Thursday, 18 June 2009

Red Faction: Guerrilla review (multi)

There’s nothing like a dash of soviet imagery to set the tone for a game

*Since trying the multiplayer I've decided to put up the overall score slightly.


Back in 2001 the original ‘Red Faction’ was released on the PS2, PC and Mac by Volition Inc. The game pioneered a new and ambitious engine known as the Geo-mod engine which allowed players to actively sculpt the environment by tunnelling through it. The geo-mod engine revolutionised how players thought about the game environment allowing multiple dynamic entrance points to any given scenario. The game took place on Mars in the year 2075 within the mines of galactic megacorp Ultor. Red Faction saw the protagonist Parker thrown into a full scale uprising against the Ultor Corporation when a guard kills a miner in front of him and a full scale riot breaks out. The intro to this game was incredibly well done and did a fantastic job of immediately drawing you into Parker’s universe. Furthermore, the game actually managed to maintain this high quality of storytelling through strong narrative and impressive scripted events. It wasn’t just the single player experience that shone though; the multiplayer was pretty fantastic as well. Although I never personally owned the game (never had a PS2) I have many fond memories of visiting friends houses so I could get another shot from this fantastic game.

It’s like Half-life all over again only this time you don’t have to feel bad about slaughtering Barney

On the back of the success of ‘Red Faction’ it wasn’t long before we saw a sequel. Red Faction 2 was released in October 2002 on both PS2 and PC. Unfortunately the sequel held very little in common with the original in regards to plot or overall quality. Instead of the more free-roaming style of the original, Red Faction 2 favoured a more linear on the rails approach, which needless to say disenfranchised many of the originals fans. The main storyline took place on Earth and followed a group of nanotech infused soldiers in their exploits. The only, rather tenuous link to the original was that the soldiers in the game had the nanotechnology that had been introduced in Red Faction. A more cynical man might suggest that this game wasn’t developed as a sequel, but was labelled as such to increase sales. I can’t personally comment on this one as I never had the displeasure of playing it, but I take it on good word that this was indeed a metric tonne of ass juice.

Don’t look at me… it’s too shameful

Considering the sort of pathetic whimper of a game that was RF 2, there were many people who were pretty sceptical about Red Faction: Guerrilla (myself included). If anyone out there is still maintaining that level of scepticism it’s my great pleasure to inform you that you need do so no longer. Volition have in fact gone completely the other way with this one. Where RF 2 was an unrelated, plain on the rails FPS; Red-Faction: Guerrilla is a massive, exciting, sandbox style direct sequel to the original. While this is a direct sequel, don’t expect to get what you’ve become accustomed to with previous Red-Faction titles. This is a completely different type of game to its predecessors… it’s also a lot better.

Boom bitches

The Engine
One would argue that perhaps the most important improvement to RF:G is the fantastic Geo-mod 2.0 engine (in combination with the standard Havok physics). The focus this time has been shifted from destructible landscapes to dynamically destructible structures. Now if you’ve played as many games as I have, you’ve doubtless seen lots of destructible structures in other titles. The thing is, you haven’t really, not on this scale. RF: G takes everything you know and expect from destructible scenery, defecates on it, puts it in a rocket, fires said rocket into the Sun… then the Sun explodes and everything you’ve ever known and loved is consumed by the glorious flame. Every material in this game has been modelled to break apart realistically on impact, every building has been designed brilliantly with key structural supports and weaknesses. When you destroy a building in this game, you tear it down piece by piece. Often you’ll find buildings shudder and creak for a few moments before finally becoming unstable and collapsing (Note: this is the closest any game has brought me to climax Very Happy). This is most definitely the Angelina Jolie of physics engines.

