The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay review

One of the boldest and most expertly designed titles of the year

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In the ideal world, the perfect prison-break game would involve a high-security slammer solely for highly dangerous rogue Christina Aguilera clones, Britney as the butch-yet-golden-hearted warden, and enforced communal showers. It would be a game where you broke into prison, naturally.

The Chronicles Of Riddick: Escape From Butcher Bay is, however, like most prison games, a game about breaking out of prison. It's also the prequel to Vin Diesel flick Pitch Black and sequel, The Chronicles Of Riddick.

And while there are no Christina clones in it, it does manage to deliver the next-best thing: a first-person shooter, set in space and full of guns, violence and swearing.

What Riddick isn't, however, is a basic movie tie-in. Other than the characters and certain storyline aspects, Escape From Butcher Bay has nothing to do with last summer's big Riddick film at all. Instead, it's one of the year's boldest, most unique and expertly designed titles.

So what makes Riddick so special? Apart from getting to 'be' Vin Diesel, that is.

One: It looks glorious. This is the sound of your Xbox going full-tilt to pump out the kind of shiny graphics and special effects that were supposed to debut in next-generation titles such as Doom 3, Half-Life 2 and Halo 2.

Two: Riddick goes so far beyond being a standard first-person shooter it makes us a little giddy.

Three: Riddick is a brutally nasty game.

Four: Butcher Bay is an incredible feat of design. We've never been to the most notorious prison in the galaxy, but if we had we imagine it would look like this.

And five: At the climax of the game you get to pilot a really big suit of robotic armour with two giant guns strapped to either side.

Clever stuff then. But there are occasions when Riddick is perhaps a little too clever for its own good. Running around, solving puzzles, sneaking about: yes, we know you're a cut above the average, but don't forget the visceral, bullet-pumping element altogether, okay?

There's also a huge, gaping multiplayer-shaped hole running right through the middle.

The only other fly in Riddick's surgical bruise ointment is its length. Or lack of it.

Our advice: keep your nose dirty, stay in trouble and you'll be back within its shoddy brown walls quicker than it takes to drop the soap in a crowded shower full of angry sex offenders. More than that, you'll enjoy it.

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Release date1 January 1970 (US), 1 January 1970 (UK)