|

CHRONICLES OF RIDDICK

Into you like a diesel truck

by

Richard B. Riddick, a savage killer with see-in-the-dark eyes and ice water running through his veins, wants out of the futuristic penitentiary known as Butcher Bay — the setting of “The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay,” a new offering for the Xbox from Vivendi Universal.

You probably won’t see the movie in Japan until sometime next year, but one of the hot movies in America this summer is “The Chronicles of Riddick,” a futuristic movie in which Riddick (played by action actor Vin Diesel) takes on an entire army of galaxy-crushing aliens.

“Butcher Bay,” a prequel to movie, is closely tied in.

One reasons why “Butcher Bay” is a great cut above most movie-inspired games is that it was co-produced by Tigon Studios — the studio owned by actor Vin Diesel. Whether Diesel knows anything about games is immaterial, but his commitment to making a good game is not. Diesel’s likeness appears throughout the game and he does the voice acting. Like any Hollywood star, Diesel manages his image carefully.

Another reason this games works is that it is a prequel rather than an interactive version of the movie. Games that re-create movies often suffer from having story lines that were created for another medium. The plot for “Butcher Bay” was developed specifically for the game.

“Butcher Bay” begins with Riddick being shuttled to a prison planet, a futurist penitentiary of the Devil’s Island variety. The grounds around Butcher Bay are salted with land mines. The building itself is dank and lurid. The man running the place hates Riddick and the prisoners are in a constant state of war. It’s the kind of place Richard Riddick calls home.

By killing gang leaders, Riddick makes friends with influential inmates who help him get shivs (homemade blades) and aid his eventual rebellion.

There will be plenty of time later to wreak havoc throughout the Butcher Bay compound, but in the beginning players must content themselves with minor gang wars.

And don’t plan on getting your hands (well, Riddick’s hands — “Butcher Bay” is a first-person shooter — you see the game through Riddick’s eyes) on assault rifles or miniguns too early. They’re DNA-coded and give Riddick a shock early on.

In fact, big and brawling as Riddick may be, you need to slip through shadows and use stealth during the early going. You can beat most inmates to death pretty easily, but the damage mounts and medical stations are hard to find. Your best bet is to sneak up on enemies and snap their necks.

This brings up the moral questions. Parents, this game is M-rated, meaning it is for players aged 17 and up, and it is after all titled “Escape from Butcher Bay.” What do you want to bet it has gore, cruelty, extreme violence and foul language? This is not a game for kids.

As far as the sights and sounds of good gaming, “Butcher Bay” is among the elite. The virtual Vin is unmistakably Diesel- esque. The buildings and settings are highly detailed right down to the barbed wire. The characters, especially Riddick, look mean and real. As for the voice acting, you either love Diesel’s low growl and drawling delivery or you don’t.

Brutal and sadistic, fast-paced and action-packed, “Butcher Bay” will leave you with your heart pumping and your mind washed of deep thought. Some games are interesting challenges; “Butcher Bay” is more of a hard-hitting experience.

And now for the bad news.

Only a small sliver of Japanese gamers will ever lay their hands on this wonderful game. First of all, “Butcher Bay” is played from the first-person perspective. Games using this perspective have never done well in Japan.

If that is not enough of a mark against “Butcher Bay,” there is also the violence. This is a bloody, brutal game. In Japan, where the “Bio Hazard” series and only a handful of other violent games have sold well, “Butcher Bay’s” brand of neck-snapping is not going to be well received.

And then there is the Xbox factor: Less than 400,000 have been sold in Japan. Even if every Xbox owner in the country buys “Butcher Bay,” the game will still sell less than half a million units.

So, you 25 million Japanese video game enthusiasts who do not own an Xbox, if you’re ever in America and you want to see a really cool game . . . try out “The Riddick Chronicles: Escape from Butcher Bay.” You’ll be glad you did.