Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay Remake Review (PC)

By Zott820Zott820


My review of this game comes almost comes by luck. Why? Well, there was a Direct2Drive promotion not too long ago that sold games for 5 dollars apiece. It just so happened that one of those games was Chronicles of Riddick: Dark Athena. It had been marked down from $40 in the promotion, an eye catcher if any. I had heard positive notions about Butcher Bay on the original Xbox, many praising the graphics, perhaps some of the best on the system. A quick trip to Metacritic showed an average rating of about 90. More convincing was not required. For 5 dollars, if it sucks, then it is no big loss. I have paid more for worse games (especially when $10 is considered bargain-bin prices.)

The deed was done, and I proceeded to install the 7GBs of data needed to play this sucker, which would eventually uncompress to about 10GB. Hefty Hefty Hefty.

This review will only encompass the re-mastered Butcher Bay campaign. Having never played the original Escape from Butcher Bay, I felt that it should be given its own review. Therefore, I’ll consider the two campaigns as completely separate games, and thus two unique reviews. The review for the Dark Athena campaign can be found here. Everyone who has reviewed this game has seemed to complain about it being remade. Well, I don’t have any bias toward the original, since I never played it, so this should be a fresh perspective.

First off, I beat the game on normal once through, with most graphics settings on high, except at a resolution of 1440x900 and one setting at 8-bit to avoid extra lag for possibly negligible graphical increase.

This review contains SPOILERS.

An unofficial list of changes of this remake from the original can be seen here:

Story: You are Riddick, scourge of the universe, or so it seems. To be honest, I haven’t seen the movie that this game ties into. You start off being escorted by Johns, whom is some mercenary with enough guts and skill to capture Riddick somehow. Then, the player has a short tutorial level, which was cleverly implemented, giving the ability to explore some of the game’s tactics early on, while usually throwing them by the wayside for the rest of the game.


(IE: Guns are DNA locked most of the game, yet the tutorial gives them to you no problem). From here you meet Hoxie, the warden of the non-quotidian Butcher Bay Prison. It isn’t made clear in the game, but the prison is multi-layered, with towers and deep subterranean pits. Riddick is initiated into the prison in a Call of Duty 4-esque walking sequence. Perhaps Infinity-Ward was inspired by the original?

Once properly deloused the player has the option to talk to various characters, as well as walk around freely. The game is not open world, but similar to an RPG in that not every quest is a requirement; there are missions that can be completed to grant additional equipment. These periods of rest in the story, without action, reminded me of the puzzle sequences of Half Life 2, as well as the calm ship exploration scenes of Star Trek: Elite Force.

From this moment on, Riddick cranks out authority, and escapes that prison part. He fights some monsters then repeats this structure 2 more times. After that there is an underwhelming final boss(es) to end the game.


This light summary may make it seem as though the story is repetitive but it is only in the fact that you seem to keep escaping and being recaptured. Each time Riddick is recaptured, I was expecting an ending to the game. In fact, each pre-capture feels like a climactic ending yet the game will not end. Instead, each restraint results in Riddick’s transmission to a new sector of the prison; somewhere with new characters, new enemies, and new environments. In this way, while the basic gameplay remains more or less the same, the player now has new venues to explore, joined with a new cast of characters. Though… all the characters whom Riddick help pretty much end up dead. Or he kills them, your choice.

The game is still linear at its heart. Riddick is free to move around in the prison sections often using the ducts as a slipstream to new areas. This includes sometimes circuitous backtracking if Riddick wants to finish optional quests down the line. Overall, the freedom of movement gives the game an open-world feeling, even though it is prison, and largely confined. Riddick cannot move back to zones post-capture(s) (I.E. Riddick cannot go back to the starting Prison level after being sent to the second-tier prison level) but this is not too bad, except the chance of finishing earlier segment missions is then removed at those points.

There was only one multiple-path section in the game that I recognized; happening in the second-tier prison. It was a choice between killing lots of people in a fighting ring, or getting caught with drugs. I chose the pure killing route, and it was straightforward. The drug path choice, as far as I could tell, was more complicated; I was unsure how to even start it. Regardless, it too involved killing though had additional plot elements. Both ultimately resulted in the same solution, but it was nice for the developers to add a sense of choice, and possible replayability.


