Review by: Jonathan Hynes
Published: June 11, 2004
With video game adaptations of summer blockbusters such as Harry Potter, Shrek 2 and Van Helsing already on store shelves, the market is set to get even more crowded. Before Spider-Man 2 likely smashes records, we have The Chronicles of Riddick, an epic sci-fi adventure based on the character first introduced in 1999′s Pitch Black. While jaded gamers (such as myself) were undoubtedly expecting a sloppy, bug-riddled mess of a shooter, everyone should take a closer look at Riddick, as it would be a shame to dismiss such a unique title offhand.
Despite coinciding with the movie release of The Chronicles of Riddick, Escape From Butcher Bay is actually a prequel to both Pitch Black and the theatrical follow up. As the title suggests, our hero, Riddick, must escape the confines of Butcher Bay Prison, the toughest triple-max in the entire universe. It’s said to be impossible to flee its hellacious confines, for the premises are protected by the deadliest of creatures. Even surviving your first day will be a test; many inmates kill without hesitation and guards are merciless in their punishment of misdeeds.
As soon as you enter the prison grounds and begin to roam, you’ll notice that Riddick isn’t your standard first-person shooter. There are smatterings of adventure: you can chat with other inmates, learn about your surroundings and ascertain your next course of action. Certain persons will even present you with RPG-like assignments, such as killing another inmate in retaliation for actions taken toward them. You’re rewarded for your brutality, usually in the form of UD money, which can be exchanged for weapons, ammunition, armor or packs of smokes that unlock the game’s special features (such as concept art and movie sets).
Even with this hybrid gameplay, rest assured that throughout the course of the adventure, you’ll get the opportunity to amass a rather impressive collection of deadly firearms. The shotgun and chain gun are among the more powerful weapons, though the developers keep everything balanced with a series of wily safeguards. For example, in the early stages, the prison guards’ DNA encoded assault rifles are useless until you’re able to break into the mainframe and add your identity to the computer. Until then, you have to rely on your trusty shiv and your cunning to get through these stages, as they can gun you down in no time with their vastly superior firepower.