- Publisher: Atari
- Developer: Starbreeze
- Also On: PS3
- ESRB Rating: “M” for Mature
- Genre: FPS
- Pros: Two great single-player campaigns; nice stealth/action mix; nice graphics with good lighting
- Cons: Multiplayer only so-so; loading screens
Assault on Dark Athena is actually two single-player games in one plus a multiplayer mode. The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay (one of the best original Xbox games) has been updated and refined along with an all-new adventure, Assault on Dark Athena. Both storylines are about Richard B. Riddick (who is voiced by and looks like Vin Diesel) escaping from the two toughest prisons in the galaxy. The games take place before the events in the movie “Pitch Black” and really flesh out the Riddick character and make you understand how everything fits together. Ever wondered where Riddick got his eye shine? You’ll find out here.
The two single-player adventures take about 6 hours each to beat. Replay value is decent as there are hidden objects to find and the games are good enough you’ll want to play through them at least a couple of times. There are also multiplayer modes available, but they don’t really stand out as the game types are pretty generic and other games have simply done all of this better already. The only truly standout mode is called Pitch Black mode where the map is completely dark and one player is Riddick (with eye shine) and the other players are guards with flashlights looking for him.
Assault on Dark Athena tries to mimic the same formula, but deviates from it a bit in a few key areas that result in a game that isn’t quite as good. The ratio of stealth to action in AoDA is the complete opposite of EFBB and you find yourself in firefights far too often. The essence of Riddick is still there, but the execution and overall feel is a bit more “generic shooter” than Escape from Butcher Bay which was pretty unique.
The only real negative thing I would say about the game is that it has to load constantly. Unlike more modern games that stream a level as you play it or load big chunks at a time, this game loads little bits of a level and if you have to go back and forth between sections (one sequence in the middle of EFBB immediately comes to mind) it has to load ridiculously often. The loads are usually quick, particularly if you have the game installed to your HDD, but seeing loading screens so often (or at all) is kind of off putting.
Graphically, these games aren’t super stunning but they are definitely nice. Escape from Butcher Bay was a great looking game on the OG Xbox four years ago, and with some HD upgrades and some touching up it still looks good. Just not top of the line good. Assault on Dark Athena benefits from being built from the ground up in HD, and looks better than EFBB, but is still kind of lagging behind the best looking games the Xbox 360 has to offer. There are times where these games will surprise you, though. The lighting is generally very excellent all around, and some character models (in particular Riddick in AoDA) look amazing. The opening scene of AoDA is also really quite impressive (you’ll understand when you see it).
The sound is very good overall. The voice acting is extremely well done by all parties involved which really helps make the world feel realistic. The sound effects are perfect and the music is moody and fits the Riddick universe well.
In the end, The Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena is an easy game to recommend. Fans of the franchise will absolutely love it, and the quality of the story and gameplay is enough it just might make fans out of people who didn’t think they liked Riddick that much. For $60 you are getting two remarkably good single-player campaigns along with some decent (if generic) multiplayer, which makes a pretty solid package overall. It looks and sounds great, plays very well, and fleshes out one of the more interesting and unique sci-fi storylines of the last 20 years. Give The Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena a rental if you are unsure, but I think most gamers will be happy with a purchase.