The Chronicles Of Riddick: Escape From Butcher Bay (EFBB) is a game from the Original Xbox era, I’ve been playing the Xbox version and can’t find it on modern consoles so it’s not backward compatible. The game is a sort of spin-off, origin story for Vin Diesel’s tough guy character from the Pitch Black, The Chronicles Of Riddick and Riddick movies.
Butcher Bay is a massive prison that holds many prisoners in multiple levels of security. Riddick has been caught by a bounty hunter who sold him to the Butcher Bay management. Playing as Riddick, the player must navigate through a series of situations to finally find a way to escape from Butcher Bay. The levels work in an open fashion with exploration being encouraged, however most tasks have a set order which keeps the game on a linear path which the player must figure out based on dialogue and wall signs (very interesting how it’s done). EFBB is played from a first person perspective to immerse the player in Riddick’s world.
Combat is both brilliant and terrible at different points. Fist fighting one-on-one works really well with blocking, movement and various ways to punch keeping it interesting. Melee weapons such as knuckledusters, shivs (plus other knife-like items) and clubs all come into fights over time with different weapons having different attack speeds leading to quick thinking being necessary to avoid early deaths. I hated ranged combat in EFBB because the few guns that the player could obtain were almost always held by enemies and quickly taken away once Riddick got them. No iron sights and a small red dot in the middle of the screen to aim meant a mix of hope and holding the trigger were my most effective shooting strategy. Gun reload times took ages too which left me feeling that any idea of fairness had been used up when making melee combat. There are a few bosses or at least mini-bosses in the game which have massively inflated health which are good or irritating depending on their weapons.
Stealth is weird. You crouch, moving slowly to sneak up on enemies and assassinate them with a slow, silent grab or a loud, quick neck break which can feel amazing when it works but the lack of a proper detection display made it nearly impossible to plan. There’s a blue filter that sometimes appears on the screen when you’re not detected and using your eyes you can see when an enemy has their back turned but in my experience most stealth attempts end with a hail of bullets from all directions because there’s not much telling you what’s going on (it made me miss modern vision modes that’s common in stealth games these days). Riddick is also supposed to use darkness to his advantage as bodies can be hidden, as can Riddick himself, but enemies have torches and it’s hard for the player to see in the dark. There’re a lot of stealth moments.
Darkness seems to be the standard for EFBB. Whether bad lighting, just an old game or fitting for the dreary brown/grey prison environment, darkness is everywhere. Eventually Riddick gains a sort of night vision which turns the screen pink, brightening everything as it does and making any light source completely blinding to go near. One level had darkness with little goblin things as trial and error which worked well as a surprise horror bit but having options to be stumbling around in the dark or hurt my eyes really damaged my enjoyment for this game, add in bad ranged combat and unfair enemies to get a really awful experience.
Annoyingly, the game has a lot of charm. I got frustrated at myself every time I stopped playing, genuinely wanting to push through it. Vin Diesel’s likeness and voice, being able to lean around corners, flush toilets, shoot locks and use vents, plus really cool moments when things explode all leant some brilliance to what was going on. I found the peaceful sections of the game where you calmly talk to people to work things out really engaging. There’s generous checkpoints and the movie connection means there’s a lot more story to be seen. EFBB has enough to it, different ideas and clever structure that there’s a truly great game here.
We even get collectible cigarette packets that unlock clips and things to be viewed from the main menu.
Overall, EFBB is hard to recommend but I would like to see a modern, polished remake. I found an amount of enjoyment, even struggling with the stealth I was able to try run past enemies most of the time (the game could be brute forced). However by modern standards this isn’t a good game but with a retro view it’s a bit of a gem.