Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Dark Athena

Platform: PC, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3
Publisher: Atari
UK Price (as reviewed): £24.50 (inc. VAT)
US Price (as reviewed): $49.99 (ex. Tax)

The Chronicles of Riddick isn’t like most other licensed, film-based games. It’s actually quite good, honest. The original Escape from Butcher Bay benefitted extraordinarily from being developed by Vin Diesel’s own development studio and was actually a rather excellent stealth-brawler-shooter hybrid. It fleshed out the universe in an unexpected way and was just generally a very fun game.

It was so fun in fact that it’s now got an expanded re-release which offers players a brand new campaign, improved graphics and performance and a new multiplayer mode. Again it’s come from Vin’s own dev team and offers players a chance to get into the tight leather leg-pipes of everyone’s favourite murderer.

Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena
Click to enlarge

For those not intimately familiar with the original Xbox and PC game, the Riddick games don’t have an awful lot in common with the films and instead function as a prequel. Both campaigns in the game are set way before the events of the Pitch Black movie, with Butcher Bay even revealing how Riddick really got his strangely inverted eyeballs that can see in the dark but are blind in the light. Here’s a hint: it didn’t involve 20 menthol cools...

Really though, there shouldn’t be much need to go into the intricacies of the Butcher Bay campaign. It’s well documented already, chronicling Riddick’s efforts to escape the futuristic Alcatraz and go live, dreadlocked, in an ice cave somewhere. If you haven’t played it then all you need to know is that it’s very good and not at all the run-of-the-mill shooter you might expect.

Instead, it’s the new Assault on Dark Athena campaign that’s the real centre of attention. The same warnings should go out to Butcher Bay fans though; Dark Athena isn’t what you might be expecting as it’s different from the first campaign in almost every way.

Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena
Escaping from Butcher Bay really isn't as hard as it sounds...

Picking up straight after the end of the first campaign, Dark Athena starts with the captured Riddick and ever-present bounty hunter Johns drifting through space. They’re in cryosleep, drifting through an asteroid field on a preset course when Riddick wakes up unexpectedly, as he is won't to do in all the movies and games. Nobody has yet seemed to notice that the bald, vested brute is immune to artificial sleep.

As the only one not snoozing, Riddick is the only one who manages to slip through security as the shuttle is captured by pirates using a hilariously un-futuristic tractor beam (literally, a harpoon). Based off a giant, insect-like space station called The Dark Athena, the pirates make are a nasty lot who live by turning kidnap victims into zombified robot drones that can be remotely controlled and by working their slaves to death. Led by an ex-bounty huntress called Revas, it seems like the pirates have the perfect set-up – until Riddick shows up and messes things up for everyone.

Riddick has only one simple aim in the entire Dark Athena campaign and that is to escape the space station. He’s neither a hero, villain nor anti-hero and the lives of those around him mean absolutely nothing to him. Sure, he’ll free the other prisoners if it’s useful to him, but he doesn’t actually care whether they live or die. The fact that you’re never able to truly empathise with him is what makes him so memorable and compelling as a character and it’s also what makes him so fun to play in a game.
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