Do Video Games Based On Movies Still Suck?

Wednesday, June 15 by
 

Please don’t do the math, but many moons ago, I played the E.T. video game.  I’m still angry about it.  Heck, my dad is still angry about it and he doesn’t even play video games anymore.  Games based on films have mostly been, to put it nicely, suck fests.  It’s so bad that when I mention that I’m covering a film-to-game adaptation, people say things like, “All movie games are crap.”  Or, “I’ll pay my rent this month instead.  If I’m going to annoy my landlord, it’s going to be for Call of Duty or Halo.  At least I can distract him by offering to let him play.”

I just spent three very long and brightly lit days at E3 (and a few days before that doing previews) and saw some of the latest crop of tie-ins. (Check out all of Game Front’s coverage HERE) Some were successful, some not so much.  Part of the reason is what they’re basing it on.  Let’s be honest…it’s really hard to milk 40+ hours of content off of a two hour story.  Very often, the mistake is basing the game off the film alone.  It’s what appears to be the case with the upcoming Captain America: Super Soldier.  Now, I played this on two different platforms at E3, and I only played the demo they had available.  I’m not saying the full game is going to be boring.  I’m just saying that it appears to be a single story, set exactly when the film is set and looks to me like a generic game setting/style with characters from the film shoved in.  The game play was pretty meh as well, but that is a failing any game can have.  It’s also an article for another day.  From what I saw, there was just nothing different about it.

Studios often think of a video game tie-in like a Happy Meal accessory.  The marketing department wants this game to come out with the film and there isn’t time to make it happen with any sort of quality.  This is not always the case, of course, but let’s be honest here.  When was the last time you saw a film and said, “Ooh, I bet the game is going to be super duper cool, just like the movie!  Let’s stop and pick it up on the way home.”  Consumers are pretty savvy and we know how this all works.  Tie-ins are a quick way to make a buck with recognizable characters.  (Another article for another day?  Why films based on games also suck.  Anyone care to weigh in below?  Anyone else excited/terrified about the upcoming Warcraft?)

 

 

That said, there were a few titles that stood out in the film-to-game arena.  My vote on why?  They didn’t stick to the script of one film.  They expanded the universe or used the long history of the genre to create a playable story.  A long form story.  One in particular was Amazing Spider-Man and Spider-Man 2099 in a new story line.  As far as I know, this has nothing to do with the film.  A rift in time is opened by a scientist who sends Anti-Venom to heal Amazing.  And healing our web-slinging friend leads to his death.  The scientist has gone back in time to start his company early, creating a new, alternate time line.  2099 and Amazing have to work together to change things back to the way they were.  We just saw a preview, but aren’t you already intrigued?  Yes, I know Spider-Man games come out regularly, but not making this a direct story tie-in means that they’ll get mileage out of the name, get people excited to see what Spidey is doing in the upcoming film incarnation (despite it being way to early for a reboot) and have a game that doesn’t bore the spit out of me.

 

 

Same thing goes for the upcoming X-Men: DestinyX-Men: First Class is out in theaters, and in my opinion is pretty darn fantastic.  Well, except for January Jones acting like a piece of very attractive cardboard.  It would have been very easy to do the latest game as a film extension.  You play as a young Magneto…you fight Kevin Bacon and all the baddies in swingin’ sixties garb.  The final boss?  Professor X, of course.  Or your own demons.  You know what I mean.  No, in X-Men: Destiny, we’re back in the present.  Well, the future, actually.  There are three brand new mutants who have to constantly decide what side they’re on, while they take on x-genes from mutants throughout the game.  A scientist (again with the evil scientists) has isolated these genes, which are unique to the mutant they came from, and using them to upgrade his abilities.  So here, you’re getting that battle from the film, but outside that specific story.

 

 

And then there is the holy grail of movie games, Arkham City.  If you played Arkham Asylum, you know how amazing the gameplay is.  But again, it’s a story outside the film…at least I assume it is.  It has Catwoman as a playable character!  I watched her kill someone with her thighs!  (Sweet dreams tonight boys!)  As we all know, Selena Kyle is in the upcoming film, The Dark Knight Rises.  But this story works all on its own.  Hugo Strange has stolen the cherished possessions of the denizens of Gotham away in a vault.  In the level we were shown, Catwoman needs Poison Ivy’s help to get in the sewers and steals back Ivy’s precious orchid in exchange.  Now, she crushes it beneath her high-heeled boots, but hey, that’s what you get for trusting a crazy cat lady.  Again, this is a story that involves the greater universe, not just a two hour story stretched out far past its limits.

