Where do I begin?
The Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena is a game for the PS3, Xbox 360 and PC. The single player storyline of Dark Athena is set after the events of the 2004 title The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay. Unlike its predecessor Dark Athena includes a large multi-player portion. The game also includes a remastered version of the original Butcher Bay game.
Sometime after escaping from Butcher Bay with Johns, Riddick's ship is found by the mercs aboard the Dark Athena who pull it aboard for salvage and body harvesting. Lucky for Riddick (and unlucky for the mercs) Riddick's cryo tank releases him before the mercs board the ship. While Riddick hides in the ceiling the mercs come aboard and take John's unconscious body away. It is during all of this that Riddick acquires his first weapon, a hatpin from Gale Revas's (the captain of the Dark Athena) head.
It is now up to you, in the role of Riddick, to escape from the Dark Athena. You will use stealth for most of the early part of the game. Guns are not acquired until much later though you can use the guns of defeated drones but you can't take the guns from them.
There are a few side quests that can be performed for achievements but these are not needed to complete the game.
Like Butcher Bay before it, Dark Athena puts you in the role of Riddick in a single player game that easily spans eight hours of gaming time. The game does not use a conventional save game system and instead uses a checkpoint system that automatically saves the game when you pass each checkpoint. One of the biggest benefits of this system is that it allows you to go back and replay the game from any checkpoint you have previously passed.
The first two or three hours of gameplay will find you playing a game of cat and mouse with the mercs and their drones aboard the Dark Athena. You will be using either your fists, Revas's hatpin or the Ulaks once you acquire them. You will be crawling through ducts and hiding in the shadows. If you can keep your presence secret by hiding the bodies in the darkness the mercs will not be on alert. Once the mercs begin to find the bodies of the dead expect to hear announcements over the P.A. system talking about you!
Even though guns do become available in time it is important to note that ammo is limited. Once you run out that weapon is nearly useless. Some weapons are nearly useless from the start, namely the SMG. This glorified B.B. gun is only useful because of the excellent spotlight attachment. On the other end is the shotgun which has the equivalent to an LED light on the end but wastes mercs with a single shot! You're not likely to need the lights because Riddick has his eye shine which allows him to see in the dark.
For the most part eye shine works great but there are some areas where even with the eye shine on you can't see anything! in these situations flicking the lights on and off quickly can help you get your bearings without making you too much of a target.
There are two types of drones in the game, regular and alpha. The regular drones also come in two varieties; controlled and uncontrolled.
A controlled drone has white lights and acts smarter because it is being controlled by a live merc (or you at a certain point in the game). An uncontrolled drone has red lights. Drones also carry a machine gun that can not be removed but Riddick can use the body as a shield and fire the gun.
The alpha drone is a very large beast equipped with a grenade launcher and chain gun. They are difficult to take down if you don't know the secret. Taking down an alpha can be a bit of trouble as it easily shrugs off everything you throw at it. It's a two-part process to take one of these beasts down so if keep that in mind after your fifth re-spawn!
The drones are the chief export of the Dark Athena and their reason for existing. The mercs on the ship are more like pirate raiders than mercenaries. They make their living by turning convicts (and others) into drones and selling them.
In the early part of the game you will either be using your bare hands or the hatpin you stole from Revas. Once the Ulaks are discovered (automatic) those will become your main hand-to-hand weapon.
There is a tranquilizer gun that can be acquired shortly after defeating Margo by killing a technician working in a confined space. This weapon has unlimited ammo and stuns anyone hit for about 15 seconds. you can quickly dispatched a stunned merc with your Ulaks.
When it comes to launching a lot of rounds down range you have a few options. The first is the basic pistol. It does not pack much of a punch but it can be used to create diversions and to kill lightly armored opponents.
Up next we have the submachinegun. It holds the most rounds (60) and has the best light but it also has poor accuracy and low damage. I find this is a good weapon to use in the Pitch Black multi-player portion of the game.
If you don't mind getting in close with your guns then the shotgun is the one for you. It only holds eight shells and the light is near useless but those eight shells pack a lot of punch! Those same shells lose their potency quickly at anything other than close range.
