Previews

Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena

The Vin Diesel Orange Box

For Xbox 360 and PS3 owners who missed the critically acclaimed Escape from Butcher Bay, the new Chronicles of Riddick adventure could be this year's Orange Box - namely the best damn value action in a box you're going to get this side of the recession.

For your 40 quid you're getting an enhanced version of Escape from Butcher Bay with some of the visual tricks and weapons from the follow-up, Pitch Black and Prison Riot multiplayer modes (read more on those here) and all-new game Assault on Dark Athena, which visually is definitely not beefed-up Xbox tech.

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Dark Athena takes place immediately after Escape from Butcher Bay, with the even more spectacular-looking Riddick dusting himself off and stepping into the dark for more gun-less (mostly) scuffles with anyone who gets on his wick.

After a brief stealth tutorial through some suitably dark and damp tunnels, the story quickly moves to space, we're Riddick's ship is hijacked by the gigantic merc ship the Dark Athena.

This, as you can imagine from the name on the box, is were the majority of the action takes place. Dark, gritty almost cyberpunk architecture stretches through the gorgeously lit space corridors, with the occasional twisted and disturbing piece of technology used to turn men into remote control, gun-toting zombies.

This is not a nice place and the people inside aren't very pleasant either. With a knife, his trademark welding goggles and a freshly shaved noggin then, it's up to Riddick to escape the Borg-like Athena and help a few innocents along the way. Oh, and to frown as much as possible too.

Like the first game the opening sections of Dark Athena have you lurking about in the shadows, with only a knife and a headbut keeping you alive.

Riddick's stealth mechanics set a standard on the original Xbox and they still work really well; a tap of a button has the baldie hero sneaking in stealth mode, the health bar turning blue to indicate when you're hidden.

Coupled with Riddick's handy night-vision - activated by taking your goggles off with the d-pad - and the vest-wearing con is one hell of a killing machine in the dark. Like Butcher Bay sneaking behind enemies and pressing the right trigger initiates a swift finishing move, only this time they're more visceral and violent than ever before - Darkness players will know what to expect.

But unlike the knife crawl of Butcher Bay, in Dark Athena you quickly get your hands on a gun, which is where some of the sequel's most interesting early gameplay emerges. Where Butch limited you by making dropped guns DNA encoded, Athena has the drone weapons actually attached to their arms. So after downing a space zombie and leaving his limp lump on the metal floor, you can lift his corpse and fire the weapon attached to his arm.

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But of course there is a trade-off; whilst using a drone's firepower you can't actually move so a 'leap-frog' run between corpse to corpse, before dashing into the darkness to finish the left-overs in a firefight, quickly becomes a very good strategy.

While you will get hold of some boomsticks later on in the game - we're promised gameplay evolves drastically - the early sneaking, melee combat, drone-hijacking guerrilla gameplay is so much fun we almost don't want Riddick to become a predictable run 'n gun corridor shooter.

Sneaking isn't the only area Riddick excels in though. It's also winning awards in extremely bad language. Assault on Dark Athena has to be the only game we've ever heard drop 'the c word', and fs and motherf***ers are thrown around liberally.

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