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Video Game Review: The Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena

Darkathena Authored by super special guest contributor and honorary MamaPop Bestard, Plaid Horse

Only one grizzly-throated B-film movie star can play the lead in two new video games in the same month. Yes, Vin Diesel. Vin Diesel of Fast and Furious and The Pacifier. That Vin Diesel. He's practically the Samuel L. Jackson of gaming -- he's everywhere and in everything!

The first game of these two, which we will not critique in this review, is Wheelman – a fast paced driving-shooter thing where Diesel gets behind the wheel (of a car), man, and performs some downright absurd stunt crashing while wielding pistols, man. Looks like fun, however ridiculous.

But as you're doubtless aware, Diesel - the 20 year Dungeons and Dragons veteran and bare-headed baritone super nerd (and I use 'nerd' with love) - is also known for the sci-fi thriller franchise, Chronicles of Riddick. Though I’ve never seen the films Pitch Black or Chronicles, his new game, Assault on Dark Athena, does an expert job at immersing you in the deep, dark space of Riddick. And Atari gets the ambiance spot-on, no doubt. The foreboding narration by Diesel coupled with eerie environments lets you know in an almost visceral way that this version of the future is bleak. 

As a sequel to Escape from Butcher’s Bay, Dark Athena picks up where the previous game left off and Atari generously bundled Butcher’s Bay with Athena. This is mostly due to Butcher’s lack of backwards compatibility on the new(er) 360 consol. Bravo to Atari for correcting the situation. But I skipped Butcher’s and went straight into Athena ‘cause I’ve got to write this review, man.

There’s little exposition, but who needs it? Riddick has little time to rest after escaping his previous predicament, finding his spacecraft harpooned by a bug-like pirate ship (Dark Athena) that raids his vessel for everything inside. Now ole Riddick has to go rip-shit on the crew and get the heck out. Why not?

There’s nothing particularly innovative about Assault on Dark Athena, except for the brutal and easy to manage hand-to-hand combat. Early battles with Athena’s Borg-like crew (now that Star Trek is cool, we can reference the Borg again, right?) require stealth and close-up attacks. Crouching in the dark to sneak up on enemies allows Riddick to neck-stab his opponent with whatever scavenged weapon he can find. About 20 minutes into the game, you silence an enemy and take his signature twin sickle blades, pictured on the game’s cover. And man, they’re effective. Another recent release on xBox, Velvet Assassin, does a similarly amazing job with game combat, but I do prefer the tightness of Athena’s hand-to-hand system.

Dark Athena’s graphics won’t wow anyone, but they’re solid and the voice over acting and sound effects are great. I found the early first-person shooting a little clunky and the lack of a cover system leaves the player wanting a more tactical experience, but coupled with hand-to-hand, the game is rich with variable combat. Subduing opponents and using their rifle/appendages as weapons/shield is weirdly satisfying and adds to Riddick’s anti-hero demeanor.

After putting the game down for a day or two and finally writing about it, I feel the need to return to the hyper dark world of Dark Athena. I give the game a B. B for Batshit crazy for making Diesel the coolest game star out there. Ok, the *ONLY* game star. 

But it’s dark titles like these that make me long for renowned directors to embrace the video game genre and bring their visions to the medium. Imagine Lucas exploring a darker version of Willow. Done right, Lynch re-adapting Frank Herbert’s Dune for a third-person xBox/PS3 epic would cripple all other sci-fi games – knife wielding, Weirding modules (actually voice activated via a Wii setup?), worm riding, tactical desert fighting... That series was written for game adaptation. Who wants to start a petition, man?

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Why start a petition when we can call forth fearsome worms and storm the Harkonnens in their lair? At the very least we could find out where Sting buys his underwear.


Maybe we should just get that Dune game made ourselves? I hear Lynch is busy with weathercasts or something. (Aside: did you hear the Lynch / Dangermouse / Sparklehorse thing on NPR? And by Sparklehorse, I mean the guy from Richmond... not the Mamapop Sparklecorn!)


there have been a few dune games http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dune_(video_game)

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