This game gives me happy times in my pants


Fifty years have passed since the original Ultor riots and Mars has changed a great deal in that time. The whole surface has been terraformed in order to sustain life and to allow full scale planetary mining. Unfortunately, in the fifty years since the fall of Ultor a new equally sinister organisation known as the EDF has seized control of the planet and its workforce, once again forcing the people of Mars to work in unreasonable conditions for unreasonable hours (oh the martianity!). Needless to say, the people of Mars are once again rising up and fighting for their rights (to party). This is where you come in; you take the role of a miner named Alec Mason who is pulled into the conflict almost immediately on his arrival on the planet. As the game starts you meet your brother who straight away tries to recruit you into the Red Faction. At this point you have no intention of fighting the man or fighting for the people, you are just there to mine. However this dream is shattered when the EDF kill your brother in front of you and then attempt to kill you because of your relationship. As a result of all of this, you are unwillingly forced into the Red Faction and into bringing down the EDF. Mars’ surface is divided into six sectors (Parker, Dust, Badlands, Oasis, Free Fire Zone and Eos), each of which need liberating individually; I’ll go into this deeper later on in the review. Aside from the EDF and the colonists there is also a third presence on Mars’ surface known only as the Marauders; you don’t know much about them to begin with but they become a large part of the plot later on. Now, nobody is going to win any awards for the script of this game, but for what it is, it’s pretty good. It’s important not to expect the story to act as anything more than a pretext for this game, after all this is a game about blowing shit up.

Think of the hammer as the physical embodiment of your in game schlong (or boobs, I’m all for equal opportunities)

Game play

In a game where the sole emphasis is on destruction the most important concern should be, is the destruction satisfying. I can gladly say that this game achieves something far beyond satisfying. Every glorious moment of in game action feels close to masturbatory in its sheer odious pleasure (It almost feels sinful). This is largely due to the incredible physics engine that underpins the whole experience, but thankfully there is also a really good game to accompany it. As mentioned above, each of the surfaces six sectors needs liberating from the EDF presence. Achieving this goal is a multi-facetted feat requiring completion of story missions, destruction of key structures and a number of side quests for the Red Faction. My personal favourite task is taking down the EDF structures. In each case it is completely up to you how you go about bringing the enemy down, whether that means placing charges around the structure, driving through it, firing rockets at it or disintegrating it with nano-bots (we’ll talk about that later).

Each sector has two gauges assigned to it, one that shows the level of EDF control in the sector and another that indicates Red Faction moral within the sector. Bringing down the EDF within any given sector requires you to bring their level of control to zero before banishing them within the context of a story mission. The moral gauge has a number of affects on the game environment; these include the amount of salvage you acquire from completing missions, the amount of ammo you receive from ammo crates and how ready guerrilla fighters are to jump to your aid during combat. While these things aren’t necessary for your progression through the story, they do make things a little easier. There are a number of ways of bolstering moral, but generally speaking it involves destroying enemy propaganda and completing Guerrilla missions. It is possible to lose moral by dying or by accidentally killing colonists, but for the most part you won’t need to worry about it. The Guerrilla missions come in a number of different guises, each of which is pretty fun to play. Listed below are all of the types of Guerrilla action:

Defense: In these missions you help groups of Red faction fighters defend valuable locations from EDF assaults. These missions for the most part appear randomly on the map when you are driving around and are only available for a short period of time.

Controlled demolition: These missions require you to destroy buildings as quickly as possible with whatever weapons are prescribed to you. This is all about using your noggin along with a good deal of brute force to get the job done.

Convoy: Often you’ll get hailed on the airwaves as nearby EDF vehicles try to get between locations with valuable information. Not a big fan of these ones but there’s no punishment for not doing them, so I don’t begrudge their existence

Collection: These missions require you to find valuable vehicles scattered around the map and bring them back to the nearest safe house as quickly as possible. Often become more difficult than you’d expect as legions of EDF attempt to stop you from reaching your location.

Collateral damage: In these missions you find yourself at the helm of a rocket launcher mounted on the back of an old junker being driven by a crazed old Martian. The aim here is to cause as much destruction to EDF property as possible along a pre set path. Needless to say, these missions are epically good fun.

Heavy Weapon: These missions require you to distract large numbers of enemy soldiers with a ridiculously powerful weapon as your team mates infiltrate nearby buildings.

It’s like GTA and Jerry Brookheimer had sexy times and gave birth to a beautiful baby game

