The Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena Hands-On Preview

The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay was a paradigm-shifter back on the original Xbox and PC. Not only was it a movie-licensed title that didn’t suck, it also managed to exceed the quality of the Riddick film that was released around the same time. Now five years later, developer Starbreeze is bringing Riddick back in a big way, bundling a remade Butcher Bay with an all new sequel campaign in The Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena. I went hands-on with this first-person brawler at NY Comic Con to see if Riddick’s return is worth all of this attention.

Butcher Bay puts you in the body of the dangerous Richard Riddick as he finds himself being checked into a maximum security prison chock full of armed guards and murderous convicts. As the game progresses, Riddick has to plan and execute his eventual escape through the bowels of the facility, battling police, fellow prisoners and deadly creatures along the way. It is during his journey that he is given “eyeshine,” an ability that allows him to see in the dark. Assault on Dark Athena, the new campaign, continues the story as Riddick escapes onto a spaceship full of mercenaries. Both campaigns are unlocked from the outset, and each is said to be of equal length.

The demo level that I played was from the Dark Athena campaign and had Riddick wandering around the storage area of the ship. The basic gameplay is nearly identical to the original in that you control Riddick through a first person perspective and have a number of hand to hand and blade attacks to use during close-range combat. You also have arsenal of stealth kills at your disposal, as your screen tints blue when you are cloaked by darkness and unable to be seen by enemies. You will have to use the shadows often to send those who stand in your way to a quick and grisly end because the officers usually have better weaponry than you do and head-on combat should only be attempted if no other option is available. The guns in the demo had fingerprint identification attached to them, so I was unable to simply grab the soldier’s weapons and open fire. Instead, I had to pick up the guard’s body and use his hand to fire the gun at oncoming soldiers while holding him as a human shield. Your movement is limited to walking backwards when utilizing this tactic, so you have to make sure that your back is clear before going gun-crazy.

I was also able to try out some of the adventuring aspects during my trial. Since Riddick is usually an unwelcome guest, you will have to make your way through vents and other unorthodox routes to get into restricted areas. The camera pulls back to a third-person perspective whenever you are climbing or hanging, which makes it much easier to judge your place in the environment. Riddick’s eyeshine comes into play here as well, as this night vision allows him to see alternative pathways to avoid threats and traverse through a room. Many of the puzzles in Dark Athena seem environmental from what I could gather. There was a locked door that could not be opened using anything I had. The solution was to trigger an alarm, which sends a guard towards my location. I had to kill him and use his fingerprints to open the sealed passageway, making his death both fun and useful!

In addition to the dual campaigns, Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena also includes several online multiplayer options. Besides classics like Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch and Capture the Flag, the game also includes a unique mode called Pitch Black that sets one player loose as Riddick and the other players around as armed guards in a map covered in darkness. As Riddick, you have to sneakily kill as many of the soldiers as possible using your eyeshine and close-range attacks while the guards have to stick together, work as a team and yell out the Furyan assassin’s location to each other to get him taken out. While I wasn’t able to try this mode, I did see some clips of it in action and it looks like an intense way to extend the Riddick experience beyond the two single player adventures.

Even though my demo was limited, it was clear to me that the gameplay of The Chronicles of Riddick is still as engaging as it ever was and my brief taste of the action left me craving more. The graphics have been overhauled nicely, the environments are moody and realistic, the character models have a great amount of detail, the new gameplay mechanics fit well within the established structure of Butcher Bay and Vin Diesel’s gravely voice is still supremely badass in the role he was born to play.

The Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena ships on April 7th on Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC and a demo is expected to be available for download in early March.

Author: JoeDelia