The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay Xbox
by Vivendi Universal Games
Developed by Starbreeze Studios
Released - Out Now
Price : £39.99
If you've read our reviews over the years you'll know that we don't think much of games that are based on movies. Usually they are poor, average at best, and try to rely on the popularity of the movie rather than trying to be a good game. It's not just our opinion either and there are plenty of examples of games based on movies that have got it horribly wrong (Minority Report was particularly bad and is still one of the worst games we've ever seen). There have been exceptions to this but at best the games are mediocre. However, at last, we finally have a game based on a movie that's an absolute classic. It stands as a classic Xbox game because it does a lot of things right and is a pleasure to play. I haven't even seen the movie yet and it's not even required because The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay is an unmissable experience that is easily the Xbox game of the year so far.
Well that was an emphatic introduction and whilst it's completely accurate to describe the game as excellent it's not very descriptive so we'd better go in to more detail. The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay puts you in the role of Riddick who at the beginning of the game is in pursuit of a yeti type monster. During a conversation he reminisces about his time in Butcher Bay. The action then switches to his transportation to Butcher Bay and plays from there. Right from the start the action is top notch and what I really like about the game is that it's not just an out and out FPS. There are times when you have to think to solve puzzles and times when objectives have to completed before you can progress. It's not just pick up a gun and go on an all guns blazing trail to the end credits. In fact stealth is required in some areas of the game if Riddick is to be successful in his attempt to escape. Riddick will have to use a variety of weapons but initially he'll only have his fists. Fist fighting isn't too bad though. Using the right trigger and left analogue stick it feels quite comfortable. Riddick can perform stealth attacks too and it's possible to attack from behind and break your victim's neck. Riddick can even tussle with those who have a weapon and sometimes you'll see the weapon go off and kill them which has to be a first in a game.
Escape from Butcher Bay has three difficulty modes and whilst most will prefer the default normal mode, the easy mode is a good option if you find the game tough going. The game uses a checkpoint save system and the checkpoints aren't too far apart. I never found myself in a situation where I had to backtrack too much, which avoids any frustration. Riddick has four health blocks at the beginning of the game. The way it works is that each block will diminish with damage taken but as long as a block is not completely eroded away it will replenish when you're out of harm's way. Health can be regained by using the NanoMed health units that you'll find on your path to escape. As you progress through the game you'll find several health stations that can upgrade your health and this will give you additional health blocks. You'll need this extra health too as the AI of your enemies is pretty impressive. Guards will attempt to find cover and will do their best to take you down. You'll also find various cigarette packs lying around the place. Picking these up will unlock such things as concept art which can be viewed from the main menu.
If I had to choose one word to describe Escape from Butcher Bay it would have to be atmospheric. As you would expect from a game based around trying to escape from a maximum security futuristic prison the atmosphere is brutal and gritty. Early on in the game, not long after Riddick arrives at Butcher Bay, Riddick needs the co-operation of some of the prisoners and they will only help him if he kills their tormentors. The language used can also be strong at times (hence the 16+ rating) but it's not over done for the sake of it, which is good to see. The look and feel of the game is just what you'd expect from a movie in that it is dramatic and action packed and a great deal of attention has been put into creating such a gripping atmosphere.
The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay could well be the finest looking Xbox, and indeed console game to date. Everything from the character animations to the look of the menus is absolutely first class. The quality of the lighting and textures is truly impressive (you might not notice immediately though as you'll be so focused on the game play). As you can tell from a quick look at the screenshots the game has a lot of dark moody looking areas that give an added sense of desperation to the atmosphere. Most of the areas in the game are confined spaces such as corridors etc., but this serves to heighten the action and make for some great shooting sequences. Mostly the game is played from a first person perspective but there are moments when you'll see Riddick from a third person perspective such as when he climbs over certain obstacles. For the most part the frame rate is constant too with dips rarely being seen.
One of the things that hurts the most is finding an excellent game and then finding out it's not deaf gamer friendly. All too often there's a Halo, Half-Life or Doom III that the rest of the world finds absolutely amazing whilst they are useless for deaf gamers. Thankfully though this is not the case with Escape from Butcher Bay. Never before have I seen so many subtitle options and I hope it's a sign of things to come. That said though the game is not completely subtitled. Dialogue subtitles, cutscene subtitles, casual subtitles and battle subtitles can be enabled (not all are by default though).There are some voices which are not subtitled such as enemies that are in the distance and the voices from Nanomed health units are not subtitled either but overall it's a fantastic effort by Starbreeze Studios. Of course sound captions would have been great too but it's a relief to see such a high profile game subtitled in such a fashion. Objectives and tasks can be accessed at any time by pressing the back button and all of this information is provided in text which is essential because it's possible to have numerous objectives at any one time.
The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay is simply a class act from top to bottom. Trying to find fault with the game is very hard to do but if I had to pick out a few things I would have to say it would have been great to have had audio captions and for the game to have been longer. There's about a dozen hours play time here which isn't particularly short for a game of this nature but when it's this good you want it to go on. However it never really falls down or goes flat in any part of the game and the developers have maintained such a high standard throughout the game that's very impressive to witness and is better than a game that had gone on for longer only to have been of lesser quality in parts. If you're looking for a rough, tough action game on Xbox you won't find any better than The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay.
Game Rating: 9.2/10
An absolute cracker of a game that is sure to be regarded as one of the best on the Xbox console. No longer can all games that are based on movies be classed as mediocre as Starbreeze have shown us what can be done with a movie licence with this first class example.
Great to see such an impressive range of subtitle options.