Now I know we’re dealing with comic book universes as well as film stories here.  Those aren’t the only ones that look promising.  We got a preview of Aliens: Colonial Marines as well, which didn’t rely on a film script.  Now we didn’t see much here, but you start off on a ship that crashes into Hadley’s Hope. It takes place immediately after the events on LV-426…I don’t want to spoil anything here, but let’s just say that I’m going to be having nightmares about fighting off “the crusher.”  The action was intense!  This is being touted as a true sequel to the film Aliens.  See?  Beyond the film!  I’m not reliving something I just watched.  I’m living and gunning down xenomorphs in an expanded universe.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.  Do you like to replay the film or do you want to go beyond the script?  Do you agree that sticking too close is part of the reason film games often fail?  Feel free to expand into complaints/compliments about gameplay.  I’ll be reading every single comment.  And…I know this is opening a can of worms…tell everyone your vote for the worst film-to-game adaption out there.  Okay, fine.  You can vote for the best too.

COMMENTS

  1. June 15, 2011 12:15 pm

    Sean K

    I think your article kind of brings up an interesting question — if the game is not directly based on a particular movie script, does it actually count as a movie-based game? The Arkham games in particular are (in my head) not related to the movies at all (certainly not Chris Nolan’s Batman), but are a tie-in to the Paul Dinni TV cartoon. Certainly the use of Kevin Conroy, Mark Hamill and Arleen Sorkin (with Batman vet Tara Strong replacing her in Arkham City) for voice actors reinforces that impression.


  2. June 15, 2011 12:15 pm

    Sean K

    I think your article kind of brings up an interesting question — if the game is not directly based on a particular movie script, does it actually count as a movie-based game? The Arkham games in particular are (in my head) not related to the movies at all (certainly not Chris Nolan’s Batman), but are a tie-in to the Paul Dinni TV cartoon. Certainly the use of Kevin Conroy, Mark Hamill and Arleen Sorkin (with Batman vet Tara Strong replacing her in Arkham City) for voice actors reinforces that impression.


  3. June 15, 2011 12:15 pm

    Jenna Busch

    That’s a good point, actually.  I still think of them as movie related because we’re still mid-release and it’s character licensing, but you could absolutely argue the other side of that.


  4. June 15, 2011 12:15 pm

    Jenna Busch

    This is the author, in case you didn’t know.  :)


  5. June 15, 2011 12:15 pm

    Brian Huntington

    Batman is definitely not a video game based on a movie. But it still looks like a dope game. =)


  6. June 15, 2011 12:15 pm

    Jenna Busch

    The demo I saw…oh my god!  Looks incredible!  I mean, the developer playing the demo took down 32 people in a row!  They’ve added massive battles and, hey, playing as Catwoman…you can’t beat it.  So excited!


  7. June 15, 2011 12:15 pm

    Dave

    There has only ever been one game I’d consider a movie tie-in that was good (Playing it again now, it just doesn’t stack up, but still) and that’s Goldeneye. Was an excellent game that really used the games story, although it did change a few little details.


  8. June 15, 2011 12:15 pm

    Biasedreporting

    wow..very well written and most of all you hit some very good points that I have never realized about these superhero games…you must be a new guy here.


  9. June 15, 2011 12:15 pm

    Jenna Busch

    A new girl, actually.  :)   And thank you!  I really appreciate that!


  10. June 15, 2011 12:15 pm

    Phouse81

    Goldeneye might break the mold of sticking with the script. That game stated a whole genre.


  11. June 15, 2011 12:15 pm

    Phouse81

    Goldeneye might break the mold of sticking with the script. That game stated a whole genre.


  12. June 15, 2011 12:15 pm

    Bernadinus Gita Kusuma

    a very good article indeed, and i agree with you on those aspect. There was also a perfect example of awesome movie based game years ago, it called Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher”s Bay, again as you hv explained, a tie in game yet working outside the movie storyline, it could work as another chapter of the titular characters.


  13. June 15, 2011 12:15 pm

    Jenna Busch

    I agree about Goldeneye.  One of my all time favorites.  I wish all Bond games could match it, but they haven’t.