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4.0 out of 5 stars Escape from Butcher Bay (Xbox), 27 April 2014
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This review is from: The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay (Xbox) (Video Game)
Whereby other movie adaptions are content to merely regurgitate events players are already familiar with, Escape From Butcher Bay dares to be different by taking us back to the birth of a legend. For long before the hellish events of Pitch Black, there was another similarly bleak world of darkness waiting to piss off everyone's favorite anti-hero. Having been finally run to ground by the bounty hunter Johns, Riddick was to be incarcerated in one of the galaxy's most notorious maximum security prisons.

The problem with being such a badass however is that authority tends to really piss you off. And it's with little left in the way of patience that Riddick begins to organize a breakout of soon to be mythical proportions. As far as stories go it may be fairly simple, but when viewed as a part of the overall Riddick legacy, Escape From Butcher Bay serves its role as a franchise primer quite nicely. It shines a little light on our hero's mysterious past and then gives players reason enough to want to stick a shiv into everyone within arms reach.

It's with all the right motivations in place that players will look to take their first tentative steps out into the nightmare world that awaits them. And what shocking first steps they are! Within minutes of starting a new game, players will find themselves propositioned by a foul mouthed "woman", coerced into executing another inmate, and generally asked to defecate upon the all too fragile balance of egos that preserves Butcher Bay's facade of calm. Honestly speaking, if it weren't for the fact that Riddick's reputation for violence had preceded him, the oppressive atmosphere of fear and dread may have become all too intimidating to bear. From the blood encrusted walls to the merciless prison guards that gun down hapless inmates rather than look at them, Escape from Butcher Bay is a game that is set to shock as much as entertain. Mark my words, this is a game that's best played once the kiddies have gone to bed.

If players are going to stand a chance of escaping the terror and indignities of slam-life, then they'd best be incredibly mindful of those around them. Other inmates, guards, droids and of course... the obligatory hordes of angry mutants will all ensure that life inside Butcher Bay is as it should be, a living breathing hell. And though there's certainly a healthy mix of canon fodder to go around, Riddick's developers, Starbreeze, seem to have been mysteriously selective when it came to handing out the all important AI. While the many guards and inmates may react realistically and believably to the player's actions, the same sadly cannot be said of the other non human characters. Displaying all the intelligence of a freshly bloodied giblet, mutants have a bad habit of simply charging the player regardless of how many rounds of super heated lead you throw in their general direction. Sure, such blindly aggressive behavior may serve to top up the player's adrenaline levels, but in comparison to the smart moves displayed by the other NPCs it ultimately seems rather weak and out of place. What were they thinking?

Even still, when it comes to dishing out the pain, Riddick is a hands down thumbs up winner. By combining the best elements of Namco's abortive first person fighter, Breakdown, with a dash of simple yet effective stealth action and a side order of intense gun play, Starbreeze have thoughtfully provided players with a homicide for every occasion. And the fact that much of this can also be done in the dark thanks to Riddick's patented Eye-Shine ability only makes the deal that much sweeter. Whether you find yourself creeping up behind a guard in order to break his neck or have simply decided to bloody up his face a little with a series of well timed punches, the satisfaction garnered from such acts of extreme violence is well beyond first class. Look on in delight as players land a right hook on a guard's jaw, only to have the head snap back and into position for a timely follow up with the left. Carry through with an upper cut and you'll send his body crashing into a nearby wall in a perfectly fluid rag doll-like fashion *insert manly roar here*.

In fact, so effortless and natural in the one on one combat that Starbreeze have wisely seen fit to use it as the cornerstone of the entire Riddick experience. As such, the number of guns available to players throughout the game is extremely limited. Rather than detracting from the overall experience however, this decision makes Riddick that much more enjoyable as the action always comes across as being fresh and unique. When you do manage to get your hands on a firearm however, be prepared for some exceptionally macho slug throwing action.

Feel the weight of the gun hanging heavily in your hands. Adjust instinctively to its shoulder jarring recoil action. Marvel at the usefulness of the Halo style ammunition counters. Such polish, such unchained violence, such a short game! Sure, with little more than 8 hours from beginning to end Riddick could be called brief, but then again so what? At least those 8 hours have been jam packed with an outstanding number of thrilling action sequences and entertaining side quests. You'll slaughter some guards, gamble a little money, kill some more, participate in a fighting tournament and then cap it all off with a few dead peeps before dinner. Variety such as this is always a good thing.

Through it all, Riddick's visual appeal is without a doubt second to none. Though the term "Best Graphics Ever" has been previously brandished about like a shiv during rec-break, Riddick actually manages to live up to this extraordinary claim by providing players with one of the most believable game environments ever seen. From the rich high resolution textures to the smooth as silk character animations and magnificent model designs, players will find themselves time and time again on the receiving end of Starbreeze's dedication to quality and excellence. If I were to nit-pick though I would have to direct your attention to the sporadic aliasing that could conceivably bring players crashing back to earth. Rather than worrying about this single solitary blemish however, players would do well to distract themselves with Riddick's sublime audioscape. The Dolby Digital support shown will immerse you in a deep cinema-like experience while the professional voice acting keeps it all sounding wonderfully realistic and 100% corn-free. And the fact that Vin Diesel himself lends his distinctive vocal skills to the action only serves to ensure that the overall authenticity of the Escape from Butcher Bay experience cannot be questioned.

The interesting thing about Escape from Butcher Bay is that in the end it has the potential to turn non-believers into screaming Riddick fans. Let go of the fact that you dislike Vin Diesel. Cut yourself free from any personal bias and move past Vinny's perfectly replicated in-game likeness. Having done so you will then, and only then, be in a position to see that beneath the superficial lies a game worthy of your attention.

For Escape from Butcher Bay's white hot action has been delivered with a natural element of cool so rarely seen in video games today. And though it may not have actually dislodged Halo from its position as the King of the genre, it has none-the-less done a mighty fine job of putting the fear of God into the Master Chief & Co. Whether you find yourself laughing out loud at the razor sharp one-liners or have simply been gob smacked by the drop dead gorgeous graphics, Escape from Butcher Bay has quality and entertainment written all over it. Here Ladies & Gentlemen is a licensed game that can stand upon its own merits, make of it what you will.
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