Let's get the gleeful fanboy adulation out of the way immediately - The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay was, without a doubt, one of the best games released in the last console cycle. It was definitely one of the top games on the Xbox and few games have really come to match up to it. Graphically it compared to many of the early 360 games showing the true muscle of the console. With a solid stealth mechanic and interesting melee combat focus backed up by really good voice acting it was a solid package that was definitely worth the price of admission.
Also, as an aside, what executive had the bright idea to make Barbie Horse Adventure and freaking Aquaman: Battle for Atlantis both backwards compatible but not make Escape from Butcher Bay so? As much as I'd like to advocate their firing it worked out because we now have a remastered version of the game with better graphics, new sections and achievements/trophies. So mister executive you get a pass… this time.
When Escape from Butcher Bay hit store shelves back in 2004 it was a rather staggering release. Considering that it is ostensibly a movie based title, sharing its name with The Chronicles of Riddick movie without being truly related, expectations were mixed. Some thought that it looked incredibly promising while others were leery of what the ambitious title was trying to do. So imagine how surprised people were when it turned out to be one of the best titles released that year. The title had praise upon praise heaped on it with only the brevity of the title and the lack of multiplayer to steal the titles thunder.
Taking place in the triple max (non nerd translation: high security) prison, Butcher Bay, it details a short period of time shortly after Riddick is brought to be the newest resident. Between interacting with the inmates who want to take down the notorious criminal you're controlling and constantly raising hell as you attempt to escape progressively harder sections of the prison the game is truly unique. To make it even better is the fact that this release has the bonus section from the PC where you get to ride inside of one of the incredibly powerful Riot Guards.
It's abundantly apparent that a lot of energy went into bringing the game to the next-gen consoles. All of the textures seem to have been touched up and the game looks absolutely fantastic. Even up close most of the characters still look just as well done as ever before, an admirable trait when it was expected that this would be a simple port. Several changes have been implemented to the control scheme as well to make for an easier time handling the game. Overall it has basically been improved in just about every way.
The only weaknesses of the original title are old complaints that were never fully addressed. There are numerous problems with the graphics that fans of the original title will be aware of. The lip-synching makes everyone look like they're mumbling at all times which becomes kind of odd when people are getting uppity and angry. What's more annoying is when you experience texture tearing or objects becoming see through when you press against them from certain angles. It's the kind of stuff that used to happen with early PlayStation One era titles so it's odd to see these happening with such a top tier modern day release.
Even with these problems though there's nothing to stop Escape from Butcher Bay from still being one of the best video games released in recent memory, remake or not.
Things aren't so sunshine and happy over in the land of Assault on Dark Athena.
Playing escape from Butcher Bay consists of lots of sneaking around, fighting only when you really have to and performing stealth kills where possible. Within an hour of starting the game Dark Athena quickly jumps from stealth to a longish section of constant melee combat with enemies who are all better fighters than Riddick.
Escape from Butcher Bay made Riddick seem awesome by making it so that he could use his biggest skill, stealth, to fell a veritable army. It was fresh, new and exciting at a time when video games were hitting the uninteresting point that they're largely at now. It wasn't one of three million FPS' without a touch of originality nor was it some bland JRPG using the same story in a different skin. Assault on Dark Athena throws that out the window for "exciting" melee combat and lots of gunplay which is about as huge a fall down a pit as The Chronicles of Riddick could have possible taken.
Oh sure the game looks even better than the Escape from Butcher Bay remake and the lip synching is much improved but that doesn't help the gameplay out a single whit. It's not that the game is bad really it just doesn't live up to the Riddick name. While Dark Athena does occasionally succeed at mixing things up in a meaningful manner more often than not it just doesn't feel like a Riddick game.
Escape from Butcher Bay is still the belle of the ball here; Dark Athena and the multiplayer don't really even hold a candle to it. While all of the work that went into Dark Athena is appreciated it doesn't change the fact that the pacing and level design in the original game far outshines that of anything that the expansion really brings to the table. This could be something of a shame but the whole package itself is definitely a worthwhile buy.