Any good demolitions expert knows that the key to success is a good arsenal of tools to achieve their goals. Apparently Volition Inc are well aware of this also with one of the most awesome set of weapons in any game ever being on offer in RF:G. To begin with you find yourself equipped with a set of remote charges, an assault rifle and a kick arse hammer. Each of the games weapons can be upgraded on exchange of salvage and more, increasingly destructive weapons become available later on as you complete guerrilla actions and reach certain plot points. To begin with I found myself mostly switching between the assault rifle and the remote charges, trying to balance the killing with the destruction. As I progressed though I actually began to find that the hammer was particularly satisfying to wield as it could competently tackle both structures and guards and look really good doing it. I think the point where I really completely bought into this game though was when the nano forge was introduced. The nano forge is a rifle that fires a swarm of nano robots at any given target and tears it apart into its constituent parts. I still find myself giggling with churlish glee every time I think about taking out one of the games bridges by standing beneath it, disintegrating the supports and wank… watching the ensuing chaos. Other high points include the arc welder (A gun that generates a stream of electricity that can branch out and kill multiple enemies at once) and the thermo-baric rocket launcher (a gun so powerful that it can blast apart entire buildings in one blast). You can only ever carry four weapons at the time (one of which will always be the sledgehammer) meaning that you have to carefully consider which weapons you are most likely going to need for any given mission. Each of the games weapons is great fun to use (in my experience) and make for one helluva gun fight.

Cool guys don’t look at explosions

RF: G also succeeds in providing a fantastic array of interesting and unique vehicles to drive around the landscape. There is a great deal of different types of vehicle classes available for you drive across Mars’ surface, ranging from 4x4’s to sports cars, from taxi’s to heavy mining vehicles. Perhaps the most fun to use vehicles in this game are the giant mechanical walkers. Nothing can stand in the way of these bad boys (not even Chuck Norris); buildings are torn asunder as if they were made of crate paper as you stride forward wailing your massive mechanical arms. As one of my friends correctly put it “it’s like one of those shit mech games only really, really f***ing good”. The Mars landscape feels like it has been designed to fun to drive around with bumps, jumps and falls scattered liberally across the landscape. All of the games vehicles handle relatively realistically and all of them are great fun to drive. In the latter portions of the game you'll find that a jet pack is introduced into the mix. This massively changes how you approach your missions, allowing you to be a bit more haphazard than before. It’s really hard to complain about the driving experience in this game and because of that I’m not going to.

*Edit: A lot of people have been complaining about the sluggish control of the vehicles in this game. Now while I did notice this, I can't say it was a problem for me. It is definitely an issue though and potential buyers do need to be aware of it if they're looking to make a purchase/rental, especially if they think it's the sort of thing that is likely to bother them.

Let the mayhem begin

The controls throughout are pretty good for the most part. The weapon selection system took a little getting used to begin with but over time I actually grew to really like it. To select weapons you have to hold RB (on the 360) and press A, X, Y or B to choose the one you want. It is then possible to quickly switch back to your previous weapon by a quick tap of RB. One thing that really doesn’t work in this game is the cover system, it’s far too fiddly to use and ends up feeling a bit redundant anyway in a world where your cover rarely stays upright for very long. I can’t help but feel that if they’d assigned the cover to the left trigger and gone for the Rainbow Six Vegas style use of cover it might actually have been really good. This aside I never felt myself getting frustrated by unresponsive controls or bad button placement. Everything pretty much flows the way it should.


I’m kind of torn on the graphics in this game. The thing is, the resolution is really impressive, the characters well designed and all of the vehicles and structure are really well modelled. However the landscapes are pretty dull for the most part, there’s really not a lot to look at in terms of scenery or colour. I don’t know what else you could expect on a terraformed Mars though so I’m not sure that this complaint actually holds any water; either way it’s not a major quibble. One thing this game does suffer quite badly with though is pop up. Most of the time you don’t really notice the pop up because of the bumpy nature of the landscape hiding it, but when you do notice it, it is pretty ugly. I can’t help but think that if they’re going to render such plain landscapes, they should really make a more concerted effort to get rid of pop up. To make up for this they have made the explosions really jaw-droppingly beautiful though. The beauty of the destruction brought a single tear to my eye on more than one occasion.

Sooo beautiful!!!


The sound is this game is also worthy of note. Each of the games sound effects has been created with a great deal of love, especially the falling buildings. Each building has a different set of sounds based on what materials it has been constructed out of. The last few moments of a buildings existence are always a treat for the ears with each shudder beautifully reverberating through every part of its remaining support and echoing around the decrepit walls. What I would say though is that this game is not going to win any awards for voice acting. It’s not badly acted or anything; it’s just all a bit generic. I’m almost certain that it won’t bother all but the most picky among you.


