Games Reviews Page 2
Thanks to a new technique called normal mapping, the visuals here put previous Xbox efforts to shame. Every surface - from the rusty grain of the prison walls to Diesel's stubbly dome - is ultra-detailed and reacts realistically to light and shadow. And because normal mapping creates the illusion of complex 3-D objects without putting a huge strain on your console's processor, you can keep crunching skulls as your Xbox crunches numbers, with gameplay moving along at a super-smooth 60 frames per second.
The bowels of Butcher Bay look appropriately dirty, but your screen is clean thanks to the absence of heads-up displays, which usually detract from a game's realism. Ammo counters appear on the weapons themselves, and health bars pop up briefly only when you're being pummeled. While this makes the game feel like an interactive movie, you'll sometimes wonder how much more punishment you can withstand.
Still, the game's no slouch, especially in the audio department. Ambient background sounds - like the metal-on-metal moans of heavy machinery and the echoing shouts from unruly inmates deep within the penal world's vast catacombs - are varied and enveloping. Gunfights feature exciting directional effects. And as gameplay intensifies, so does the dark, dynamic score.
Brash beatings and bad language get Butcher Bay an M rating, but the game qualifies as a Home Theater Standout for its superb graphics and multichannel muscle.