There are a couple sections of the story that are unexplained. Riddick gets super-darkness seeing eyes about 1/3 of the way through the game. Yet, despite there being a women’s voice, I have no idea why he got these powers. There is also an intro and outro to the game that star Riddick hunting a yeti-like creature with the same women voice-over. I’m not sure why he’s doing that ether. These cinematics don’t play automatically in the remake, which adds to the confusion; they are found in the extra content part of the menu. I think the makes more sense without the random movie sequences, so I can see why they were left out, but on the same note, what is their background? Perhaps the women and the movies relate back to the movie tie-in that I haven’t seen. Either way, the movies and the voice felt out of place or perhaps just a plot device to give Riddick the special “eyeshine”. Consider me uninformed.


Characters: There are a bound of characters in the game, but honestly, few are really important, and these are people that are reoccurring. The game is not afraid to kill off characters, main or not; realistic, raw, and fitting.

Riddick – Man of few words. Virtuosic killer whom likes the darkness. Bio complete.

Johns – Mercenary who keeps getting screwed over when capturing Riddick multiple times.

Jagger Valence – Dude that helps Riddick.

Abbot- High Ranking Guard, antagonist of early segments of the game.

Hoxie – Warden of Bucket Bay. Not really evil, just a shrewd businessman.

Soldier – Dies

Riot Guard – Dies harder. Takes more critical flinching damage from behind.

Pope Joe – Doesn’t die, but doesn’t do much either. “Gives” Riddick Eyeshine.

Monsters – Come in different varieties but act much the same. Xenos, mutants etc. Die; Gib familiarly.

Turrets – Most annoying enemy in the game. Changes from instant kill varieties to major damage type with no visual indication. Very weak health-wise, but if it spots Riddick, it is usually too late. They tend to respawn, making them that much more persistent and horrible.

All other characters are just well voice-acted quest vendors. I will compliment the developers for creating such a wide assortment of characters, not just their personality and dialogue, but also their modeling. It is a compliment when there are not five characters standing around that are cookie-cuts of each other. The soldiers are, but that is because you fight so many of them through the course of the game. Even among soldiers there is usually some distinction on their visible features that set them apart; some wear helmets and hats.


Regarding enemy strength, there is no initial indicator to tell how strong one enemy is to another. For this I must give an example. In one situation, Riddick commandeers a Riot Guard and must plow through the facility. Along the way he meets other, bigger and different-looking Riot Guards. These enemies seem like they would be a suitable match, and yet pumping bullets into them sends them into a twitching frenzy, in which they don’t return fire, and just die. During that same phase, a communication by the guards mentions that they must send in some super robots to stop me. These super-robots only appear at that point in the game and the player has absolutely no idea how strong they are, but just pumping bullets into them seemed to work like it did for regular riot guards.

On foot, Riddick is meat to robots and Riot Guards unless he can sneak behind them to their weak spot or use a heavy weapon such as a chaingun. With this in mind, the later portion of the game throws the player for a loop by introducing big white robots, which while looking stronger than Riot Guards, are taken down easily with one or two shotgun blasts. There are also floaty robots that are even easier; one shot of anything will kill them. When the thought of robots was previously “strong”, it is unclear what hierarchy of power exists. The confusion continues later with bosses, and how seemingly strong they look, yet tactically simple to kill they are.

AI and Gameplay: Just to mention it, each box of health is a portion of the health that is recoverable by waiting. If a box is lost, only a health station can get it back. There are special health stations that give an extra bar of health permanently. These were rare, and the game could be beaten without them, but they do help. Med-stations that run out of their “four squares” of juice can be refilled with health canisters.

Moving through different areas of the game results in a load screen like Half Life 2, but the big difference here, is that the load times for Chronicles of Riddick are whopping fast (Maybe 10 seconds or less). I seriously mean this. This includes the initial load too. Compared to other modern games, I am surprised at the pace. Even Half Life 2 doesn’t load as fast as this game, and it is older with lower requirements. I was very, very impressed by the loading speed. It is annoying to walk back through a load portal and have the game have to reload, but thankfully, I don’t have to waste my life waiting for this game to queue and complete.