Red Faction: Guerrilla offers some of the best multiplayer I have ever played. Volition have gone to a great deal of effort here to produce a valuable and interesting multiplayer experience which to be honest, could have stood up as a stand alone title. there are a number of different game modes on offer here with the standard set of death match variants and a capture the flag mode. Also included in the mix are modes where the emphasis is shifted to destruction (as you would expect really). One particularly interesting mode has each team assigned with base buildings to protect from the enemy. Upon building destruction these buildings can be rebuilt with the use of a special gun, (not unlike how the link gun is used in unreal tournament 2004) allowing for fiercely tactical matches where you have to be clever about choosing when to attack or defend. As I mentioned above, in the single player mode you get to unlock a jet pack later on in the game. Now in the multiplayer they've massively extended the list of backpacks that you can use. There are cloaking packs, healing packs, damage increase packs, speed packs, impulse packs (similar to the jet pack, but they send you up to a great height in one press), rhino packs (that allow you to ram through buildings), vision packs (that highlight all of the foes on the map) and concussion packs (which send out a small area wave that blast nearby foes off of their feet). I think that's all of them but there's so many of the bloody things it would be easy to miss one out. The backpacks really make this game stand apart from other online experiences as they do massively change the state of play in regards to tactics without making the game unbalanced or cheap. the game also includes an offline wrecking crew mode where you take it in turns to reap as much destruction as possible on the landscape within a minute. The wrecking crew mode also contains a number of interesting variants, which are a good deal of fun to work through with your friends (presuming you have any). I have a sneaking suspicion that RF: G may well end up being the next online multiplayer phenomenon; it certainly deserves to be.


In my personal opinion this game offers pretty much everything you could ever reasonably ask for from a sandbox shooter. The environment is vast, the missions are fun, the interface is easy to use and there’s a lot of depth of experience (but it’s never force fed to like another game that I shan’t name). This game isn’t preachy and it’s not going to change the way you see the world (or Mars for that matter); what it will do is give you hours and hours of unmitigated fun in both a vast single player campaign and it's thrilling multiplayer component. I just hope that we see a lot more from the geo-mod 2.0 engine as it really is superb. It’s been a long while since I’ve wanted to sit people down while I’ve been playing a game and say “look at this… man did you just see that!?”. I really can’t wait to see what Volition pull out of their hats next. Anyway you’ll have to excuse, I’m off to play some more Red Faction.


Story: 4/5 (it’s not exactly inspired or anything, but it does the job)
Game play: 4.9/5 (Every moment is truly glorious, it’s just a shame that the cover system wasn’t better)
Sound: 4.8/5 (The dialogue isn’t exactly amazing but the sounds of shuddering buildings as they slowly crumble more than make up for that)
5/5 (I think I might actually prefer the multiplayer on this to Halo 3)
Overall: 4.7/5 (There’s an awful lot of bang for your buck with this title… there’s also a good deal of boom, kerplow, pchhooorrr and smash)

Thumbs up purchase… seriously, go and buy this game right away. Go and give them money so they can make more!

Thursday, 4 June 2009

Are video games losing the plot?

There's a trend that has appeared recently in the mainstream video game market that is causing me and doubtless many others a great deal of distress. I'm talking about a trend more insidious than happy slapping, more shocking than school shootings and more pungent than a gaming convention. I am, of course talking about the trend that is cliffhanger endings.

Now, I'm not fundamentally against cliffhanger endings in all forms of media. As an example, the JJ. Abrahams TV epic 'lost' contains a cliffhanger nearly every week. The point is though, that it is weekly. If your favourite game ends with a cliffhanger, you're most likely looking at 2-3 years at least before the narrative is completed, by which time you've probably forgotten what exactly was happening or you just won't care anymore.

Ok, so computer games for the most part aren't particularly well known for strong narratives to begin with. Stories within games for the most part seem to act as pretexts for the action within the game, not unlike a bad Hollywood movie. A lot of the time this is sort of acceptable because the quality and depth of the experience on offer distracts you from the storyline. I do think this is pretty sad though, a good narrative can really give a game an extra kick making it shine just a little bit more than it's competitors. Would you kindly take your minds back to 2007, back to the release of Bioshock. I'm sure those of you who enjoyed the game did so largely because of a well structured narrative and a well defined mythos. Furthermore they didn't kick you in the teeth by leaving the story unresolved when you reached its conclusion, although the ending was a bit lackluster.

