Developer:Starbreeze Platform: PC, Xbox Year: 2004
Here’s a real exception in the list – a game which actually turned out to be far, far better than the film it was actually spun-off of. While Pitch Black was a decent and sci-fi horror the ego-driven sequel was unapologetically awful. Thankfully, Vin Diesel’s game studio managed to salvage enough from the film to make a decent game.
The plot of Escape from Butcher Bay doesn’t really run that close to either of the films though; it’s actually a prequel that tells the story of Riddick’s most impressive escape ever – from ultra-max prison, Butcher Bay. The sci-fi equivalent of Alcatraz, nobody has ever escaped from Butcher Bay. It’s up to you to change that, which you mainly do by sneaking through airducts and backstabbing or pulverising people whenever you can.
It’s this kinetic melee action that forms the backbone of Riddick’s appeal and, though there are a lot of other things to like in the game, our minds usually circle back to the awesomely delivered sense of power communicated by the fluid first person brawling. It honestly feels like you’ve stepped into the skin of something sleek and predatory and lethal. It’s quite intoxicating.
Wham!...and we don't mean the band
It’s also worth mentioning that Butcher Bay was so well received by gamers that it eventually bred an expanded remake. Title Assault on Dark Athena, it included an entirely new singleplayer campaign that followed on from the first game and a new multiplayer segment. We didn’t like Dark Athena quite as much as Butcher Bay when we reviewed it back in April, but it’s still worth picking up if you missed the original. At the very least it’ll give you a chance to play the game on newer consoles and with enhanced graphics.
X-Wing vs. TIE Fighter might not be based around specific Star Wars film, but as an expansion of the Star Wars universe it’s almost unrivalled if you take the Balance of Power expansion into account. While Jedi Knight, KOTOR and Battlefront II were all other competitors for this slot, it’s X-Wing vs. TIE Fighter that really stands out as the game that made you feel like a part of the Star Wars universe.
Designed mainly for multiplayer, X-Wing vs. TIE Fighter is such an enduring classic that it still has a fairly active community around it today, even though it was scorned for a lack of coherent singleplayer when it was first released. That’s where the Balance of Power expansion steps in, padding things out a bit and adding some Lucas-worthy plot to the mix.
Even judged just on its multiplayer, X-Wing vs. TIE Fighter is still a fantastic game though and was remarkably sophisticated for the time. Not only was it one of the first flight sims to really push the idea of using a joystick as standard, but it also delved for the first time into pre-flight prep before missions. For the first time you were able to choose what part of a squad you wanted to be in and how exactly you wanted to rig your ship – creating a much deeper, replayable and more unique experience.
True, the graphics have aged badly, but for those truly looking to immerse themselves in the Star Wars mythos X-wing vs. TIE Fighter is a classic.