‘Escape from Butcher Bay’ adds to movie license games

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Photo courtesy of IMDb

Gameplay from first person shooter “The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay.” “The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay” is an action, crime, and science-fiction game starring Vin Diesel released in 2004.

By Aidan Finn, Staff Writer

Before he became a household name, Vin Diesel was an actor that starred in a variety of blockbuster films across various genres to much commercial success, with his most iconic sci-fi outing being the 2000 thriller “Pitch Black.” The underappreciated flick was a weird one but an entertaining survival horror thriller.

But Diesel saw the immense potential of this okay movie, which he basically launched his own “Star Wars” saga out of — something he gave legitimate effort to. 

The 2004 follow-up, “The Chronicles of Riddick,” was a similarly okay follow-up with a much grander scale, and a 2013 sequel simply titled “Riddick” boasted some neat visuals and art direction but lacked the energy to continue the franchise further. 

Yet, in another weird-but-not-too-weird case for this license game-addicted column, the 2004 “Riddick” video game “The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay” remains one of the strongest and most unique licensed games to date, providing a bizarre but engagingly immersive experience. 

The game features the titular Riddick, voiced surprisingly passionately by Diesel, with a strong supporting cast including Ron Perlman and Michael Rooker. It takes place in the infamous Butcher Bay prison deep in space, with rusty, industrial confines filled with the screams of other violent inmates. With nothing but escape on Riddick’s mind, you’ll quickly begin making your way deeper into the complex in an increasingly ludicrous prison break not even Steve McQueen could stomach. 

From the get-go, you’ll notice this is no regular 2000s first-person shooter PS game. It’s ahead of its time. It’s immersive sim in its opening hours, as you can’t even get your hands on a gun. You have to sneak around with knives, as you’re vulnerable to pretty much everything around you. Diesel’s bass voice can’t save you here, and even when you eventually get your hands on some firepower, you’ll rarely use it, as Riddick’s supernatural night visual powers, combined with the deep amount of environmental activity (destroyable lights, off switches, hidden vents), make stealth deeply satisfying. 

The environment rarely breaks immersion to tell you where to go, with secret paths that you can completely miss, providing a great incentive to thoroughly explore everything you can. The ammo count is displayed on your weapon. Riddick’s hands appear when you are close enough for a stealth kill, and it really makes an adamant effort to immerse the player with little in the way of gaming tropes to break the immersion, akin to the excellent “Far Cry 2.”

It is not without flaws. While the lighting is excellent for a 2004 Xbox title, the character models are a bit too Play-Doh-like at times, and some mechanics like the shooting lack much punch, but it’s made up for in scenes like a climatic mech battle where you unleash cathodic violence in a mini-gun-wielding tank. The lack of direction for the game’s various pathways can get annoying at times as well.

Overall, “Escape from Butcher Bay” is a weird but excellently executed game that brought way more effort to the movie license game scene than one would expect. The game is also playable on PlayStation3 in an HD remaster on the same disc as its 2009 sequel “Assault on Dark Athena,” a neat bonus and great way to preserve this gem. 

“The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay” is available on Playstation 3, PC and Xbox. 

 

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