Now in contrast think back to Halo 2, again this game had a fairly strong story throughout with a consistent mythology and a strong narrative train. However, I think what most of us take away from that game is the horrendous ending. Certainly, when I think back on it I don't think about how much I enjoyed the story, but instead on how I was removed from the experience just as it looked to be getting a lot more exciting. Halo 2 isn't the worst offender though. the one that really springs to mind in recent gaming history is Prince of Persia. I'm going to put the ending in spoiler markers so as not to ruin it for you.
The narrative ends with you literally undoing everything you've done within the game and releasing the main bad guy from his prison, with the words "to be continued" written on the screen. I find it hard to put into words how angry this made me, probably about as angry as I was when I found out that My Name is Earl had been cancelled

I think the most offensive part of the broken story in this game is that after its release, they announced that they would be releasing DLC to fix the story at a later date, meaning that if you'd rented (as I had) you'd have to pay to get the game again and then pay for material that you'd most probably only want to play once. The idea of paying to get a good story is just ridiculous anyway though. Can you imagine if your favourite book had an original version, but then the author decided that it wasn't up to scratch and then released a redux version where they fixed the story but charged a greater price for it? I suspect that for most of you, it would cease to be your favourite story because you would feel tricked and betrayed.

So I guess what I'm essentially driving at, is that good games deserve good stories. Most gamers are pretty discerning when it comes to deciding what kind of experience that they want from a game and for a lot of them that includes a good storyline. Apart from anything, if you get a good story out of it, it feels a lot less like you've been wasting your time. I hope that this problem starts to dissolve in the near future, because as far as I'm concerned the gaming market is slowly growing up and should probably stop reading 'Harry Potter' and should move on to some John Steinbeck instead.

Tuesday, 2 June 2009

Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on the Dark Athena review (multi)

I feel that before I start writing the review I should give it some context… this is the fourth time I’ve started writing it (all previous attempts seemed to mysteriously disappeared into the ether). If this review comes across as slightly jaded that’s probably why Very Happy

Background (Note: this section is entirely about the films so if you want to get straight into the review skip ahead to the next section)

The year 2000 saw many important events; Japanese Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi dies of a stroke, the billionth Indian citizen is born and in South Nigeria 250 locals are blown up whilst trying to scavenge gasoline from a broken petroleum pipeline. However the year 2000 saw one event more important than all of these… the year 2000 saw the release of ‘Pitch Black’ and the creation of the most badass criminal in all of the known universe, Richard B. Riddick. The role of Riddick was taken up by Vin Diesel (the only man to ever win an arm wrestle with a fully grown gorilla without the use of tranquilizers) who seemed to fit the character like a hand in a glove. Pitch Black picks up with Riddick after being rather embarrassingly captured by his arch enemy, a mercenary by the name of William J. Johns (Played by Cole Hauser). As you might expect though, the tables are soon turned as the ship that he is captive on crash lands on a desert planet allowing Riddick to escape. It’s not long before Riddick’s position as most badass thing on the planet is jeopardized though, as the ships crew soon find out that they’re sharing the landscape with a horde of carnivorous photophobic aliens.

This is where it all started

Pitch Black was met with a fairly mixed critical response, the crux of the issue seeming to be whether people bought into Riddick’s character. I personally found it to be a rather enjoyable film (although not without flaws), largely due to the fact that you were never quite sure what Riddick’s intentions were, or whether he was in fact a greater threat than the alien scourge. One of the films trademarks are Riddick’s luminescent eyes (that allow him to see in darkness) which he explains he received in the galactic super prison, ‘Butcher Bay’. This story became the focus of the first Chronicles of Riddick game; Escape from Butcher Bay in 2005. I’ll discuss this game at some length within this review as AOTDA contains a re-mastered version of the original game. Unfortunately 2005 also saw the release of a rather less impressive specimen within the Riddick universe in the shape of a film named ‘The Chronicles of Riddick’. Alas they lost the plot slightly with this one, replacing all of Riddick’s subtle deadly charm with an over jumped generic action anti-hero with all the poise and grace of a drunken badger. Fittingly the film was met with a withering response, as while the film was a fairly solid action thriller, it lacked any of the depth or nuances that made ‘Pitch Black’ shine. Thankfully, Butcher Bay was spared this kind of critical Butchering as it was actually a stunningly good game… and so the actual review begins.

Escape from Butcher Bay

A rare gem on the Xbox platform

There’s probably a few of those amongst you wondering if it’s fair to be reviewing a game from 2005 by today’s standards. Gladly I can inform you that for the most part, yes it is. Escape from Butcher Bay is nearly as impressive now as it was back in 2005 which is really a testament to the solid game design employed by Tigon Studios (Vin Diesel’s own game studio… how f***ing awesome is that?).

