The Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena

The Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena Review for Xbox 360

On: Xbox 360PS3PC

Remake of the hit Xbox and PC FPS based around the successful Riddick franchise.

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8Out of 10
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When presented with the choice of two games, 2004's Escape from Butcher Bay and 2009's Assault on Dark Athena, only one thing ran through our mind: how has it been five years since Riddick dazzled on the Xbox? At the time Starbreeze's first-person action game was a technical marvel, doing things with the Xbox that didn't seem possible. It also proved to be a highly entertaining game that managed to mix stealth, gun-play and melee combat more successfully than any game in recent memory. Bringing it and a full-length follow-up to next-gen platforms and PC in the shape of The Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena seemed like a very good idea, and we haven't been disappointed.

The two games act as prequels to the surprisingly good movie Pitch Black, once again starring Hollywood hard man Vin Diesel as Riddick. As the titles of the games suggest, Escape from Butcher Bay sees you trying to get out of the high security prison, whereas Assault on Dark Athena picks up where that left off and tasks you with getting off a - you guessed it - high security space ship. The two games share many gameplay similarities, but Dark Athena probably has a slight edge in terms of action, if not in overall quality.

The on screen HUD is minimal with only a health bar (which uses a recharge mechanism similar to that seen in almost every FPS released since Halo) appearing on screen. Lose a block of health completely and you'll only get this back at health stations, but get to cover while that block is still visible and it'll replenish while you're stood still. It's a neat system that mixes the modern approach with a more old-school health pack system.

Riddick has a very well implemented hand-to-hand combat system that the entire game is built around - Dark Athena isn't quite so reliant on fists, but the option to go in for up close and personal kills is still there and by far the most satisfying option. Punches are thrown and blocks are made with ease, making hand-to-hand combat more than just a gimmick plastered on the back of the box. Good timing can result in some impressive combos and you can pull off some wonderfully brutal disarm manoeuvres - Riddick isn't against brutally stabbing someone in the armpit if you time a counter well enough.

Using weapons is equally as satisfying and the controls can be tweaked extensively so they're to your liking. By default targeting zones are forgiving to the player, with a hefty auto aim assist in place, but seeing as gun-play isn't the focus of the game this works rather well. While the enemy AI isn't quite as impressive as it was in 2004 (even with some improvements) they put up a good fight on all but the easiest difficulty setting. Dark Athena introduces a stun gun fairly early on, which freezes enemies on the spot just long enough for you to go in and stab a knife through their skull, but given the more frequent enemy heavy situations it was ultimately a wise decision.

The drones make for a nice change

The drones make for a nice change

Anyone familiar with the Film Pitch Black will know that Riddick has the ability to see in the dark and that ability plays a major part in the game, even though you don't start Escape from Butcher Bay with it - seeing as Dark Athena follows on from Butcher Bay your Eye Shine ability is available from the start there. After an extremely unnerving section, battling dwellers in some underground tunnels, you learn how Riddick got his special ability and it wasn't by eating a lot of carrots. Switching into this night vision mode makes Riddick's eyes extremely sensitive, meaning it's nearly impossible to see anything if there is more than ambient lighting in the area. This vision mode looks extremely cool too, but must be used in the right situations so you don't hamper your vision unnecessarily.

Both games are built around Riddick being a highly trained killer, able to skulk around in the shadows, so tight stealth mechanics were a must. Thankfully the system developed for Butcher Bay returns and seems as fresh now as it was back then. Crouching will put you in stealth mode, with the screen turning blue and distorting slightly when you're hidden from view. Riddick loves to sneak up on people and break their necks, stab them with a hairpin or slice them up with two razor sharp blades, but killing a guard in the patrol path of another isn't a wise move. The dead body will alert him and the alarm will be raised, creating a very difficult situation for Riddick that will more often than not end in death or an unwanted fire-fight. Riddick can drag bodies around and place them in dark corners of rooms or in unused passageways in order to remain undetected, and this mechanic comes into play frequently during Dark Athena's many light puzzle sections.

Ghost Drones make for a new enemy for Riddick to face while skulking around the dimly lit corridors of the Dark Athena. While the remote controlled soldiers are pretty easy prey, they also double as mobile cover (albeit cover that can only move backwards) and weapons. By grabbing a downed drone you're able to use its weapon to take down any surrounding enemies and to break glass (a barrier that frequently blocks your path to new areas). Riddick can also take control of these drones during the Dark Athena campaign, complete with a slightly overhauled HUD.

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Crowy's Avatar

Crowy

What would Riddick do?

Beat both parts of the game this weekend.

The elevator part they mentioned in the review was a pain. After dying once, I reevaluated the situation and thought what would Riddick do. Not enter into an unnecessary firefight.

So, on the second load, I just road the elevator down and didn't shoot. Free ride, no headache, but saw a bounty card I missed.

Game (didn't try multiplayer) was good for a weekend. Bunch of little quirks that hamper the experience. Great if you like the Riddick universe. I grade it a B.
Posted 15:41 on 13 April 2009
Waldron's Avatar

Waldron

I loved Butchers Bay. I shall be getting this as its backed with a good review. The whole sneaking around for Riddick is crucial to get right, and his intensive hand to hand combat = his manoeuvres.

El Dev, if the game got rated a 8 it got rated as an 8. Its the reviewer decision and based on his opinion about the game. Deal with it, and yes everybody is en-titled to have there say. But no, nothing fishy is going on ;)
Posted 11:20 on 08 April 2009
pblive's Avatar

pblive

Good review Tom. I may pick this up at some point.
Posted 21:22 on 07 April 2009
Gordo01's Avatar

Gordo01

this game has already proved on original xbox its great. i never got to play it all the way so to just get a next gen butcher bay great but now were getting even more i cant wait for it
Posted 20:22 on 07 April 2009
K3RT's Avatar

K3RT

I agree the first one was very good will probly get this one.
Posted 18:05 on 07 April 2009
thpcplayer's Avatar

thpcplayer

liked first one very much will be getting this without any kind of doubts
Posted 17:28 on 07 April 2009
El-Dev's Avatar

El-Dev

The same reviewer as The Wheelman gives another Vin Diesel game an 8, something fishy goin on here.
Posted 15:22 on 07 April 2009
jakeistheman's Avatar

jakeistheman

looks good the infinite falling to your death thing sounds pretty funny if i get this game im guna try to do that.
Posted 14:58 on 07 April 2009

Game Stats

The Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena
8
Out of 10
The Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena
  • Superb mix of stealth and action
  • Presentation is excellent
  • A few odd design decisions
  • Some glitches and bugs
Agree? Disagree? Get Involved!
Release Date: 24/03/2009
Platforms: Xbox 360 , PS3 , PC
Developer: Starbreeze
Publisher: Atari
Genre: First Person Shooter
No. Players: 1 + Online
Rating: BBFC 15
Site Rank: 3,664 13
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