Personal Favorite: ESCAPE FROM BUTCHER BAY
Following the mildly successful movie Pitch Black, developer Starbreeze Studios created The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay, a prequel to the film which also released in 2004, The Chronicles of Riddick. The story involves Riddick, who has been taken under capture to a max prison called Butcher Bay, and must figure out a way to escape. It is a FPS action/stealth blend, released for the Xbox and PC. Escape from Butcher Bay had excellent sales and reviews. The game was remastered in 2009 and packaged in with its sequel The Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena.
I’m a big fan of the Riddick movies. Pitch Black was not only one of my favorite and first sci-fi movies, it would probably make my top 10 favorite movies list. So back in the day when I heard there was a game being developed that was essentially a sequel to Pitch Black, I was excited. Problem was it ended up being Xbox and PC only. For a long time all I had was a PS2, then a 360. I didn’t get my own original Xbox until just a couple years ago. My first interaction with Escape from Butcher Bay was its remastered version when it came packaged with Assault on Dark Athena on 360. I loved it for many reasons, which I will get into in a sec. For this review though, I wanted to play the original version for the first time, so I can give you the honest opinions on the version of Escape from Butcher Bay that came out for the Xbox.
I found the original Xbox version of Escape from Butcher Bay to be of the same quality as the remake aside from one major issue, which I will cover first and get it out of the way: the graphics. For the time period, Escape from Butcher Bay was praised for good graphics. However its one of those games that don’t age well visually, because it attempted to be as realistic as possible, using all technology available at the time to accomplish that. We’ve come such a long way though, games like Escape from Butcher Bay now look like crap because we’ve become used to much more realistic graphics and we have more advanced TVs that reveal these flaws even more. When playing Escape from Butcher Bay there were numerous times where the screen was too dark to see enemies or surroundings, even with my TV’s gamma at max. There were numerous times that character models were noticeably blurry, edges of terrain abnormally blocky and poorly textured.
Other than that, the original version of Escape from Butcher Bay is phenomenal. It has a great blend of stealth and combat that’s on par with even Metal Gear Solid games. The voice acting is fantastic and uses the same actors from the films, with Riddick and Johns being voiced by Vin Diesel and Cole Hauser respectively. As if having Vin Diesel wasn’t enough the game also features my man Ron Pearlman and famous rapper XZibit. That helps add to the atmosphere of Escape from Butcher Bay, which is already well done with dark environments (although again, often times too dark), gritty NPCs, great narration and a plot that while not full of twists or complicated narratives, suffices to stay interesting and immersive. The cinematics are well done and help set up the story and mood properly. Escape from Butcher Bay makes good use of sound, particularly during stealth moments when you’re trying to tell how far away your prey is by the volume of their conversation or footsteps. Suspenseful background tracks blend into the narrative pretty well at a couple key moments of the story too. Controls can be clunky at brief moments but no more than most stealth games, which never feel smooth and well responsive in my opinion (until MGSV).
This was a strange review for me because I played the HD remake first, so the whole time I’m playing Escape from Butcher Bay I was having a bit harder time enjoying it because I couldn’t help but keep comparing it to its improved version. Escape from Butcher Bay is still an amazing game for its time. But if I had to suggest you to play it, I would have to suggest playing the remake that came packaged with Assault on Dark Athena (which is also a fun game). The remake helps greatly in the graphics department, to help you better appreciate the things Escape from Butcher Bay nails: immersion, setting and killer stealth action.