Think of the last video game adaptation you saw that you really enjoyed. Hitman? Resident Evil? Max Payne? All had some effort put into them, but the end result is the same. Rubbish. Some people like them but they are by no means classics or any where near as good as the source material. When I first saw Resident Evil, I was gutted. They had taken a few names and creatures, but other than that, completely different to the games. But saying that, who wants to see someone running from one end of a mansion to the other looking for a key? I still wish Romero stuck with it. That could have been something special.
And don’t get me started on Street Fighter and Super Mario Brothers. Admittedly I loved them as a kid. I managed to get in to see Street Fighter when I was 11. I thought it was fantastic. That is definitely not the case these days. What an utter shambles of a film. From the casting to the costumes and sets, it’s awful. And that’s not even mentioning the script! Mario Brothers was just as bad. All you need to do is check out the ending to see how crap this film is! It did finish with a threat of a sequel, but thankfully, the first one was bad enough that it was never even considered. And these were the days before Uwe Boll! He likes to destroy the good name of game franchises. Alone In The Dark (although the last game was pretty poor), House Of The Dead, Far Cry etc. have all been bothered by Uwe Boll. These tend to be direct to DVD, usually off the radar and don’t tend to trouble the mainstream. Let’s just leave them to quietly fall into oblivion.
The latest game to get the silver screen treatment is the superb Uncharted series. Now the games themselves are cinematic enough. They play like Indiana Jones meets Die Hard. And the voice acting is top notch, really adding another layer of depth to the games. Originally, the Three Kings director, David O Russell, was signed on to helm the picture, along with Mark Whalberg as Nathan Drake, the games protagonist, with Robert De Niro also signed up, most likely to play Sully, Drake’s right hand man. Russell has now jumped ship. On one hand this is disappointing as Russell could have been someone to actually make a decent video game adaptation, but on the other, it could really benefit the picture.
The reason being is because with Russell gone, Whalberg may go too. Not that I have anything against him, I’m actually quite the fan of his work. It’s because we could actually see the fans’ first choice, Nathan Fillion, taking over the role of Drake. Anyone who has played the Uncharted games will know, this character IS Fillion in digital form. Not only does he look like him, he seems to have the same persona as the man. If one game adaptation can buck the trend it should be Uncharted. Even if it’s a straight cut and paste from one of the games.
Herein lies the problem though. Games these days have so much story to them, they provide such an experience that some films just can’t replicate. For a start, you are in control of your characters fate, not just looking in on what’s going on. Games like Heavy Rain have really set the bench mark when it comes to an interactive cinematic experience. Every decision you make has an impact on how the story unfolds. The story line is superb, the visuals are probably the best I’ve seen in this generation of games consoles and the score was as good as any I’ve heard in any film.
And with L.A. Noire, this too has created a cinematic gaming experience that can rival many films I’ve seen. So the big question to Hollywood is, why bother anymore? It all boils down to money I guess. Make a movie of a popular enough game and the fans will come, but if Uncharted goes ahead, and is just the same as every other game adaptation, then maybe it’s time to call it a day. Video games are rivalling Hollywood when it comes to a cinematic experience these days.
This leads me to the other side of the coin, Hollywood in video games. Aside from a few games, the majority appear to be quick cash-ins with no soul and little attempt to actually create a decent gaming experience. Unlike movies of video games however, there are some genuine classic games made from the big screen versions.
The first one that springs to most gamers minds would be the exceptional Goldeneye on the N64. Many an hour has been whiled away by me and my friends on the 4 player death matches, as well as the excellent single player story mode. I think this is one of the first examples of a movie to game adaptation that has actually far exceeded expectation. And the fact that it was released not too long before the following movie, Tomorrow Never Dies and was still lapped up by N64 gamers goes to show that a movie tie in, doesn’t have to coincide with the films release. Unfortunately the same cannot be said for the abysmal Superman Returns!
Another popular movie tie in is Spider-man 2. This game had the city of New York at your disposal. While the story mode was rather short, there was plenty to do when it came to web slinging your way around the big apple. Unfortunately, this was the last genuinely great Spider-man game. There have been many since, but unfortunately haven’t captured the essence of what made Spider-man 2 such a great game.
I will also mention Peter Jackson’s King Kong. This was one of the first titles on the current generation of consoles. And while it may show these days, upon release the game looked superb. Not only would you play as the films main protagonist, you also got to take control of Kong himself. Some of the levels as Kong were actually quite poor. But you get to fight against giant dinosaurs so that’s some of a bonus. The last level in New York isn’t too bad either. The main draw is when playing in the first person mode. You really had to think and conserve your ammo. If you ran short of ammunition you were down to any discarded spears from the natives you find lying around, or the ribs from a since felled beast. You could use these as melee weapons, but they certainly made things difficult.
There is also the very rare surprise hit. Toy Story 3 is a great example of this. While the main story mode is quite poor and sometimes frustrating, the game includes Toy Box Mode. This allows you to take control of Woody, Buzz or Jessie and you are set challenges by Mayor Ham. This starts off by adding more buildings to the town (toy box) and also doing challenges for the slotted swine. This is an extremely fun addition to the game and I have wasted hours trying to do every challenge, construct every building and compete in every race. It is the saving grace in what would have been an otherwise typical movie tie-in.
My personal favourite movie tie-ins are actually of the brick kind. Since 2005, developer Travellers Tales, have released LEGO versions of movies. The first was LEGO Star Wars: The Video Game. This covered episodes I-III and was a fantastic game. They take everything what is brilliant about the films and add a LEGO twist. Usually meaning there’s a lot more humour and you can destroy and build various LEGO objects. As well as a great story mode, it includes a free play mode, meaning you can go back over previous levels, using characters with different abilities to get all the collectibles you have previously missed. This added many more hours to the already lengthy story mode, making it a big hit and spawning many other LEGO games including LEGO Star Wars II (chapters IV-VI), LEGO Star Wars: The Complete Saga (both the previous games with a bit more on top) and LEGO Star Wars III, which to be honest is bit of a blip in the LEGO game CV compared to the other Star Wars titles. As well as Star Wars, we’ve seen brick-tastic versions of Indiana Jones, Batman (though not strictly based on the films, it does use Elfman’s cracking score from the Burton movies and has the gothic feel of them), Harry Potter and more recently, tying in with release of On Stranger Tides, LEGO Pirate of the Caribbean. From what I have played of the latter so far, this is shaping up to be the best LEGO title yet. And it just goes to show that you don’t have to have a straight laced movie tie-in. The LEGO games really add a breathe of fresh air to these types of game as well as many, many hours of game-play. You will definitely get your money’s worth with these.
In conclusion, when it comes to making a movie of a video game, don’t bother. I haven’t even begun to mention the terrible Tomb Raider films or the recently released Tekken (though I must say that Mortal Kombat is a bit of a guilty pleasure!). There really is no substitute for playing the games. A game of a movie on the other hand can work, as long as it is given the right amount of care and attention and is not half-arsedly thrown together to make a quick buck, which the overall majority of movie tie-ins are. If you’re looking for a great movie experience from a game, go with Heavy Rain. It’s a brilliant cinematic thriller which will keep you on the edge of your seat from start to finish.