music is also fairly good and fits the atmosphere well.

The Verdict

Overall, The Chronicles of Riddick: Dark Athena is a top quality package. Escape from Butcher Bay is still a classic, and while Athena is disappointing…it’s still a good campaign. Things like multiplayer and AI do bring the game down somewhat, but I managed to look past that and thoroughly enjoyed the game from start to finish. I’m sure you will too.