The AI in the game is acceptable. It is not a very intelligent AI, but it fits the purpose of the characters it is portraying for the most part. Most usual guards tend to stay far away from Riddick. They will not simply rush up to him (to be bashed to bits) if they have cover. Instead, it was often I who had to come to them. They also didn’t fire and retreat either, a flaw or a clever plan?; forcing me to get shot at as I approached. Let me tell you, the guns do a lot of damage to Riddick. This is more than likely used as a method to keep the game sneaking based, and it works. I often had to rethink attacking strategies to incorporate stealth.

Guards are both facile and execrable at spotting Riddick in the dark. Sometimes I will make a noise and they’ll come rushing to me. Or they will see where I hid and search it. Other times, when I attacked, and then rushed to hide, the guards will change into seek and destroy mode, moving slowly with gun-mounted light on, and making easy targets for Riddick at less than 1 ft away walking by.

Other enemies, like the robots, tended to not have much of an AI at all. They simply stood there and got shot, or shot. Sometimes they changed positions and repeated the behavior. The same simplicity applies to the Xenos and pit dwellers, but their simply programming is Left 4 Dead style pack rushing.

Graphics: Imagine walking into a prison, and instead of being greeted with grit, you found yourself face to face with lots and lots of shiny things. The prison looks anything but sere. That is how this game is. The new game engine definitely added something more to Bucket Bay. I haven’t played the original, but from what I’ve seen from comparison videos, there are definitely items that have more detail attached, such as the health dispensers and character models.


The lighting is also better, giving the shadows and textures a sense of more depth. The darks and shadows are inviting. The only problem is that secularity. While not the bloom that plagued Mirror’s Edge, it might as well be, for it does detract from a couple scenes. The only spots where the secularity is fitting are the near ending portions that revolve around “clean-rooms” in which case the graphics engine makes the rooms feel futuristic and on key. A legally required recreation chamber is an especially outstanding example of the lighting done correctly. (And an offbeat section of the game too) In a prison though, not the best. The flatness of the original game engine might have been better at giving off the dullness of the prison. Overall, certain objects should have kept the shiness, and others not so much. I’m not sure if this unsightly shine was intended, or an oversight by the developers to save time and not have to reformat all the textures with new bump-maps.

The addition of motion blur and field of depth add a lot to the game. Especially giving a more cinematic touch to many of the cutscenes, and a ferocity of Riddick's moves during gameplay. Both are pluses, and they are integrated so well that they don't have any of the annoyance that plagues their use in some games. Bravo.

Special attention was paid to the graphic indicators and HUD. With this I mean effects that relay information to the player. When Riddick is in darkness and well hidden, the hue of the screen will turn bluish. Similarly, when Riddick is using his eyeshine, he is given a slight tunnelvision/fisheye, as well as increased brightness overall. These effects were well integrated, and they were not detrimental to the game I felt.

On that note, the developers seem to have opted for a different way of signaling objects and character names. In the original Butcher Bay, there were HUD elements where descriptive text would hover over an object or person, with a line connecting to that person. In this remake, that has been replaced with a fade in of the same text in the bottom left and right corners of the screen with no connective elements. This works more effectively, as it doesn’t make Riddick seem like a robot wearing an eyepiece. It also enhances the integration into the game world, Riddick knows these objects and so the fading in is almost signal of a recollection of his memories. Unfortunately, it forces looking into the corners of the screen to see who or what is being interacted with, but this is only a problem initially, once you get used to the areas and objects, there is no reason to even think about the text. The health in the top left corner IS important however. The developers made the boxes signifying chunks of health more shaded which make them look nicer and fit better with the rest of the UI.


Color blending is an issue in the dark areas, where bands of color can be made out when they shouldn’t. I can only say that it may be due to the graphics settings I had chosen, the 8-bit lighting with the off occlusion setting, and so cannot lay absolute judgment on this unfortunate outcome until further analysis is done. There is a cool grain effect placed all of the game's visuals. It isn't as prevalent as in L4D thankfully, and I only noticed it through the screenshots. If it played any part, it was subtle. This grain effect is not the color blending problem.

