Game Reviews

Riddick: The Merc Files

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Riddick: The Merc Files

If nothing else, Vin Diesel's cult Riddick character is an alternative way to get kids to eat their carrots.

Improve your night vision and you too can be an almost super-humanly adept stealth ninja.

Of course, showing them Riddick: The Merc Files might prove a little less persuasive.

Here's the pitch (black)

All three Riddick films to date, as well as a hit Xbox game, have portrayed Riddick - a grumpy alien with shiny eyes and a penchant for violence - as a skulking, confident presence. He's meant to be as powerful and nimble as a panther.

Which is why Riddick: The Merc Files's clunkiness stands out so much. It risks emasculating its most potent asset.

This is a stealth game stripped right back for touchscreen devices. You view the action over Riddick's shoulder, but zoomed-out a little more than your average third-person action game, granting you a decent view of the tightly contained level around you.

Tapping on a location sends Riddick sneaking towards that point, while a double-tap sets him off on a sprint. Keep to the shadowy patches and you're virtually invisible to patrolling guards.

Shady business

When it comes to engaging said oblivious guards, the preferred method is to take them out silently by tapping on them when their backs are turned. It's not the most gratifying combat mechanic, but the satisfaction comes from timing your pounce from the shadows.

There's also the small matter of disposal, as a body left out in the open invites a wider search from the downed guard's buddies. Tapping on the body lets you drag it into cover, though we found this to be irritatingly slow and a little unreliable.

When a guard snuffs it, he drop his weapon, which can be picked up for a single-use ranged attack. However, the game occasionally confuses your efforts to grab the body with an attempt to pick up the gun, leading to valuable lost seconds in your clockwork plan.

Poor camerawork

Such fiddliness is present throughout the game, with the worst culprit being the camera.

Swiping left and right on the screen rotates your view, but it reacts in an overly sensitive, jerky, and somewhat unpredictable manner - hardly ideal when sneaky precision is the ultimate aim.

Then there's the pinch-to-zoom-out feature, which highlights the whole level in Riddick's night vision. A nice idea, but it's once again a little clunky, and it doesn't play nicely with the other camera controls.

Levelling with you

We quite liked Riddick: The Merc Files's level structure, which encourages multiple playthroughs of each stage with different, seemingly random enemy configurations. You can either opt to get to the exit, take out a particular baddy, or pinch an object.

It's a welcome inclusion, but given the tight nature of the levels and the imprecise nature of the controls you'll probably wind up approaching each one more or less the same - take out all the enemy guards, proceed to target at leisure.

We should also mention the technical issues we encountered throughout, including a general case of the stutters throughout our experience on the iPad 3. We also encountered a repeatable crash bug in a level transition around the fourth level.

Which sums up the whole game, really. There are a number of nice ideas in Riddick: The Merc Files, but it simply hasn't been executed with enough precision or attention to detail to be worthy of the game's clinical protagonist.

Riddick: The Merc Files

A stealth-action game that isn't lacking in bright ideas, Riddick: The Merc Files clouds its best bits with a generally clunky, unfinished feel
Jon Mundy
Jon Mundy
Jon is a consummate expert in adventure, action, and sports games. Which is just as well, as in real life he's timid, lazy, and unfit. It's amazing how these things even themselves out.