On the face of it, movies and video games are a match made in heaven. Both mix big vision ideas, incredible set pieces and imagination which is only limited by the confines of their studio's budget. There are numerous moments when games offer action so immersive and jaw dropping that it could surely fit in a blockbuster film. Likewise, most gamers have wondered how amazing it would be to experience the rooftop explosion scene from Die Hard
or the lobby assault from The Matrix
. However, the history of movies and games has rarely proved so harmonious.
The chronicle of movie-game spinoffs reads much like the mythical road to hell; paved with good intentions. It's unsurprising that such high profile film franchises are hot property for game developers as they typically prove serious money spinners. Wedbush Morgan analyst Michael Pachter estimated that The Dark Knight
license holder Electronic Arts (EA) missed out on around $100 million (£69.7 million) in revenue due to the lack of a game to accompany the release of the high grossing movie. "I think publishers have concluded the only games that work are the sure-fire $500 million box office kind of games like Spider-Man
," Pachter told Associated Press
. "I don't think they [EA] expected The Dark Knight
movie to be this big."
However, what is really unforgivable for gamers is when movie licenses are developed into games only to result in shoddily produced titles which fail to deliver the sparkle of their subject. In fact, when considering the history of movie spinoffs, it is actually harder to pinpoint the decent ones within the crowded mass of underwhelming titles. It is unfortunately rare that a movie licence is really transferred into a genuinely well-received game. EA may well have shied away from developing The Dark Knight
due to the publisher's involvements in 2005's Batman Begins
. Despite closely following the plot of the triumphant return of Batman, as well as including the voices of the main stars such as Christian Bale, the repetitive and tedious monotony of levels and gameplay ultimately resulted in a simplistic and uninspiring game. Some 587,000 units sold clearly reflected that.
Superheroes have endured a number of middling and decidedly average video game spinoffs. Spider-Man 3
offered dull graphics and muddy game-play which belied the energy of the webbed avenger (it is interesting, though, that the recent Spider-Man: Web Of Shadows
received a warmer response considering that it was not based directly on a film). Enter The Matrix
(2003) and Matrix: Path Of Neo
(2005) also achieved middling critical receptions, largely due to the fact that they offered flashes from the movie trilogy but never a complete gaming experience. Kung Fu Panda
, The Incredibles
are merely a few other decidedly average titles which did scant justice to the movies they reflected.
It's not all bad, though. Probe Entertainment found the right mix on the PlayStation with the Die Hard Trilogy
(1996). All three games in the package used quality graphics and well-built gameplay to really transport the player to LA's Nakatomi Plaza, Washington Dulles International Airport and downtown New York. The genuine triumph of the trilogy was that it was able to match and indeed supersede the movies it was based on. Iconic spy James Bond has had an up and down relationship with video gaming, not least with the middling response to the latest instalment, The Quantum Of Solace. However, 007 enjoyed one of the most triumphant ever movie-game spin offs with GoldenEye
(1997) on Nintendo 64. The game proved a delight to play from start to finish, not least because its events knitted so intuitively with the plot of the film (alongside an utterly addictive multiplayer mode). Star Wars
has also been mined heavily by developers and with a good deal of success. Star Wars: Rogue Squadron
(1999) and Star Wars Rogue Leader: Rogue Squadron II
(2002), alongside RPG game Star Wars: Knights Of The Old Republic
(2003) and the roaming multiplayer combat of Star Wars: Battlefront
have all garnered solid critical praise. On the whole, though, most of these games are based on the Star Wars
universe rather than the actual films. Even taking this wider remit into account, there have still been a few limp Star Wars
titles occasionally produced, not least the recently underwhelming Star War: The Force Unleashed
The traffic going from games to movies is equally mixed in terms of success. Aside from the edgily seductive Mila Jovovic, the Resident Evil
film series has proved a passable at best take on Capcom's survival horror franchise. Equally, not even Angelina Jolie's rapacious sex appeal could save the Tomb Raider
movies from the Woolworth's bargain bin. However, it gets worse with Bob Hoskins' portrayal of Italian plumber Mario, which proved so bad that it could not even achieve cult status. Likewise for the critically panned Street Fighter
movie featuring terrible performances by Jean Claude Van Damme, Kylie Minogue and a hammed up Raul Julia, for whom this sadly proved the last role of his career.
The problem with transporting games into movies, or vice versa, is that the concepts may not always be fit for purpose. Games can be cinematic but they also have to be playable, which requires a whole new dimension to be incorporated into the story. It is possible that one day the two genres will fuse into a truly interactive cinematic experience. However, until that day we can merely hope that video game movie spinoffs become more about delivering a worthwhile experience than simply cashing in. If a movie licence is optioned by a development studio then sufficient time should be devoted to transporting the story into a valid gaming experience. Otherwise, as we have seen countless times before, the result is a rushed, simplistic and often poorly produced title which pleases neither gamers nor fans of the original movie.