Papa always said "if you can't trust anyone else, you've got to do the job yourself"


As the name implies, the plot of EFBB focuses on Riddick trying to escape from the infamous Butcher Bay. Of course this isn’t as easy as breaking out of your regular joint; Butcher Bay is the prison’s prison, it has been designed with criminals like Riddick in mind (Riddick is a better class of criminal though). Before too long, Riddick is causing all kinds of hell within Butcher Bay’s walls. The story throughout is fairly solid with the only major gripe being that the prison paying to house Riddick doesn’t really make a lot of sense. This aside, I enjoyed the narrative all of the way through the games 10-13 hour campaign. The in game dialogue and voice acting is all of a supreme quality, with one of the highlights coming in the form of the vocal stylings of John Di Maggio (The voice of both Bender from Futurama and Marcus Fenix from Gears of War). It’s always pleasing to come across a game where quality writing has clearly been a focal point of the development process.


Ok, this is where we have to start making some allowances for EFBB taking into account its vintage. EFBB contains a mixture of stealth and FPS gameplay which for the most part are separated into distinct sections. There have been a number of big changes to the FPS genre in the last couple of years, the most important of which being the fabled cover system. As you might expect EFBB lacks this feature to its slight detriment. Another aspect of this game that modern gamers may find irritating is the putridly stupid A.I. The enemies in this game are really, really dumb; it’s quite difficult to get across just how dumb they are. It’s not uncommon for the bad guys to start walking in circles or into walls or to start shooting at absolutely nothing. It can be quite difficult to predict their movements at times, as their movement patterns are as erratic as those of a fish in an electrified tank which contains water laced with speed. My only other slight gripe with the game play is the weapon selection system. To select weapons in this game you have to press the right shoulder button (on the 360) to bring up a circular menu. You then have to hover over the weapon you wish to equip with the right thumb stick. This would be fine were it not for the fact that the menu is quite fiddly and imprecise and you often end up dying because you can’t change weapons in time. Despite all of these qualms though, EFBB is a bloody brilliant game. The FPS sections of the game are pretty standard fair, you shoot things, things shoot you and a bloodbath ensues. Gun play is pretty solid throughout with all of the guns feeling chunky and powerful enough to satisfy most FPS junkies.

"I told you the food court would be closed"
"Can we please not make this into an argument?"
"I'm just saying that if you'd listened..."

In my personal opinion though, where this game really stands out is the stealth sections. The stealth mechanics in this game are absolutely sublime. There are very few things more satisfying than hiding in the shadows, stalking a guard as he passes you and then stabbing him in the neck with a screw driver (or is that just me). You never have to worry too much about making a lot of noise as when you are stealthing you can go into stealth mode, which allows you to move silently as you stalk your prey. Most of the lights around the prison can be shot out allowing you to sneak by enemies with ease. You’ll often find that if a guard discovers a smashed light, they’ll get out their flashlights and will actually become more vigilant than usual making things more difficult for you.

Would you like your guard diced or sliced?

The game also contains some really good hand to hand combat often throwing you into fist fights with multiple enemies. There’s also a couple of awesome mech scenes thrown in to keep you entertained. Throughout your quest for freedom, you’ll be expected to talk to a number of your fellow inmates in order to gain favours from them. Of course they always expect something in return; this can vary from assassinating other prisoners to collecting moths for them. Some of these tasks are necessary for story progression where as others can get you useful equipment or information. For those collectable junkies amongst you, there are a number of themed cigarette packs to be found around the landscape in order to unlock concept art for the game. Overall the game play is a rich if slightly dated and very rarely disappoints.


For the most part the graphics in this game are pretty darn impressive. They’ve been completely overhauled to meet the potential of the next gen consoles and for the most part they’ve achieved that goal. Obviously some of the level design is a little uninspired by today’s standards as it wasn’t originally designed for modern consoles. Thanks to the improved engine though, both the lighting and the polygon count have massively improved making the adventure look very at home on the new consoles. All of the in game characters have been re-designed and wouldn’t look out of place in any modern shooters. There are a few minor graphical glitches present in the form of dead polygons and slow texture loads but these are fairly rare and don’t detract from the game in any significant way.