In the later parts of the game when Riddick are controls a Heavy Guard, the rooms become quite destructible. This is really the only section when you can do this. Every other destruction scene of the environment is scripted, especially when the guards throw path-opening grenades. During this particular scene, there isn’t a plethora of things to destroy, mostly pillars and flooring, but it was nice to see that something came apart in the game world. This may have originally been a 2004 game, but a little bit of physics is appreciated, bringing it up slightly to more modern gameplay standards.


Sounds and Music: Sound quality was good. None of the sounds were washed out or overly compressed. It is difficult to describe sounds in particular that stood out, but they were good enough as to not needing mention.

Sadly, the sound seems to de-sync on the cutscenes. It didn’t happen all the time, but occasionally would become noticeably off from the actor’s lips and movement. Now, the lips of the characters are not as good as the ones from Half Life 2 at matching what the character is actually emitting from his orifice, but even then I could tell the sounds were off. Furthermore, taking the many snapshots for this review resulted in de-synced sound. Apparently the engine is not capable of taking a snapshot and keeping the sequences up to date. Disappointing.

Apparently, some of the music was changed in the remake compared to the original release. I can’t tell any in particular, given this being my first time playing Butcher Bay, but some people said that the prison break song and others were changed.

Overall, the music seems very atmospheric in this remake, at least when sneaking. There are a couple up-beat action tracks, especially when the Xenos attack, or when driving some of the mechs around, but generally it is just atmospheric background. I can’t complain, even if there were changes. What did stick out was the use of a “Riddick theme” which popped in and about the songs too often. I could have used a little less of that during my playsession. It may even have been the same song repeating, but whatever the case, I seem to recall noticeable annoyed at the theme being so prevalent. This is bad when the music, not the enemies are causing annoyance.

Voices: Dialogue is of high caliber and quality with the NPC’s characterization correctly played out. Riddick’s ethos is one of strict independence, a man of few words; even when answering people’s questions, which one might think would require more than 3 words, somehow he finds a way.


There are parts of Butcher Bay where Riddick can stop to listen to the characters speaking about events. These are not like Oblivion in which they are random; they happen as you enter the areas for the first time. Still, I liked the option of listening to these optional dialogues, or just interrupting them, never to hear them again. On that note, conversations can be skipped, and it doesn’t skip the whole dialogue tree either, only what the person is saying at that instant. I found this feature useful, as in many games I prefer to read the dialogue through the provided captions than wait 4 times as long for the actor to finish speaking. Also, on subsequent playthroughs, I may not want to hear all the same lines again.

There is some subtle humor written in for some of the NPCs. The Heavy Guard constantly insults the Riddick for being a poor driver. There is Craps, who lets Riddick play dice, along with some interesting professional/unprofessional terminology of the mini-game. Running around and beeping all the doorbells in another section rewards completely frivolous dialogue to please oneself. I liked all these diversions; my accolades to the developers to put some humor in an otherwise serious game.


Controls: Good and bad. What makes the controls iffy is the feeling that they are not as precise as they could be. There are moves that should be pulled off, and they are not. Blows that should hit in hand to hand combat, and are deflected. An enemy attacks you by raising back for a blow. There is supposed to be a moment in which you can counter the move, or do a finishing blow. This feature works accurately when countering guns, but if you are fighting a foe with a switchblade or club, it hardly, if ever, works. Is it supposed to? I think it should.

Attacks are dependent on the movement of Riddick when a button is mashed; moving forward while attacking yields a different offensive strike than if moving left and attacking. While these were supposed to play a strategic role in hand to hand combat, I found it hard to accomplish to any real degree of skill, and was just random button mashing with the hopes of a hit. To win any of the hand to hand showdowns, it was timing, gap between characters, and weapons that mattered most.

I know I am beating this game with its controls, but I must continue to crush them. Mouse look was also slightly odd the first time the game was played by me. The freelook had an almost limited degree of motion, something that I’d grown accustomed in very old games like Marathon. By this, I mean the degrees of look are not all possible positions, but are limited to certain angles of movement. This only appeared when moving short spans of look and did not detract from overall gameplay as one got used to it, but initially it felt offbeat. Could this have been something ported from the consoles? If it is something real, and not just part of my imagination/ gaming setup, why put it in?

