Having much enjoyed the movies Pitch Black and The Chronicles of Riddick, I was eagerly looking forward to playing this game and was indeed not disappointed. One thing that strikes you right away is how close the developers have tailored Riddick to the look and feel of the Vin Diesel movie character. Of course, Vin Diesel was the producer of this game and very involved in its development, so it's not surprising. He also does the voice acting for the part. This is a game that makes you feel like the character by the clever technique of seamlessly combining first person and third person views. It's also extremely well balanced between shooting, adventure, and stealth and sure to please people who like all of these styles.
Escape from Butcher Bay was written and designed as a prequel to the film Pitch Black and placed in time about ten years beforehand. There are intentional allusions to some things that would arise in the movie. You will also discover how Riddick gained his ability to see in the dark and what precipitates the wearing of his signature goggles. In the game, this is called eyeshine. This gives Riddick the advantage of shooting out the lights and blinding the enemy while he moves around easily in the shadows. This is a linear story, but you will also be offered side missions that you can chose to reject or accept.
Butcher Bay is a maximum-security prison located on some planet and the game begins with Riddick being delivered to the warden by the bounty hunter, Johns. The adventure is all about how he is going to escape this seemingly inescapable fortress. Although Riddick has no superhuman powers, you certainly feel like he can do just about anything. There's not a lot of pop and sizzle but the character is so immersive that the game doesn't need a lot of eye candy to hold it up. The visuals are rather spare given the environment is a penitentiary, but it's obvious the entire team of developers put a lot of thought into making Riddick and the story the main focus; which is not to say the graphics are in any way bad, there's just not a lot of extraneous scenery. The intelligent use of shadowing and the attention to animation make the characters very realistic and the voice acting is superb. The game received high marks when it was released.
Combat is not particularly difficult on the normal level, but a lot of this game is about stealth and dropping the bad guys from behind by breaking their necks or stabbing them in the back. The stealth mode is activated when the player crouches and a blue glow indicates that you are hidden. When Riddick is in the prison yards though, he will be challenged to a few fistfights with fellow inmates, but hand to hand combat is not too hard to master. Riddick fearlessly goes about his business with no compulsions. Being surrounded by hardened criminals and mean guards, Riddick is just harder and meaner. Although there's lots of the shooter aspect, getting your hands on a usable gun isn't easy as the guards assault rifles are all DNA encoded to their user, which is why stealth plays a big role. But not to worry, there are other guns and weapons that Riddick puts to good use.
Throughout the game, there are hidden cigarette packages that unlock concept art and video files.
The Director's cut is basically just the PC version of this game as it was originally released for Xbox. It adds a new sequel over and above the console version and seamlessly integrates it into the story along with a few other new elements. It also makes the controls PC friendly. The game is not perfect as there are a few graphical hitches and some people have experienced freezing problems, however, I ran across some advice to set the affinity to single core and that did the trick for me.
I really enjoyed this game and was sorry when it came to an end as it leaves you wanting more. Playing Riddick just makes you feel so bad-ass. This is a game I would not hesitate to recommend. A sequel was released in 2009 called The Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena, which includes a remake of Butcher Bay. If you don't have the first game yet, it would be worth going with the new release as it's now hard to find Butcher Bay alone. The reviews are up and down as to whether Athena measures up to the originality of Butcher Bay, but the visuals are said to be better and the action smoother. However, some say the gameplay becomes monotonous. There was also a multiplayer component added, but it received lackluster reviews.