Fighting's fun, the rest? Ehh...
Vin Diesel, Xzibit and Marcus Fenix himself (Joe Dimagio) come back to their roles in both games. While the voice acting is still great (Especially Diesel's dry, monotone one-liners), the lip-synching and occasional camera freak-out can be downright confusing, A few occasions in the beginning of Butcher Bay, I found the camera slowly going down to the ground while the person I was holding a conversation with just kept on talking, like the camera was slowly falling asleep. The sound effects in both are also great, as is the driving orchestral score sprinkled throughout the game.
While the sound may have help up wonderfully, the same cannot be said about the graphics. It still has that ported up from original Xbox look to it, and they're usually very average. The design of Dark Athena is a good departure from Butcher Bay, but that may be because Butcher Bay was a different tint of orange almost all throughout. Dark Athena meanwhile, has a nice mix of futuristic blue and purple, both of colors I was happy to see with all the Unreal Engine 3-ness everywhere.
The gameplay for both is a weird mix of switch pulling, shooting and fighting,
fighting easily being the best part. You can definitely feel gunplay was in the back of the developer's mind when making either game, it was an odd floaty feel and there's not very many weapons to speak of when guns come to play, only standard affairs like shotguns, pistols and assault rifles with the rare occasion of the minigun in big battle situations.
You also pilot a RoboCop-like suit of armor to lay waste, but considering you usually fight the same thing you're piloting, it doesn't make you feel all high and mighty as it should.Fighting feels as good as a first-person Virtual Fighter, because most of the combat focuses on countering the other person's moves. The variety here is a little bit better due to the multiple incarnations of each weapon, you get a different club, shiv and knuckle-dusters to spruce things up. Like most old-school stealth games however, it's a bunch of trial and error encounters and they're more than a few times in which I walked in a door only to be staring down guys in robot-armor and died in a few seconds. That's where Chronicles of Riddick's biggest problem is, when it's fun, it's pretty fun but that's not usually the case, and when it isn't fun, it's one of the most frustrating things you will ever play.
All in all, it's an alright rent. It's worth noting that the achievements don't stack though, so if you beat either game on hard, you don't get the normal achievements like every game should give you. Sure there's collectibles of artwork, movie sets and the usual stuff accompanied with movie-games, but I doubt that or the overly decent multi-player with keep you coming back for more.
Probably important disclaimer: Due to me having a ton of other games to play, I didn't finish Assault on Dark Athena so if it gets way better than Butcher Bay, please tell me.