The Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena

The only thing rougher than Riddick's rasping voice is his treatment of those stupid enough to cross him

The mayhem is extremely convincing, thanks in part to the updated graphics engine. No two inmates are the same and Butcher Bay’s game world is a massive free-roaming hub, branching off into various missions. In the Dark Athena campaign, the run-down prison is replaced by a high-tech slave ship. It’s operated by its prisoners, the drones. The drones are very different from the convicts in Butcher Bay. They go about their business without any sense of autonomy -they are merely puppets controlled by Revas, the captain of the brig. It’s only when they’re alerted to your presence that the passive drones turn homicidal. The blue lights on their masks glow an unnerving red. And thanks to a hive-mind mentality (like the Borg) if one knows where you’re hiding, they all will.

Firearms are equally hard to acquire in Dark Athena, mainly because the enemies’ guns are surgically attached to their right arms. The only way to wield a gun is to drag around the corpse of a defeated drone. While this limits your movement to a degree, dead drones do have limited use as human shields.

The game’s health system is a little more unforgiving than the likes of Call of Duty: World at War. You’re limited to four health bars and these can only be replenished at special medical stations, which are few and far between. These devices are like something out of a medieval torture museum. The ones in Butcher Bay inject two large metal spikes into your face, while the stations on Dark Athena inject your throat.

The thing that’s most attractive about Riddick is that it lets you play as a really bad guy. Much like Starbreeze’s The Darkness, where you played a mafia hitman, this is a game that doesn’t bore you with do-gooding or morality. Riddick’s world is unrelentingly bleak and there are very few people he can call an ally, let alone a friend. Vin Diesel recorded hours of new dialogue for Dark Athena and is joined by sci-fi favorite Lance Henriksen as one of the Athena’s prisoners. Cole Hauser reprises his role from Pitch Black as the slimy bounty hunter Johns while rapper and Pimp My Ride dude Xzibit is one of many prison guards that want to rip your face off.

Starbreeze has been very careful not to call Assault on Dark Athena a proper sequel. However, we’re really glad to see that this expansion is going to be substantial. Escape from Butcher Bay was already ahead of its time and enough visual improvements have been made to compete with today’s biggest shooters. Watch the shadows this spring.

Jan 29, 2009

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