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 PLATFORM: XBOX
RIDDICK ROCKS THE BOX

here are a lot of people out there who automatically dismiss anything with Vin Diesel attached (just admit it, Knockaround Guys rules!). In this case, doing so would be a huge mistake. The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay is a triumphant success of a game. Not only are the visuals ridiculously sweet, the gameplay is unique and incredibly well-paced. Hands down, this is one of the best titles in the Xbox library.

Despite the first-person viewpoint, this is no mere FPS. While there are several intense shooting segments, gameplay also involves a good deal of stealth, hand-to-hand combat, and realistic puzzle-solving. This mixture may sound toxic, but every aspect of play is expertly implemented. The first-person combat simply offers depth by having Riddick throw a different punch with each direction pushed on the analog stick as the trigger is pulled. Coupled with a variety of melee weapons, stealth kills, and counter moves, hand-to-hand combat is far deeper than most third-person action titles. Puzzle-solving is wisely limited to finding keys or turning valves – there are no box-pushing or silly logic puzzles here.

Over the course of Riddick’s escape attempt, you will snap guards’ necks, gun down underground mutants, take on other prisoners in sanctioned duels to the death, and fight your way out of three levels of prison security. There is a lot of variety to these activities, and even more is added by the optional side quests. Taking on missions from fellow inmates makes the game feel less linear, rewards the player, and helps create a unique mood. As soon as you’re thrown into Butcher Bay’s prison society, it’s clear that this is far more than a shooter.

While Escape from Butcher Bay plays more like Deus Ex: Invisible War than Halo, its fantastic visuals can only be compared to upcoming mega-titles like Doom 3 and Half-Life 2. Thanks to normal-mapping technology, Riddick’s look is mind-blowing. In-game graphics are on par with average CG cutscenes of this generation. There are some issues, such as jaggies and lip sync, but even with these problems Riddick is still, without question, one of the most visually amazing games ever.

The tiny flaws in the visuals are a great analogy for this title as a whole. While excellent, Escape from Butcher Bay could have been a bit better. Since the main quest is short (I beat it in less than 15 hours) and there is no multiplayer, it’s not a ton of game for your money. Had it included any additional modes of gameplay, Riddick might have been the absolute best title for the Xbox. But as it is, Escape from Butcher Bay is one title that every Xbox owner simply must buy. It’s that good.

  -JEREMY ZOSS

ANDY   9.25

There will be people that overanalyze Riddick, and not fall in love with it as they should. For example, there are times during the game (especially during the cutscenes) when the graphics get a little pixelated. Check that — they get a lot pixelated. Not that it ruins the whole experience, but it does get annoying. Especially when you consider how graphically impressive the rest of the game is. This lack of polish also rears its ugly head from time to time during gameplay; there are instances when the animation and some of the combat is a little wonky. However, I should note that all these points are minor in the total scope of this game. Not only is it one of most graphically pleasing games to hit the Xbox (most of the time), it’s a thrilling adventure that will have you jumping at shadows and giggling in delight as you turn a guard’s gun against him or silently break the neck of your jailers. It’s not perfect, but I loved every moment I played Riddick and I highly recommend it. Keep in mind, it’s not a first-person shooter – though it can be at times. It’s a stealth adventure game at heart, and a very good one at that.

9.5
CONCEPT:
Step into the shoes of anti-hero Richard Riddick and escape from the galaxy’s most notorious prison
GRAPHICS:
Staggeringly beautiful. Without a doubt, this is one of the best-looking games ever
SOUND:
Like him or not, Vin Diesel’s voice work rocks. Riddick is one scary mutha
PLAYABILITY:
The controls are so smooth and immersive that you’ll really feel like you’re (back) in prison
ENTERTAINMENT:
The word that pops into my head every time I think about this game is “awesome.” That just about says it all
REPLAY:
Moderate
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