I like the character of Riddick. If you've seen Pitch Black and Chronicles of Riddick, and perhaps Dark Fury, you probably know why. Riddick's a cold-blooded killer with no specified code of honour or any of that jazz. He's hell-bent on his own survival, very proficient with weapons and while unarmed, and he's got a special ability - he can see in the dark. In the movies, he's played by Vin Diesel, which makes him an instant badass. I don't know what it is about Diesel, but I think it's his voice. He's not a very ambitious nor a very talented actor, but he pulls off the "Riddick" ideally, and there could be no other to fit that role.
At any rate, there's a game based on the Riddick franchise called Escape from Butcher Bay, which tells about the events from before the Pitch Black movie. We witness in what circumstances Riddick got his special sight, there's a tie-in to the second movie in both the Intro and Outro and the whole thing is set in the mythology as much as any of the movies. This gives a unique character to the game, as it's a rare example of a game where the design had a purpose of building something from the blocks given by the franchise, and it worked perfectly.
This is a Riddick game in the same way that Arkham Asylum is a Batman game. Everything just sticks and works, there are no hickups, nothing that doesn't belong in the game, and yet was added there. There's a host of characters which just fit the ambience of Riddick's universe perfectly, and even the collectables in the game come in the form of cigarette packs, which is incredibly thematic, even though Riddick's not a smoker or anything like that in the movies.
It's obvious that a lot of love went into the design. That said, I have to note that the graphics are not what they used to be. Sure, it's been 6 years, so that's not surprising. For me they were ok, but some people would probably complain. The sounds are done very well, the enemy taunts as well as gun and general fight sounds are also excellent. There's really not many bad things you can say about this game, but if I was to point out some of the more mediocre stuff, I would note the following:
- the saving system. I know I tend to place a lot of focus on that, but it just works on my nerves. Not a big problem in this game, since you get quicksaves and the checkpoints are reached quite often.
- you end up with a lot of money that you don't really use very much. You only use it in one area, after that it's pretty much pointless.
- due to the game's character, you mostly use a Shotgun in the fights. Not a bit flaw, but a bigger variety would have been nice. I personally think there wasn't enough fist-fighting (which I simply LOVED), but there's a pretty lenghty section of the game where you do fight with your bare fists a lot, so I guess that's only me.
- some more freedom in approach would have nice, instead you get either shooting areas or sneaking areas. Didn't bother me much anyway.
- The game's too short. It only took me about seven or eight hours to finish (so I think), while I wouldn't mind another two or three, provided they were well done.
- The ending left me unfulfilled. It was good and all, but I was expecting something different, perhaps with a bigger bang.
So there you go. The game's not perfect, but it's very close, and it deserves all the praise that you may have heard. If you liked Batman: Arkham Asylum or if you like Riddick, try to get this game somewhere. It's not that hard to find, and it is well worth it. My final score for this is a firm 8+/10, nearly a 9/10. This was probably one of my best gaming experiences in recent years, and in this regard Escape from Butcher Bay is way up there with Arkham Asylum. Given that the two games have about 5 years between them, go figure about how good Riddick actually is.