The year 2004 saw a rapid expansion in the Riddick story. From his first appearance in the much-underrated Pitch Black through to the anime adventures of Dark Fury, and to the blockbuster Chronicles of Riddick hitting cinemas, Vin Diesel has made every effort to tell the public the story of the only three-dimensional character he’s ever been blessed to play. The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay was a transmedia addition to this expansion.

Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay, a self-financed venture created by Vin Diesel’s own games studio, Tigon, did more then enough to push Vinny into my good books. A star willing to put their own money into groundbreaking games development as opposed to a rehash of their favourite game now starring themselves if something quite monumental in our beloved games industry. Where efforts by the Wu-Tang Clan and the Wachowski Brothers have failed, could Mr. Diesel succeed?

Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay screenshot

A Film Adaptation that’s… Good?

Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay was a welcome shock for the original Xbox. When first revealed it looked little more than a half-decent Half-Life rip-off. A £20-weekend jobby. But then, within a year the game had turned around. At the time of launch – 20 years ago today in North America – it came as one of best exclusives to grace the Xbox. The puzzle-based FPS had not only grown legs, but also learnt to walk. And, at times, even run. A quick glance at a few screenshots and a brief description of the game might have had you thinking: “Ahh… Halo, but a bit darker.” But then, at the time, what else did we have to compare it to?

Well, it’s nothing like Halo: Combat Evolved. It doesn’t need to be. The title plays as a series of events, each requiring you to solve a certain puzzle or reach a destination. The usual “blast everything in sight” rules don’t apply here. For much of the game there are huge bosses and corridor-based baddies. But the emphasis is definitely placed on finding the key. Or talking to the other inmates. Or reaching the infirmary before getting fried. This is also how the plot advances; each puzzle solved will allow a further part of the story to be played. Either using in-game characters or, occasionally, a cut-scene.

Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay screenshot

Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay Plays a Strong Game

The title’s controls are reliable, but the first-person combat didn’t quite live up to expectations. It’s brutal, bloody and certainly rewarding, but often a bit hit-and-miss. The default aiming controls are a little tetchy, so it’s generally best to tweak the sensitivity until you’re comfortable. Thankfully, these issues were largely resolved in the title’s semi-follow-up, Assault on Dark Athena. This then next-generation repackaging for PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 included a remastering of the original The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay, plus a short new campaign and a multiplayer mode. Bargain.

At the time of its release, the graphics of The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay were remarkable. The characters Riddick interacts with all have individual personality and the lighting effects on the guards’ armour rival even some of the Xbox 360’s finest work. Some of the environments can be relatively sparse, but the game is based in a prison. What little variety of textures could be used have been implemented to full effect. Never did I feel the effects of framerate drops, nor have to put up with the irritating pop-up that still plagues our consoles to this day.

Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay screenshot

Escaping Butcher Bay is Flawed Fun

The system of advancing within the game is not entirely original, but perfectly suits the effort the team have tried to achieve. The major downfall with the title is the lack of replay value. Being heavily story driven replaying occasional levels is not an option. The only effort to bring you back to the game is to find all the cigarette packets and unlock the special features, but even this will eventually become a tiring effort for the most die-hard Riddick fan. The lack of multiplayer was criticised at the time, hence the decision to develop this for Assault on Dark Athena. As such, the title feels a little empty when compared with the depths of its early 2000’s peers, such as Metroid Prime in Halo 2. Yet none of this can deter from what is a more than rewarding, brutal, first-person rampage fit for all FPS and Riddick fans.

Categories: Games