So many bad controls can only means one thing…. Console port. Well, the developers included a weapon wheel, but unlike Crysis; no you can’t change weapons with the middle button effectively, and no you can’t go through all of them with the number keys. Thus you must hold down X, and either pin a weapon to the two available assignable slots (1, and 2 only), or just use the clunkier than Crysis selection menu. I’m not sure why I can’t use the number keys to change weapons, the weapons all occupy specific spots anyways and there is no customizable inventory, so they can’t be rearranged. You won’t be changing weapons often in this game, but why such a stupid limitation? The number keys were there for a reason, and especially in this day and age the scroll wheel should be perfected in quick weapon switching and killing. Arg!


I will compliment the vehicle scenes. Both felt clunky and heavy as they were supposed to. The Riot Guard scene didn’t change too much for the controls, but the Heavy Guard added noticeable delay and mass, which I felt were comfortable integrated with the style of the beasts.

There is actually a decent amount of user interactivity in the world. Riddick can open lockers, flush toilets, Flip beds, turn off lights, ring doorbells, pick up weapons, talk to people, poison food, use health machines, open vents and more. A lot of these actions are required by the game to proceed, but a couple, such as the toilets and lights, are merely methods to get players more involved in the gamespace. Granted, there are no PhysX or Havok physics at work here, so objects stay stationary for the most part, and the barren prison is just that, barren; but I appreciate the extra “optional” interactivity the developers put in. As something fun and strategically important, bodies can be dragged into the shadows to avoid alerting the guards. I frankly didn’t find it all that useful. I appreciate its inclusion for the true Splinter Cell players and for throwing bodies into flesh hungry blades, and off cliffs. I only wish that like Arkham Asylum there might have been some atmospheric debris floating around…

Navigation: When Riddick is jumping, he can sometimes catch onto objects. The problem is, the objects that are grabble are not clearly defined. This isn’t like Mirror’s Edge where you can climb anything. This is like Mirror’s Edge where you want to climb a ledge and find you don’t seem to stick. Riddick tries to jump again, and again, but it turns out you aren’t even supposed to get on that box. Sigh* Also, Riddick likes to lose his grip when getting shot while climbing up. I know it is more realistic, but from a gameplay standpoint, it meant enemies on platforms above could neither be shot, nor reached as they camped the spot. This happened rarely, but was still annoying, especially towards the end of the game, when the monstrous Xenos attack.


As I mentioned, the prison is navigateable through ducts and Riddick can visit most of the facility that he is stationed in freely. To help guide the player through the many pathways and labyrinths there is a map. This map is useless. I couldn’t even tell where I was on it, and even worse, the map just shows room names on generic squares. Instead the proper way to get around is just by learning the environment. Luckily, there are useful guiding signs to help maintain sanity. Some lunatic had been kind of nice to paint/etch the names of areas the ducts are leading with an arrow pointing the way towards those stations. I usually stumbled across the correct path to get to my destinations, but for those wishing to explore more, this writing in the duct is very useful. It also prevents the player from backtracking down the same duct by accident, which due to the similarity of textures and lighting, happened on occasion.

Weapons: In this game, weapons are a mixed bag. There are some criteria for weapons that must first be brought up. There are melee weapons, and there are shooting weapons. Every shooting weapon can be used as a melee weapon though, as well as a flashlight. With that note, let me go over some weapons.


Shotgun- Best weapon in the game. Use it in close range for instant-kills, use it at longer range to suppress till you have gotten within close range, repeat.

Rifle- Inaccurate. Use as a last measure, or if out of shotgun bullets. Frankly, it is almost better to snipe with the shotgun than use the rifle. The rifle is good if the target is close for dealing a lot of damage quickly, but then, that is what shotgun is for. Later down the line you can find an enhanced prototype rifle, I have no idea what was enhanced about it besides the shape.

Gun- It is a generic “gun” in the game, but is really a pistol. It isn’t prevalent, but can be better than the rifle, though weaker.

