The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay Review

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Graphics: 9.0
Sound : 7.5
Gameplay : 8.5
Multiplayer : N/A
Overall : 8.5
Review by Kurt Knudsen
The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay is the latest title from Starbreeze Studios. They used an in-house engine that looks a lot like Doom 3. The levels are full of bump mapping and great looking textures. The models range from great to highly unrealistic. The game plays like a mix of Doom 3 and Splinter Cell.

Graphics:
As I said before the graphics look a lot like Doom 3. At first I thought they had used their engine but was told otherwise. Some of the models look great and very realistic. There are a few models that look like a plastic doll. The model’s animation is also pretty nice. You can see them interact with each other and the environments. The only real issue I have with the models is the shadowing on them. Most of the time you don’t really notice it but during cut scenes you can see the shadows just go haywire and really go in places they don’t belong. It could just be me but I’ve seen other complaints about it. It isn’t a big deal but it does take away from the immersion of the game when Riddick’s entire arm is cast by a shadow from his shoulder.

Along the prison wall you can see bump-mapping out the yin-yang. If you are fortunate enough to have a high-end video card your eyes will be very happy. The game just looks fantastic and very realistic for the most part. The rest of the textures for the ground and various other objects are well done. They do look realistic on higher settings but even on the lower end of the spectrum they still look good.

The weapon models look great. You get a various amount of weapons to play with ranging from melee to a shotgun and more. Whenever you look down you can see your feet and arms and hands. So you are no longer a floating blob like in most FPS games. When you fire the weapons you get the usual animation and such, nothing spectacular here.

The levels that I’ve played were pretty much your standard corridor type. You go from one room to the next killing your opponents ala Doom 3. There is also a Doom 3’ish level under the prison. I lost a lot of interest in this part of the game because it was so generic. There are 'scary’ monsters under there but due to the lack of decent music and ambient noises the thrill was lost. It turned out to be a maze with a time limit. The good thing is that the flashlight is mounted to the guns so you don’t have to switch back and forth. The lighting effects from the light rival Doom 3’s.

Overall the graphics are great. I can see a lot of companies choosing this engine for their game. It has much better performance than Doom 3’s with all the great visuals. The game runs great all across the board so even people with lower end computers can enjoy the game. If there ever was an engine to compete with Doom 3 this is it.

Audio:
The voice acting ranges from good to pitiful. Vin Diesel does his part in this game and his acting skills, or lack thereof, shine through. Such emotion, such charisma, such enthusiasm is not part of Diesel’s voice acting. It’s dull and dreadful for the most part. Other characters do have decent voice acting and do a great job in acting out their characters. But Diesel really kills this department, it’s beyond horrible. He looks the part, he sounds the part, he just can’t act the part.

The music in the game is mainly the hard-core rock type. In the scary part of the game the rock music still continues when it should have been something a bit more suspenseful. If the developers chose a different type of music for that scene it would have been scary indeed.

The sound effects sound great, with very realistic weapon sound effects. This is a trend we see a lot these days. Developers are finally starting to realize that a shotgun that sounds like a peashooter kills the game. You can hear the shivs dig into the skin when you stab someone with them. You can also hear the enemy’s brain splatter on the ground as you blow their head off, these are nice little touches that add to the immersivness factor in the game.

Gameplay:
Well the game is fun indeed. It really is a diamond in the rough. A lot of companies come out with great games and fall short in the gameplay department. While I didn’t find the game nearly as fun as Half Life 2 or Far Cry it does have its moments. The whole break out of prison scene is kind of cool. Also it has some very tense battles with opponents.

As I said before the game is a hybrid of a lot of different games. It has elements of Doom 3 and Splinter Cell mixed in. There are times when stealth is better than flat out running and gunning. There are times when you need to sneak around and take your opponent out silently and hide their body. As Vin Diesel drably says, 'The dark is good.’

You start out with nothing and your first main objective is to get a better weapon. There are other side objectives but for the real fun to begin you need a gun. Unfortunately for you the guns are DNA encoded and you need to enter your DNA into the database. You traverse through the prison doing small quests at first to gain knowledge. After that you begin your quest to break out of the prison. With your DNA in the system you can access all of the guard’s weapons and more.

On your way to get your DNA entered you meet a lot of interesting people. This beginning is also a small tutorial built into the game. It has small help screens to tell you what to do. You can check your objectives at anytime in the inventory menu. You also learn about your stealth moves and various other combos. You can approach your enemy and grab his weapon and blow his head off. You can also perform different kinds of melee moves by moving around and punching at the same time. This is nothing really new but it does add to the gameplay and its neatness factor.

The game has its moments and they don’t really last because the game is a bit short. It can be completed in less than 10 hours. This isn’t a horribly bad thing considering you could beat Max Payne in about 4 hours. Half Life 2 took some people 15-20 hours and Doom 3 was around that too. It is up to you if you want to rush through each zone and get past all the guards or take your time and sneak by.

Finally I would like to say the game is great. It does provide for an entertaining bit of gameplay. It has great graphics and decent music. While the voice acting is lackluster it does provide for some good dialog. The gameplay has elements to keep a lot of gamers happy as well. This really was a game that came out of nowhere. I didn’t hear anything about it. I didn’t know of any hype or advertising on it. It just showed up and blew a lot of gamers away.

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