Dank interiors,storage crates, ventilation shafts… Dark Athena’s got ’em all. But while that undoubtedly adds to its ambience, it’s also undeniably conventional. Random boxes litter the many, many corridors you’ll be creeping through, interactive elements glow so you can’t miss them, while innovative moments of being let off the leash to try a slightly different approach are few and far between.
Not for Riddick is Sam Fisher’s geeky array of gadgets and gizmos. There’s no stealth meter, no sound meter, and very little in the way of equipment to help him sneak by guards. As simplicity is king in Riddick’s world, so it is in Butcher Bay – you look for a shaded spot and crouch in it to avoid being clocked. There’s nearly always somewhere to take a breather out of sight to plan the way ahead. Guards, or in Riddick’s case, drones, follow regular routines, so it’s a case of carefully observing their patterns and patiently waiting to snap some necks.
For much of the game that’s your main method of getting by. Save for the very start of the game, you’ll rely on your bare fists and melee weapons for much of the opening segments. You’ll be in proximity to others aboard the Dark Athena, sneaking through air vents and dropping guards with little warning as to who is patrolling ahead of you. Close-up combat is good fun – as Riddick dishes out the pain his arms get bloodied and his victim’s face swells and splits. It’s more like a sweat-soaked bout in Fight Night than a regular first-person shooter.
Crucially, the lighting is spot on here. Shadow is realistic and easy to spot, and you’ll know you’re invisible because the screen tints blue. Drones and regular soldiers can’t spot you, but those under direct control of an operator can (this is indicated by a white beam instead of a red one). Drones get wise in the latter parts of the game, ramping up the difficulty too.
Felled drones can then be shifted out of the way, Splinter Cell-style, to avoid being spotted by passing comrades, but in all honesty, you can get away with not bothering for the most part – even on the hardest difficulty setting. A cool touch is being able to use felled drones as temporary gun emplacements. You can use their weapon, clenched in their dead hands, until the ammo runs out. The aiming’s really twitchy, as befits using someone else’s gun, so it can’t be relied upon for groups of drones.