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Assault on Dark Athena
PC, Playstation 3, XBox 360

Reviewed on: PC

Publisher: Atari
Rated: "M" for Mature

CHEATfactor Game Review
by Joe Sinicki

Audio/Visual: 6
Gameplay: 5
Lasting Appeal: 5
Overall: 6
CHEATfactor: 6

When I first started reviewing games I struggled with whether or not the success of a sequel’s predecessor should be taken into account when reviewing it. Is it really fair to judge what is essentially a brand new game partially on what came before it?

It is – and for the simple reason that fans have now come to expect something from the series. Take The Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena; the sequel to 2004’s Escape from Butcher Bay. If Dark Athena had been a new IP, it could very well have been a worthwhile first person shooter experience, but it’s not – Butcher Bay is widely considered to be one of the best licensed games of all time and Dark Athena simply doesn’t stack up. Everything it succeeds at has been done before – and much, much better.

Dark Athena’s campaign picks up just minutes after its predecessor left off. As Riddick escapes the Butcher Bay prison in on again, off again Johns’ ship; they’re pulled in to the clutches of a mysterious mercenary ship called – yep, you guessed it; The Dark Athena. After Riddick escapes, it’s up to him to navigate his way through the ship and free a few prisoners or two - -while laying waste to some guards of course.

"The problem is that the stealth gameplay is incredibly uneven and frustrating."


It’s best to think of Dark Athena as a cross between a standard FPS and Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell – or a moderately successful attempt at mixing the two. You can of course play aggressively, shooting and shanking anything that steps in front of you, but the game is meant to be played with an emphasis on stealth. There’s something strangely satisfying about letting an enemy sneak past you only to strike, like a true predator and take them by surprise. The problem is that the stealth gameplay is incredibly uneven and frustrating. The reason Splinter Cell’s shadow play worked so well is because it was consistent. Using the meter, you could tell just how hidden you were and plan your strategy.  Dark Athena has such meter, and as a result you never know if the cover you’re in is sufficient enough. The mechanic is fun when it works, but is nothing short of a travesty when it doesn’t.

By placing such an emphasis on the stealth side of the gameplay – the quality of the more traditional FPS gameplay seems to have fallen by the wayside.  It’s simply not satisfying to use the game’s hand to hand combat or gun-play.  The hand to hand (or would it be hand to blade?) combat basically operates on the same parrying system we’ve seen in so many games, but something just seems off about it. Rather than get excited when a fight was looming, I often felt having to go into combat was more of a burden – a serious problem for an FPS title.

Luckily, combat won’t take much, as the AI in Dark Athena is quite laughable and predictable. You’ll essentially run into two different types of enemies – the aggressive, which will run at you full speed with no regard for any obstacles or dangers and the timid, which hide behind obstructions that can easily be shot through. To be fair, more often than not the more aggressive enemies are mindless drones who only care about what’s ahead of them, but there’s almost no challenge here which is a complete letdown when taking into account just how challenging Butcher Bay was at times.

"... it’s quite easy to get turned around and lose your direction."

No pun intended but Dark Athena is one dark game.  Sure you can use your flashlight or vision to change that a bit, but most of the areas look eerily similar and it’s quite easy to get turned around and lose your direction. In fact, the game does a terrible job leading you through the game. There’s no real map or mission arrows and at times cutscenes will end and you’ll be facing the opposite way you were before, causing you to go the completely wrong direction.


One of the things that was thankfully carried over from Butcher Bay was the novel health system. Your health is represented by a set of boxes in the upper right hand corner of the screen which deplete as you take on damage. Like most games in the last two generations, your health will replenish over time, but the difference here is that it will only do so if the box isn’t completely empty, at which case you’re going to have to find a health pack. It adds a new element of strategy to a gameplay mechanic we’ve seen used time after time.

Undoubtedly the biggest draw for most gamers will be the packed in re-release of the critically acclaimed Escape from Butcher Bay.  Though it’s been redone in the new Dark Athena engine, Butcher Bay was an original Xbox title – and it shows. Time certainly hasn’t been good to the textures, character models or the environments. It’s still a fun game, and you can’t really complain about getting two games for the price of one, but those looking to truly experience why Escape from Butcher Bay is so acclaimed should find a copy of the original.

For all of its faults, The Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena can be a decent first person shooter, but following its predecessor, Escape from Butcher Bay is similar to following the Beatles or rolling Stones – you’ve got to do something new and exciting to make your audience forget about what came before. Sadly, Dark Athena tries nothing new and gives us a hackneyed version of a much loved game engine. Hey, at the very least it’s better than Wheelman… 



CHEATS USED: Instant Health Regen, One Hit Kills, Unlimited Ammo

There aren’t many cheats available for Dark Athena – but what is available is incredibly useful.  The key cheat is the instant health regen. As novel as the system is, Health Packs are hard to find in Dark Athena – and it can be quite frustrating to die just steps from an objective. Not only will this cheat regenerate each of your health boxes, but it will also allow your health to begin to regenerate, allowing for even more gameplay.

Want to know how to make a one vs. 1,000 fight one sided in favor of the one? Turn on one shot kills and unlimited ammo. If you’re like me and find the combat lacking in Dark Athena – you’ll love this cheat, as you’ll get to experiment with the stealth gameplay more.


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