The last weapon that will see heavy usage is the assault rifle. With a 38 round magazine and a decent light this is a great weapon. It is the one you will likely use the most in single player.
Not quite a gun but something else is the SCAR. This weapon shoots explosive charges that stick to whatever they hit. Up to five charges can be live and they are detonated with the left trigger. A common tactic is to shoot some on the ground and walls before a group of mercs charge in. Trigger the explosives and take out a group of mercs in seconds! The SCAR does suffer from a slow recharge rate.
If you complete one of the side missions you can acquire the sniper rifle. This weapon has very limited usage in the game simply because of the lack of ammo. Instead of a light this weapon sports a scope. Long distance - the next best thing to being there!
Voice Acting and Such
One thing that really impressed me about this game is the top notch voice acting and character movements. It's not just the gravelly voice of Vin Diesel himself either. All of the voice acting is excellent and when you see the prisoners move in their cells all of their movements match their dialogue.
There is no stiffness or bland body gestures like you find in other games (cough oblivion, Fallout 3, cough). Instead you have a game where you feel like you are taking part in a Riddick movie because the characters are so life like.
Let me tell you right now that nothing kills immersion more than listening to bland dialogue while the person gesticulates wildly. When you talk to the sadistic Jaylor you feel like you are dealing with a real person and not some graphical construct on the screen. The same goes for the script. When Riddick talks it just feels right.
When Butcher Bay was released in 2004 it lacked a multiplayer environment. This was due in part to the publisher (Starbreeze Studios) not wanting to delay the games release or push it too far over budget. With Dark Athena they decided to embrace the multiplayer idea and even went so far as to create two new modes in addition to the standard four multiplayer modes we all know and love. there are numerous maps to choose from and a DLC pack of extra maps is available for download.
The usual modes are death match, arena, team death match and capture the flag. Long time FPS players should be familiar with these so I will not be explaining them further. Instead I will focus on the two new modes; Pitch Black and Butcher Bay Riot.
Pitch Black - You think your bad enough to play the part of Riddick and kill mercs in the dark? Do you? If so this mode is for you.
One player takes on the role of Riddick (eye shine and Ulaks) while everyone else is a merc with a gun. Mercs start the game in a well lit area where they pick their weapon and drop into the darkness where Riddick lives. When choosing a weapon players either choose between high power or good lighting, you can't have both. That's right, the more powerful the weapon the crappier the light mounted on it! When Riddick dies the merc who killed him becomes him and the hunt begins again!
This mode is a ton of fun. Even the worst FPS player gets lucky sometimes and manages to kill Riddick while he's busy slicing up the other mercs. The SMG provides a lot of light but Riddick can charge and kill you before you take him down with that over rated pea shooter! The shotgun takes Riddick out fast but you can't see anything!
Butcher Bay Riot - Anyone up for a three team capture the flag style game? This is the ultimate team game for 3 to 12 players. Before the game begins you have a limited amount of money to purchase your weapons and armor. If you win a round you get bonus money for the next round. You win a round by finding the power cell and taking it to one of the opposing teams bases.
This is a very challenging mode and it requires a lot of thought and tactics to win.
Even though Dark Athena is not as much of a stealth game as Butcher Bay is I still consider it a worthy successor. The game does an excellent job of immersing the player into the Riddick universe. Playing as a drone (regular and alpha) is fun and even the brief stint in the mech is enjoyable.
The inclusion of a remastered version of Butcher Bay doubles the single player enjoyment from eight to sixteen hours easily. Add in the multiplayer modes and this game is easily worth the price. Single player enjoyment alone is easily in the $3.75 an hour range.
- The Good
- Voice acting
- Character motions
- Butcher Bay inclusion
- Pitch Black
- The Bad
- Some 'boss' battles will have you scratching your head on how to beat them
- Some AI issues with line of sight
- A few, "what do I do now?" moments
- The Ugly
- Some issues of enemies being able to shoot through walls and hit you