Assault on the dark Athena

Riddick is back... only this time marginally more awesome


The story in AOTDA picks up almost immediately after the events of EFBB with Riddicks escape vessel ironically once again being captured, only this time by a troop of rogue mercenary pirates. It’s established that Riddick has previously made acquaintance with the leader of the pirates and there is some animosity between them. I never felt that this was ever resolved very satisfactorily and found it to be quite disappointing. Thankfully though, once again the story is fairly solid with Riddick trying to escape the Dark Athena to do whatever it is that he does when he’s not escaping captivity (I’m never quite sure what it is he does when he’s not escaping). I don’t want to risk ruining the plot for you, but what I will say is that the story doesn’t all take place on the Dark Athena. The change of scenery in the latter portions of the game is quite pleasing and I found it to add some needed variety to the experience.


It’s the same as Butcher bay…

Ok, you also get some cool new weapons…

Well perhaps that analysis isn’t quite fair, but for the most part AOTDA is just a modernized expansion to EFBB. This is by no means a bad thing. You get an extra 10+ hours of game in a new setting and some cool new ways to eviscerate your enemies. The new blades (the shylaks) that Riddick uses are totally kick ass and make you feel even more deadly than ever before. On top of this, the new enemies (the drones) can be used as temporary gun turrets or can be controlled from remote terminals varying up the game play nicely. There’s also a return from the ever fantastic mech scenes. What else could a Riddick fan ask for?

Is this the face of a man that you want to piss off?


Again, the graphics are pretty much the same as in EFBB but you can tell that it has been designed for modern consoles from the ground up. The level design is a lot more ambitious with a lot of the games aesthetic looking absolutely stunning (especially later on). The areas in this game have been developed with the same level of love as EFBB and they really do deliver in terms of style. The character design is up to the same high standard again, my only quibble is that the main enemy looks a bit weird (it’s quite hard to put into words, but she definitely doesn’t look quite right).


Right, I’m going to keep this quite brief. The online multiplayer section of this game seems to be pretty functional and has a number of different modes to keep you occupied. I found that I wasn’t particularly engaged by it though, AOTDA is essentially a single player experience and the multiplayer element ends up feeling like a bit of an arbitrary grace. I guess in conclusion, I can’t really complain about it; it’s nice that it’s there and it seems pretty sturdy, it’s just not really my cup of tea. Maybe you’ll like it better.

This tactic is likely to get you killed, sure the A.I is stupid but if you stand in the middle of a room firing a gun they'll remove the gun barrels from their nostrils and dispose of you in no time


So, is it worth your hard earned cash? Well, bearing in mind all you get here for your money I certainly think so. You’re getting more than 20 hours of offline game play here and a fairly decent multiplayer experience to boot. If you’re anything like me, you probably watched ‘Pitch Black’ thinking “God he’s awesome, I wish I could be like him”. Now that I have the ability to be Riddick I couldn’t be much happier. Sure it’s a little dated and Riddick’s character is a little shallow, but this is all forgivable. The voice acting throughout is funny and convincing, the story is good, the game play is great and you have shylaks… tell me that this game is not worth your money. For those of you who are only really interested in the single player I’d recommend renting and then buying it if you decide that you actually like the multiplayer. I personally love this game, it does annoy me at times but then again so does my girlfriend and I’ve put up with her for longer than I care to think about (note: if you have to choose between this game and having a girlfriend then please choose the latter. Games are cool but they’re not very satisfying sexually… I take that back, Vin Diesel is a sexy man). Have fun with this one.

Story: 4/5
Graphics: 4.5/5
Gameplay: 4/5 (a little dated in places but still awesome)
Sound: 5/5 (the voice acting is really fantastic throughout)
Multiplayer: 3.5/5 (sturdy, just nothing special)
Overall: 4/5 (definitely worth your money)

Thumbs up rental at the very least! I urge all of you to try this game, there’s lots on offer here!

Monday, 1 June 2009

Long time no C++

Hello friends, enemies and randomers. It's been a while since I've posted on the blog and I thought I should probably laden you with a positive cornucopia of pathetic excuses... unfortunately I don't have any so I guess an apology will have to do. Needless to say, I am working to rectify this situation in the form of a review. So when can we expect to hear your oh so wise and entirely valid opinions gracing our fetid ungrateful ears I hear you ask. Well if things go to plan there should be a review of the 'Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on the Dark Athena' up by tomorrow my faithful subjects. Sorry it's been so long, I'm going to try my best not to hurt you like this again.

Keep gaming!!