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Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena PS3 Demo Impressions

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Here’s part two of my “Gaming with Vin Diesel Weekend”. This week’s PlayStation Store update brought two game demos starring Vin Diesel: Starbreeze Studios’ The Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena and The Wheelman. This little preview is about the former.

Unlike with The Wheelman, I knew what I was getting into with The Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena. I’ve actually played the original, Escape from Butcher Bay, when it was released on the PC. The original left quite an impression on me. It wasn’t just a gorgeous game, it was also an exceptional first person stealth action experience. Judging by the demo, Assault on Dark Athena, is also worth playing – just probably not on day one.

I don’t know if this is exclusive to the PlayStation 3 build, but this game’s presentation is rought around the edges. The framerate wavers quite a bit and the fidelity of the image isn’t as clear as I would have liked. It’s also worth nothing that the fisheye aspect ratio could be discomforting to some. It took me a few minutes to adjust to it. Was this in the original as well?

I remembered Escape From Butcher Bay as a game of ideas and the “sequel” is no different. Aboard this starship known as the Dark Athena, drones are operated by remote control. Since Riddick doesn’t have the strength to absorb laser fire, I had to break into one of the drone control centers and commandeer a handful of them. Using these drones to stop a giant rotating fan by walking into it is one sure fire way clog it. While the demo’s drone usage was neat, I hope Starbreeze continues to utilize this little mechanic to greater effect in the retail version.

I still hold Riddick’s hand-to-hand melee combat as some of the best the gaming has to offer. It was easy to grasp and execute while offering enough depth to keep it engaging. The control layout isn’t as customizable as I would have hoped it would be, but I did adjust to it. Not many games employ leaning in their first person shooters these days and if they do it’s tough to get right. Fortunately, Starbreeze developers are among the gifted.

The demo wasn’t as long as I would have hoped, but it did succeed with reminding me of how good The Chronicles of Riddick was and can be. If I wasn’t such a stickler with presentation, I would have easily recommended Assault on Dark Athena as day one purchase. Two games for $69.99 CAD may seem like a steal, but when half of it is essentially a remake with (what I’ve heard to be) less impressive presentation, it’s a tough pill to swallow.

The Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena launches April 7th, 2009 for the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and PC. For more information, visit the official website.

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