A Non-PC Appraisal
So, onto the PC version of the game, tested with a 2.5GHz Core 2 Duo, 2GB of RAM, and our standard 8800GT graphics card (basically identical to the GBP 100 9800GT). By today's standards, it's a bit long in the tooth, but it has still managed to comfortably outquaff the consoles in demanding games like Fallout 3 and Far Cry 2. However, in this case, performance is disappointing at 720p. The set-up just about matches the Xbox 360 version of the game, but feels noticeably laggier and drops more frames. Realistically, you're looking at 720p resolution and no anti-aliasing to get something in the region of a playable 30fps experience with high-quality textures.
Tweakable options are limited - three levels of texture quality are on offer, while shadows and decals can be turned on and off, and anisotropic filtering can be adjusted, but that's about it. However, varying levels of anti-aliasing can be applied with a vast range of both horizontal and vertical sampling. Quite why so many different AA options are available compared to the lack of tweakables elsewhere is a bit of a mystery - we can only assume that Starbreeze doesn't want you messing about too much with its intricate visuals.
But the bottom line is pretty straightforward - performance here on the same PC is in the same ballpark as Crysis, but clearly there's a lot less going on. Checking in with our friends at Eurogamer Germany, they claimed decent performance with a 3.0GHz dual-core CPU and an ATI HD 4850 at 1680x1050 resolution, but saw large gains in refresh rate by turning off anti-aliasing.
Personally, I've been a champion for PC gaming as a means of getting measurably superior visuals at much smoother frame-rates, but to do so with Riddick appears to require a monstrous GPU. It's disappointing that a GBP 100 graphics card is being bested so easily by a complete console system that costs just GBP 30 more. Yes, performance radically improved when we bunged in the GBP 400 NVIDIA GTX295, but bearing in mind Riddick's console origins, we shouldn't need to be over-engineering on the PC that much. Basically, it's high-end or bust here.
The Final Analysis
Starbreeze has made a decent fist of this one on console. Xbox 360 still has the smoothest, best-looking version on console and in terms of performance, it's the cheapest way to enjoy a good-looking 720p experience. PlayStation 3 gets close - it's feature-complete (yes, it has Trophies to mirror Achievements), but it's let down a touch by the blurrier graphics. In most cases it manages to look approximate to the 360 game, but there are several shots where it can look pretty poor - the opening shot of Butcher Bay in particular stands out.
But the real disappointment here is the PC game. If our system can't sustain 30fps, the mind boggles at what would be required to get this running at 1080p60.
The Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena is due out for PS3, 360 and PC on 24th April in Europe. Check out our review for more.