Gatling Gun - Strong, fast and seems to have unlimited ammo. Sucks at close range though, since it takes a while to spin up, ALA the Team Fortress 2 Heavy.

Shiv- Ranging from screwdrivers to scalpels to various shapes of metal, they all perform the same.

Clubs – Pretty much the same as a Shiv, though has a different attack pattern, so I’ll count it different. Not sure how much better it is, though usually costs more than a shiv.

Knuckleduster/hand-to-hand – This weapon attaches to your knuckle and possibly adds more damage, it is difficult to tell. It is not removable once equipped, unless switching it for a different looking one. Surprisingly, the guards do not care if you wear this around them, especially during the Tower 17 parts. I guess this is attributed to the fact you cannot remove the item, and killing anyone is that part will have you die anyways.

Stun gun- Shocks people, unlimited ammo. The victim will recover after a while, but can be stomped for an instant death. As good as the shotgun, except it takes a long time to recover per shot. Useless against robots and Riot Guards.

As can be observed, there is not a wide selection of weapons. The melee attack of the guns seems weaker than using the shiv or clubs, and so is not recommended. Unfortunately, due to the controls, easily switching weapons in case of ammo depletion is not possible; something to keep in mind.

Finishers are awesome. They make your effort to kill a person have that extra surprise at the end. There are no gun finishers, though the shivs, club, and hand to hand do have some. These finishers are usually gruesome [Shiv in the eye anyone?] and happen automatically if the target gets below a certain health. There appears to be enough frontal finishers that I rarely saw many repeat.


However, for stealth finishers, I found that the same animations occurred too often for my taste. It was either a crepitating neckbreak; for hand-to-hand, a stab in the head; for shiv, or a strangling/bashing; for the club. For a game based a lot on stealth, I think there should have been a couple more of these stealth finishers. The shiv is also slightly strange for its stealth finisher. The stab in the head works no matter what gear they are wearing. It is awkward to see Riddick smack a piece of metal through a soldier’s metal helmet; guess Riddick is super strong.

The game doesn’t go overboard with the guns, thanks to those RPG-esque missions sequences as well as limiting their use. Guns are locked down the majority of the game with DNA, forcing Riddick to use what is presented to him. Through the second half of the game this includes the Stun Gun, which is amazingly effective at killing. The stun gun is limited by the reload time, so a couple areas of great guard density force its holstering for sneaking. This helps keep the balance between pure power and stealth in the game.

Extras: For collecting cigarette packages the player is given extra art. The art is good, but doesn’t feel worth it to collect the cigarette packages for it alone. Also, the art is not so high quality that players can zoom in, like Soul Caliber 2 allows. I suppose disk-space might have been an issue for that. To make up for the averageness, each pack had some pseudo-witty quotes on them, and are interestingly named. That is the real draw; at least it was for me. Also 100% completionism with achievements, but I am not one of those people. The commentary that was in the original director’s cut is removed which is a serious disappointment. I can only suppose the game is so big already that perhaps it wasn’t cost effective to include it on the “DVD” too.

There is money in the game. It is used to buy items, pay off guards or enter bets. It is only useful for the second portion of the game, while in second-tier security. After that, the use of money seemingly disappears, and also stops showing up around the level. No problem gameplay-wise, just something noticeable if the player pays attention.

Conclusion: For $5, I definitely cannot complain. Even at full price I’d say the game is worth getting if you have never played it before. Butcher Bay is good on its own, even with you don't play Dark Athena, and is worth the price of admission. Graphics were above average though wet and shiny. Sound was quite good. Music is repetitious. Characters and voices were stellar for being unique, even better than Oblivion’s. Enemies do their job, but misleading strengths. Mech scenes are fun. It is refreshing to find games that have RPG elements, but they aren’t forced down the player’s throat, and give a chance for the player to relax in an FPS. Cigarettes and concept art are a nice treat. Confusing story if not in the know. Characters die in gruesomely effective and spectacular ways. HUD and graphical effects are useful without going overboard. Missing extras from previous versions of the game disappointing. Desyncing cutscenes is very sad. Appreciate a game that gets loading done correctly. Getting around the mines is somewhat of a confusing mess, but horrible map, but there are some helpful pointers around.

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