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The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay Developer's Cut PC DVD-ROM

Published by Vivendi
Developed by Starbreeze Studios
Release Date: Out Now
Price : £34.99

Here we have the first review of 2005 and what a cracker it is to begin the year with. Last year we reviewed the Xbox version of The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay and the game really impressed us in more ways than one. In fact it's arguably the best FPS game you can buy on the Xbox at the moment. The PC version of the game is now with us and the game is equally impressive on the PC as it was on the Xbox. Sceptical gamers might have been expecting a hurried port to the PC but that's not the case at all and the game looks and feels like it was designed for the PC.

The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay puts you in the role of Riddick who at the beginning of the game is in pursuit of a yeti type monster. During a conversation he reminisces about his time in Butcher Bay. The action then switches to his transportation to Butcher Bay and plays from there. Right from the start the action is top notch and what I really like about the game is that it's not just an out and out FPS. There are times when you have to think to solve puzzles and times when objectives have to be completed before you can progress. It's not just pick up a gun and go on an all guns blazing trail to the end credits. In fact stealth is required in some areas of the game if Riddick is to be successful in his attempt to escape. Riddick will have to use a variety of weapons but initially he'll only have his fists. Fist fighting isn't too bad though. Using the right trigger and left analogue stick it feels quite comfortable. Riddick can perform stealth attacks too and it's possible to attack from behind and break your victim's neck. Riddick can even tussle with those who have a weapon and sometimes you'll see the weapon go off and kill them which has to be a first in a game.

Escape from Butcher Bay Developer's Cut has three difficulty modes and, exclusive to the PC version, an additional mode where a commentary has been provided by the developers of the game. Whilst most will prefer the default normal mode, the easy mode is a good option if you find the game tough going. Like the Xbox version the game uses a checkpoint save system and the checkpoints aren't too far apart. However with the game now on PC you can Quick Save and Quick Load whenever you want to, which makes the game considerably easier. Riddick has four health blocks at the beginning of the game. The way it works is that each block will diminish with damage taken but as long as a block is not completely eroded away it will replenish when you're out of harm's way. Health can be regained by using the NanoMed health units that you'll find on your path to escape. As you progress through the game you'll find several health stations that can upgrade your health and this will give you additional health blocks. You'll need this extra health too as the AI of your enemies is pretty impressive. Guards will attempt to find cover and will do their best to take you down. You'll also find various cigarette packs lying around the place. Picking these up will unlock such things as concept art which can be viewed from the main menu.

If I had to choose one word to describe Escape from Butcher Bay it would have to be atmospheric. As you would expect from a game based around trying to escape from a maximum security futuristic prison the atmosphere is brutal and gritty. Primarily, and at other points in the game, Riddick has no access to conventional weapons and has to make do with his fists or shivs (or other crude slashing devices you can get your hands on) and this adds variety to the game. When you do get hold of the guns though you'll not be disappointed as the action is definitely as good as in any other FPS on the PC. Early on in the game, not long after Riddick arrives at Butcher Bay, Riddick needs the co-operation of some of the prisoners and they will only help him if he kills their tormentors. The language used can also be strong at times (hence the 16+ rating) but it's not over done for the sake of it, which is good to see. The look and feel of the game is just what you'd expect from a movie, in that it is dramatic and action packed and a great deal of attention has been put into creating such a gripping atmosphere.

The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay looked superb on the Xbox and it's equally impressive on the PC thanks to the developers taking time to utilise the extra power of the top PC graphics cards (something other developers would do well to take note of). Everything from the character animations and character models to the environments themselves is top notch. The quality of the lighting and textures is truly impressive (you might not notice immediately though as you'll be so focused on the game play). Most of the areas in the game are confined spaces such as corridors etc., but this serves to heighten the action and make for some great shooting sequences. Mostly the game is played from a first person perspective but there are moments when you'll see Riddick from a third person perspective such as when he climbs over certain obstacles.

Escape from Butcher Bay was fine for deaf gamers on the Xbox and all of the games elaborate subtitle options have found their way on to the PC version which means you'll have no problems at all in following and enjoying the games story. There aren't any captions though but this doesn't cause any real problems although deaf gamers won't be quite so aware of approaching enemies as hearing gamers would be. All of the mission objectives are shown in text and an encircled 'i' icon alerts you to the fact that new mission information is available in your journal. The big disappointment with the PC version though is that the additional commentary mode is not subtitled. Once you've completed the game you'll have access to this commentary mode and the game plays as per usual except that you'll see these large spinning disc symbols that are placed around the levels. On walking into these symbols you'll trigger developer anecdotes. However these are not subtitled so in effect this mode is redundant for deaf gamers which is unfortunate because it's an enjoyable inclusion.

2004 was a difficult year for releasing FPS games on the PC. With the likes of Doom III and Half-Life 2 being released (and most of the FPS gamers having their attention firmly fixed on these two) any FPS titles that were released were going to have to be special. Far Cry managed to stand out though and so has The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape From Butcher Bay and in my opinion Escape From Butcher Bay is second only to Half-Life 2 which is a heck of an achievement. In terms of the graphical quality and how the game plays it's just a class act and is just as impressive on the PC as it was on the Xbox thanks to the game taking full advantage of the PC platform and the extra power it provides. If you're a fan of FPS games and didn't pick this up last year (it was released at the end of the year to be fair) it should definitely be at the top of your list to pick up in 2005.

Overall Game Rating: 9.0/10

Starbreeze have created a PC version of The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay that's every bit as impressive as the Xbox version.

Deaf Gamers Classification:

(Click the letter or here for details)

The game includes an impressive range of subtitles that make it easy for deaf gamers to follow the story. There aren't any captions or visual clues for environmental and other important sounds though. It's also a disappointment that the developer's commentary mode isn't subtitled which effectively means it's a waste of time for deaf gamers which is unfortunate as it's rather interesting.