Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena
Mike "pheriannath" Katsufrakis
PC/360/PS3 - Atari/Starbreeze
I'll preface this by stating that stalking through the shadows and brutally murdering an unsuspecting enemy never ceases to give me a visceral thrill. Less a shooter than a stealth/melee game, The Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena succeeds where almost all other first person games fail: it has responsive and brutal melee combat. Once you pick up the Ulaks, you'll never stop having fun cutting up your foes in a whirling dervish of surgically placed blade strikes.
Dark, and at times claustrophobically so, Riddick tells a simple tale: you're stuck on a renegade Merc ship, and you need to get off of it. The game's at its best when you're able to make use of the shadowy corners of the Athena to prowl around and unleash a terrifying flash of violence against an unsuspecting enemy. The supporting characters are all brilliantly realized, and at least one of the villains' performance will leave you champing at the bit to rip his throat out. The voice acting is universally great, granted you can enjoy the fact Riddick speaks only in non-sequitur and no one bats an eye when having a conversation with him.
Unfortunately, the game's latter half takes you out of the relative safety of the Athena's corridors and into a ghost town filled with wide, brightly lit spaces. It is here that the game's melee focus becomes its greatest weakness - your enemies, armed to the teeth with firearms and remote turrets are able to riddle you with bullets while you have an ever-decreasing amount of places to hide and plan your attack. While you are able to use guns yourself, Riddick is far from the crack shot his foes seem to be. Combine this with an antiquated health system and some of the cheapest AI this side of the NES days, what started as an incredibly promising experience devolves into too much trial-and-error gameplay.
As an added bonus, a graphical facelift of the original Riddick game, Escape From Butcher Bay comes packed in. If you missed this gem, do yourself a favor and grab a copy.