Fortunately, as well as the hand-to-hand combat, you get your mitts on some serious hardware including a lethal shotgun and a hilarious tranquiliser gun, that zaps foes and enables you to finish off helpless twitching victims by stomping down hard on their heads with a well-placed boot.
Graphically, Escape From Butcher Bay uses similar technology to Doom 3 - 'normal mapping' - a technique where you can get detailed lighting and shading on characters and environments using low-polygon models. In practice, this means the game looks gorgeous but it can also zip along at a fast frame-rate.
The dirty, dusty and corroding prison environments have been superbly realised, containing rusting metal wall panels, scrawled offensive graffiti (my personal favourite is 'guard your dick'), damp stone walls, buzzing electrified fences, decaying strip lighting, gleaming cryo pyramids and ominous rotating fans.
The atmospheric real-time lighting is really something special and as well as looking rather spiffing, it's used to great effect in the gameplay, gifting Riddick moments when he can take advantage of his Furyan powers. Riddick and other characters also cast shadows on walls and floors, adding to your immersion into a solid and believable 3D environment.
Say It Again
Motion-captured animation for the cut-scenes and third-person sequences is also excellent. What's more, the facial animation of the characters, especially Riddick, is top-notch - especially when combined with the smart, understated vocal performances from Vin Diesel and the cast.
A fully-integrated physics engine means that as well as ragdoll bodies, objects in the environment, such as grates, clatter satisfying to the floor when kicked out. Other inspired touches include bullet holes that glow red hot on metal surfaces, faces of enemies that visibly get splashed with blood, and flickering flares that light up dark corners. Even the game's menu interface is cool, featuring a series of small rotating 3D metal blocks that shift and slot into place as you browse the options on offer.
The Chronicles Of Riddick: Escape From Butcher Bay (Developer's Cut) is a hugely enjoyable cinematic action-adventure with sublime pacing, impressive graphics, sound and music, dark humour and a seamless mix of gameplay styles. It's stuffed with constant surprises and great scripted and non-scripted moments. We particularly like the repetitive exercise scene in the cryo chamber; pulling off a kill by dropping down onto an enemy from a rail; pushing a poor unsuspecting 'screw' into a rock crusher and Riddick's stylish comedy put-downs.
I've referred to a few criticisms throughout the review - the sometimes-confusing level structure, the annoying checkpoint loading - but there are a few other concerns. There's no multiplayer (see 'Missed Opportunity', p64), enemies sometimes spawn from nowhere, and the game is very short, clocking in at around
ten hours. You can collect 'smokes' that unlock easter eggs (see 'Art For Art's Sake', left), and there are a few extra bonus levels and other distractions in this 'Developer's Cut', but they don't expand the length of the game by much at all.
However, in popular entertainment, the mantra is always 'leave them wanting more', so maybe Starbreeze and Tigon Studios are continuing with that proud tradition? In any case, for the brief stretch you spend with Riddick in the galaxy's most notorious correction facility, Escape From Butcher Bay will keep you imprisoned in your house and chained to your
PC from start to finish.
- Superb mix of different game styles
- Brutal hand-to-hand combat
- Looks and sounds fantastic
- 'Eye Shine' ability rocks
- No online play
- Sometimes confusing level design