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The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay

When The Chronicles of Riddick was released in theaters a few summers ago it had a tame PG-13 rating. The justification for this is that then more people would be able see the movie and help recoup the massive budget. This logic didn’t work out too well since the film was a box office bust. The game, which serves as a prequel to the franchise, doesn’t take the soft and wussy route that the movie took. There’s neck-snapping, throat-cutting, brutal hand-to-hand combat, and violence galore. As the badass hero, Riddick, witnesses a decapitation by a grotesque alien, all he can say is “Beautiful.”

I said the exact same thing when I saw how one of the best Xbox games manages to look and play on the PC.

The obnoxious fuzziness that plagued the Xbox version of Escape from Butcher Bay is gone. Everything looks cleaner and clearer, from Riddick’s trademark goggles to the bullet holes placed in unsuspecting enemies. Thanks to the much higher resolution (assuming you have a decent PC to run it), the gritty environments manage to be even more atmospheric. The graffiti and blood stains occupying the prison of Butcher Bay truly draw the player into a richly developed world.

You seein’ what I’m seein’?

Most of the dark shadows are also quite stunning (aside from Riddick’s ridiculous backpedaling animation). The visual appeal of these abundant shadows is vital to gameplay. Early in the game, Riddick undergoes surgery to obtain eyes that grant him night vision. By shooting out the lights, he can stalk his victims as if they were prey. Crouching and slowly approaching a prison guard causes a throbbing heartbeat sound effect to play that lasts until the guard is eliminating, or worse, Riddick is spotted. This is just one of many touches that make Escape from Butcher Bay one of the few truly cinematic experiences in gaming. Excellent voice acting from Vin Diesel and other others help, as does the intense score.

One of the few problems with this game, dating back to the Xbox version, was the disappointing short length. Fortunately, the PC version partially remedies this by seamlessly integrating a whole new level, and what a level it is! While the pace in the middle portion of the game slows down a bit due to many RPG-like quests and a lack of powerful weaponry, this stage provides a welcome kick in the pants. Riddick hijacks a mech and wreaks havoc on the prison guards by shooting everything in sight and swatting away people who get too close. The flailing bodies are quite impressive due to the impressive physics engine. Although this stage over quickly (perhaps 15 or so minutes), it’s still a welcome experience.

I see dead people…

Another excellent edition is the commentary mode. After beating the game, this groundbreaking mode is unlocked. Scattered throughout the game are icons that play bits of commentary. The well-spoken developers justify some decisions, laugh at spots where they point out design errors, and discuss everything from the shotguns to Xzibit’s voice acting . Never before has there been such insight into the game design process, and I can only hope that this mode becomes the standard for games in the future.

With all the lackluster console-to-PC ports in existence, The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay absolutely towers over the competition. The fascinating commentary mode and bonus level improve what was already a stellar game. Hopefully, with more games like this, those tired introductions to reviews that complain about movie-based games will come to an end. That would be a most blessed day.

For a more in-depth look at this fine game, check out our Xbox review.

10 out of 10

The author of this fine article

is a Senior Staff Writer at Thunderbolt, having joined in February 2003. Get in touch on Twitter @akarge.

Gentle persuasion

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