I decided to distract myself from anxiously awaiting Mass Effect 3, Deus Ex: Human Revolution and Hitman: Absolution by playing some older games that came out back in the days before I had nice computers. Back before I built my own computers and $800 would only get me a pretty decent machine instead of a ridiculously nice one. Among the games I’ve played this year Hitman 2-4 have been pretty good if frustrating at times, Planescape: Torment was transcendent. I could probably write an incredibly serious essay on Planescape: Torment and have people wondering if I’m being facetious or if I really think a video game story was the best novel I ever read.
So, Riddick. I’ve seen both of the movies and think both are fantastic. I decided to try the game out because of the high ratings it had garnered from a multitude of sources, and because my curiosity was piqued. How could a game based on a movie, done by an obscure studio without any notable antecedents, possibly be as good as they say?
I think that Vin Diesel was put on this earth to be Riddick. Rent the films. Close your eyes. Could there be any other human capable of voicing this character? The low growl, deliberate and menacing even while utterly relaxed. Body language always at ease, yet perpetually ready to perform acts of either incredible violence or agility; brawn and dexterity in one. Perfectly chaotic neutral. How can you not want to play this game, if only for the chance to be this person for ten hours?
Took me more like twenty. But I am a baddie.
In addition to the character Riddick, and just as importantly, the atmosphere of the Riddick universe was also perfectly transplanted into this video game. It’s a gritty, kill or be killed place, where nobody thinks beyond their own interests and being cheated is a matter of course. In other words, Riddick’s natural element. This game is a primal exercise in survival and carnage. In the beginning you have no tools but your hands, and oftentimes the only way to reach the surface, to leave this hole, is to descend. Deeper and deeper, into the lightless bowels amongst the mutated denizens of a forgotten underworld.
The plot seems cursory: get out of prison. Yet the developers have created cutscenes, dialogue, and have recruited voice actors that imbue this game with a life far exceeding most action games. Gamespot calls it a “first person shooter”, but I just don’t agree. This is practically an action RPG. You will be drawn into this world, and each time Riddick encounters a setback or betrayal, you will feel it. However, being Riddick, you will also face it with characteristic nonchalance, because, come on, there is no prison secure enough to contain you.
The shooter element is the least important in this game, yet still eminently enjoyable. There is always an excess of ammunition even if you want to go the mass murderer route, you are perpetually equipped with a laser sight for those perfect head shots and there’s none of that drifting present in other shooter games to make you miss your mark. For a player such as myself, this basically boils down to the fact that they’ve stripped away all the annoyances associated with shooting. The same ease applies to sneaking, backstabbing, stalking. You will never complain about the mechanics of this game as you will in other games: that the speed of sneaking is agonizingly slow and you can’t catch up to the guard you want to kill, the inventory is too small, there’s not enough ammo, the controls are clunky… Another thing this game does not suffer from is monotony. Although the game is too short (should I wish for a longer game or be glad that it ended leaving me wanting more?) you are always forced to be resourceful and cunning in order to advance, to make use of the environment, while still having the choice of how to pass the level, according to your play style.
If you want to be challenged, entertained and immersed, but not frustrated, play this game.