"In the end," rumbles a deep voice full of menace, "everyone bleeds the same..."
All it takes is for Vin Diesil to growl than one line and you can remember everything that made Escape For Butcher Bay such fun to play in 2004. The brooding anti-hero. The unrelenting metallic prison. The dark, bleak tone.
Starbreeze has shown with Escape From Butcher Bay and The Darkness that it can create bleak action games like no other developer can, mixing suffocating claustrophobia in with intricate detail and strong story-telling.
Chronicles Of Riddick: Assault On Dark Athena, the latest chapter in the Riddick saga, will carry on that tradition. There's no CGI, no floaty FPS movement, no bursts of sunshine or glimmers of hope. It's a dark, lonely trawl punctuated by Vin Diesil's anti-hero, Riddick.
As with Escape From Butcher Bay, Assault On Dark Athena is pitched somewhere between FPS and stealth game. Guns aren't the primary concern here though you can grab the arms of the drone guards and fire their weapons. Instead, you have to be smart to survive. Stick to the shadows, pick off guards one by one, slowly work your way through the metallic, clanking and lonely labyrinth to your goal.
New And Improved
There's plenty of new stuff to play around with in Dark Athena. The drones are the most obvious example. In Butcher Bay, you couldn't use guns in the earlier levels because they were DNA coded to their user so until Riddick found a way past that, there were no guns available.
Drones are the new way that this is enforced. The patrolling drones have their guns surgically attached to their arms, meaning they can't be removed. Instead, you can take a drone hostage and then grab his arm and fire his gun - a clever way of ensuring gunplay is featured without ever turning Riddick into a Duke Nukem style character.
These drones are controlled from remote stations and if Riddick finds these control hubs, he can control a drone too. He can then take down other drones or use the fact that they respawn to solve puzzles - walking them into giant airway fans to block them, for example.
What Dark Athena will be is the best of both worlds. It's a perfect excuse for fans to reacquaint themselves with Riddick before getting stuck into the new chapter while those who missed out the first time have no excuse to ignore it now. Even after The Darkness, Escape From Butcher Bay remains Starbreeze's best work to date. We can confidently say this release will change that.