Let it be stated up front that we here at MyGaming are not Vin Diesel’s greatest fans. Let’s be honest, the man is no Edward Norton, and the thought of having to spend 15 hours in his virtual shoes had us feeling just slightly apprehensive. That stated, it wasn’t actually that bad.
In fact, The Chronicles of Riddick: Assault On Dark Athena is a really great game, despite Vin Diesel and his monotone voice and shiny skull.
The game ships with the original Riddick game, The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay which came out in 2004, but it’s been remastered. Basically, they’ve reworked the original using the updated engine. So in terms of value for money this game scores highly. With one purchase of The Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena, you get the latest Riddick game, and you get the remastered Escape from Butcher Bay, including the new multiplayer mode.
In our eyes, that’s a pretty sweet deal.
Fortunately you don’t have to see Mr Diesel too often; mostly you just see his hands in front of you, and his back when you’re on a ladder. You hear him quite frequently though; he seems to have an opinion on everything. The gameplay is one of the most appealing facets of the game, it reminded us of Half-Life 2 and it’s subsequent episodes, in that the narrative keeps changing your circumstances and you are forced to play in a different way. Whether it be blasting away prison guards and mercenaries with the fairly limited arsenal that you acquire, or sneaking around in the dark and snapping guards necks from behind, the game is constantly engaging and mixes it up just enough to keep one interested.
There are also the “Ulaks” in Dark Athena which are curved blade type devices that provide some spectacularly visual stealth kills. Then there is the variety of Mech Units which players can hop into and walk around, using their massive firepower to blow things up.
It’s not all action and explosions though; there are a variety of puzzle-like scenarios and plenty of time is spent crawling through shadowy air vents. We never got bored of the single player game and enjoyed it thoroughly right the way through.
Technically, TCoR: AoDA is superb. The visuals are incredibly easy on the eye. While they won’t produce very many “Wow!” moments, they are consistently pleasing. We especially liked the motion blur and the blood spatter that Riddick gets on his hands after bludgeoning some faceless mercenary to a pulp. The gritty look and feel of the game lends itself greatly to the player’s sense of emersion, an important part of any media experience of this nature. It feels like a dark, grit-filled, one-man-army, action block-buster. Actually, that’s exactly what it is, except it’s a game and not a film.
The sound on the whole was very good too. The voice acting is top notch from most of the characters, although Mr Diesel delivers some of the corniest lines we have ever heard. Whether that’s bad acting or bad writing we will leave up to you. At any rate, we can hardly count this against the game, because anybody even vaguely interested in a game starting Vin Diesel game probably knows what they are getting themselves into.
The general ambience and music of the game is very engaging and suits what’s happening on the screen nicely. In fact, sometimes it’s suits it a little too well, on a number of occasions one could alert the guards to your presence and then dive into the darkness and wait until the action music died down to confirm that the guards were no longer looking for you, which all seemed a little silly to be honest.
The AI is often pathetic, and AI Drones, idiot guards and mercenaries will all blunder about clumsily, and will forget having seen you if you hide out in the shadows for long enough. They will take cover behind boxes and columns and continually poke their heads around the corner in the exact same places so that you can take aim and just wait for them to step out again.
That said, the game was still fairly difficult. The bosses were tough, and many scenarios presented players with different ways to go about their business, some more difficult than others. We often had very little health and ammo, and then had to try clear a room full of men. You could decide to try shoot out the lights and get some kills in the dark, or you could go Rambo on them and rush them with guns blazing (this failed frequently). You could also use your stun gun to incapacitate some men while you dealt with others. It all provided for an enjoyable and challenging experience.
The multiplayer aspect of the game provides nothing all that new except for the Pitch Black mode, where one player plays as Mr Riddick and the rest play as soldiers searching for Riddick in the dark with nothing but flashlights attached to their guns, the better the gun, the worse the flashlight. This mode is awesome and will provide many hours of fun with friends at a LAN party or strangers on the internet, the other modes are your regular death matches ,capture the flag and team themed variations, which aren’t too bad. It reminded us a bit of Unreal Tournament, with less exciting weapons.
The Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena is a great package for its price. You get the awesome Escape from Butcher Bay, with all its new shininess and its frustrating false endings (it’s almost as bad as Prison Break in that respect). You get Assault on Dark Athena, which isn’t as good as Butcher Bay, but you do get the Ulaks and all the fun that they can provide.
If it’s your thing, you get Vin Diesel to control for a good 15 hours and listen to him deliver lines about how great he is and how he only works alone. And you get a pretty good multiplayer game that will entertain you for a while at least. We wish that more game developers would give you so much, and if The Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena influences nothing else, we sincerely hope that other game devs will notice what Starbreeze have done here and maybe give us a little bit more game in the future.
We want to see more great games done up with current technology. The Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena will not change or shake the industry in any way. It’s nothing completely groundbreaking or fresh, but it is a solid fun game that we don’t regret playing at all.
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