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Chronicles of Riddick

Wondering what all that Xbox fuss was about? Wonder no more...

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Still, it's a minor quibble, possibly due to Riddick's console legacy and there are certainly plenty of other ways to get your kicks, not least of which is the intriguing unarmed combat system. Butcher Bay treats hand to hand combat about as tastefully as a sponsored seal-clubbing party. Nipping up behind someone and snapping their neck, wrestling a gun up under a guard's chin or just pummeling away with hooks and jabs is the meat and drink of the game - and that's certainly no bad thing if you're as warped as we are. The developers have obviously put a lot of time and effort into this aspect of the game and although it's not utterly convincing, it is certainly satisfying and amusing in a sick and twisted way.

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Later in the game you'll pick up everything from shivs (the cons' improvised knives), to clubs, pistols and even assault rifles with which to carve up enemies both human and er ..not so. But you'll still keep coming back to situations where only Riddick's fists can talk fast enough, and where you need to make good use of Riddick's Purple Bendy Vision TM, his see-in-the dark eyes.

Be warned though, the latter are not recommended if you have a hangover or are on medication which rules us out most of the time.

Nobody's bitch
In general, movie licenses don't have the best of reputations amongst gamers. With a few notable exceptions, they're often easily dismissed as merchandised tat, knocked out in double quick time to capitalize on a brief period of popularity before the next five-minute Hollywood wonder.

However fortunately The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape From Butcher Bay looks like being one of those welcome exceptions which bucks the trend. Although it's not ground-breaking on the PC as it was on the Xbox and does have the odd minor flaw, it should certainly become a slick and classy addition to the genre. You don't have to be a fan of Vin Diesel or Pitch Black, and it's certainly not to be relegated to the 'not bad for a movie licence' bin.

For starters, there are any number of genuinely tense and frightening sequences. The levels are large, interesting and superbly lit, shadowed and rendered with a ton of detail. The same goes for the character models. Given a decent video card, the Starbreeze graphics engine does the business both in action and in the atmospheric cut scenes. The only minor complaint here concerns the third-person actions for climbing crates and so forth, which are unnecessary at best and spectacularly irritating if you happen to want to climb up a ladder in the middle of a huge firefight.

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The most common criticism of the Xbox version was that it was too short and didn't quite provide enough bang for your buck, so to that end the developers have introduced two new areas as part of the 'Directors Cut' package, with a level design that is pretty much roam at will. While this is all good, our judgment is that this may not be quite enough to satisfy more discriminating PC players' palettes.

Still, better short and sweet, than long and lonely - to paraphrase one of Riddick's unfortunate cellmates.

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