Publisher: Virtual Programming
Price: $24.99 (£14.99)
Description: A depressingly brutal stealth FPS
Pros: Stunning visuals and voice acting, atmospheric, stealth works well, really, really long, combat.
Cons: Infrequent save points, non-stealth parts, dumb AI, emotionless and pretty horrific at times.
Advised Control Method: All (mouse preferred)
WARNING: This game is suitable for ages 17 and over
The dark. A dreaded place. A place where things can come at you from all angles, a place where bad things lurk and wait, a place of unknown proportion and unknown contents. Humans have a natural instinct to be afraid of the dark, but what if you learnt to harness its power? Well, you don’t need to be afraid of the dark any more. In Chronicles of Riddick, you can use the darkness as a weapon and a tool for your survival.
But this is the premise for most stealth shooters; if you stay hidden, you stay alive, and in most cases this is no different in Chronicles of Riddick. You’ll be crawling through air vents, sneaking up on unsuspecting villains and strategising your best path through the darkness going totally unnoticed. Where sometimes Chronicles of Riddick does deliver an atmospheric and craftily challenging experience, it fails to be as consistent as I would have hoped.
Chronicles of Riddick’s story is virtually non-existent. Yes, there are films coupled with the game that give more of a back story into Riddick’s past, and the nature of the universe that you’re in, but don’t expect anything to happen in this play-through. But the good thing about this is that you don’t need to have watched the films to understand what is happening. Obviously there is an added advantage if you have as you’ll understand the relationship between Riddick and the seldom other characters that crop up in the game, but it isn’t vital. Instead, your objective is to survive and get from one objective to another.
Chronicles of Riddick is split into two games: Escape from Butcher Bay and Assault on Dark Athena. Both follow Riddick, and both mostly involve you trying to escape from the place that you have found yourself in. To do that you are going to be expected to do all manner of horrible things to some, admittedly, very horrible people. You shouldn’t go into Chronicles of Riddick with the same mentality that a 5-year old has when he finds out he is going to Disney Land. This ain’t no Dora the Explorer and you are going to be battling with some pretty strong themes here.
But if you are one for depressingly, brutal games then Chronicles of Riddick may just be right up your dark and dingy alley. Being fundamentally a stealth game, you aren’t going to have the secure feeling of holding a whopping great big gun in your palms. Whereas most first-person shooters flourish when you have a firearm in your hand and a room full of bad guys to target, by far the best moments in Chronicles of Riddick are actually when you are armed with a handmade ‘shank’, or better yet, your bare fists. Chronicles of Riddick is in its element when you’re in melee combat (an aspect mostly forgotten, or brushed over by most other titles). Whether it be a take-out from behind and a snap of the neck whilst cloaked in darkness, or a straight out street fight in the cell wings, fighting up close and personal hits home the mercilessness of the environment you’re trapped in. The epic finishing moves triggered when you time your moves right are a gore fest to behold.
But don’t expect Chronicles of Riddick to be a gun-less game. Oh, you’ll be handling a lot of guns alright. It’s how you use them that counts, and depending on your style of play, the game will adapt as a result. Deciding to run out all guns blazing will most likely get you hurt (if not killed) but at least you don’t need to worry about the whole stealth rubbish. Retreat to the shadows, armed with a sharp blade or club you can try your hand at a bit of stealth and even though it is the much harder option, it is 100x more rewarding when you do it right. Of course, it would be unreasonable to say that the whole game runs like this. Play the game on Easy, and you will find running and gunning to be a viable option, but any harder and you won’t be running for very long.
I have got to hand it to these guys, the stealth in this game is intense and really, really tricky if you’re looking for that perfect run. Crouching puts you into stealth mode. If you’re in a dark area then you are basically invisible. However, in the light you will be seen, eventually. Nearer the middle of the game, you procure a tranquilliser gun which can seem like a bit of a cop out when you can just neutralise enemies for a short while. But by far its most beneficial use if you decide to opt for the more strategic route is that it can take out light sources, like overhead-lights. Obviously, short-circuiting lights is going to draw some attention so make sure you’re well hidden when you do so.
But what this does to the difficulty does wonders for the game’s longevity as well. If you’re one of those people that always wants to do everything perfectly (like me), then you will find yourself coming back to missions you scuffed up to get that seamlessly silent run. One problem that I came across in the game is that saving is infrequent. You may successfully get past a challenging stage only to get killed in the next and then having to start all over again. This can lead to some frustration. This frustration is also caused by the lack of way points or even a hint at the direction you are meant to be heading. This can lead you to run around in circles over and over.
The AI in Chronicles of Riddick are below average. Yes, they take cover, use their flashlight attached to their guns to good effect (if not to too good effect) and they’ll act as a bit of annoyance, but they have the knack of just walking into your path even though they should know that you’re hiding right round the corner. One small problem I had with enemies as well is that taking them out (sneaking behind them and then using one of your killer combat manoeuvres) takes you out of stealth mode, meaning you can be seen by all other enemies in the vicinity unless they’re facing the complete opposite way. I would much prefer a way of silently taking out an enemy whilst still remaining ‘invisible’.
Whereas Chronicles of Riddick can be easily described a very linear game, there are some portions where you get the opportunity to interact with other people. This normally occurs when you are locked up somewhere with other inmates. The people you come across sometimes help you in completing your main objective, or even give you side-missions to earn you some more cash. From doing a gang-leader’s dirty work or helping a guy find his glasses, these side-missions increase the sense of reality and humanity within the game and gives an insight into other’s lives and how they have been affected by the events that have happened. Not to mention, it’s a chance to show off the absolutely stunning voice acting in this game. They all deliver total conviction and add bucket loads onto the game’s atmospheric setting. It’s really that good.
But where the game delivers this believable experience, no one seems to stick around enough for you to really develop a bond with them. Instead you move on, emotionlessly to the next objective without a care in the world for their fates. This trend continues throughout the whole game. You don’t get any morality choices where you choose to save someone or not. Instead the player is forced to conform to the cold-hearted persona of Riddick, whether they like it or not.
Whereas most of the game is strategy, there are some points where the only option is to go loud. You even get to control some pretty hefty mechs as well which does change the pace of the game, but it is obvious that these missions aren’t the game’s strong points. When Riddick is holding a gun, the game turns into a mediocre FPS to throw into the growing pile. It’s a shame then that nearer the end of the game, more and more emphasis is placed on straight out and shooting and Escape from Butcher Bay is certainly the best game out of the two offered.
But the game is absolutely enormous. You think you have reached the end and then you realise you’re only half way through. In terms of story it doesn’t excel and some gamers may feel a lack of incentive without a good plotline to follow, but gameplay wise it gives you a lot.
It may sometimes it falter in parts, but Chronicles of Riddick is a savage and viscous shooter that grabs you from out of the wilderness and never lets go until the very end. In a place where you need to do what you got to do to stay alive, it’s a brilliant yet challenging stealth game that will have you chuckling evilly and grimacing in total disgust. Check it out.
I was unable to test Chronicles of Riddick’s multiplayer component because it is currently offline and unusable.