Inspiration : Thy Name Isn’t Film
Why is it so difficult to find decent video games based on movies?
It’s probably based on unrealistic time constraints and the fact that publishers are pretty sure that people will buy any old shit. But instead of researching why and presenting my findings in a clear, concise and compelling fashion, I’m going to talk about 3 movie based video games that have provided me with more enjoyment than their cinematic counterparts.
Alien 3 (SNES)
The film: Following the double-whammy of Alien and Aliens, Sigourney Weaver was in a great position to negotiate the terms for making Aliens. Her requests allegedly started with no guns, but whether they also ran to no hair, no aliens and no script remains to be seen. Basically, Alien 3 was a text-book example of the dangers of star power, meddling producers, no agreed script and a bullied director (David Fincher: what were they thinking?) After several interesting changes of direction (the infamous wooden planet, a William Gibson penned stab) the producers settled on an approach that aimed for the middle and still fell well short.
The game: In a time before the miracle of “synergy” ensured a consistent experience between different “media streams” (re. crap game comes out at the same time as an average film), the Alien 3 video game makers could presumably work unhindered. They obviously decided that a game where you run away from a bunch of rapey slapheads while being shouted at by Brian Glover wouldn’t be much fun, and created an experience that was good in every way that the film wasn’t. Alien 3 the game had loads of weapons, loads of aliens to use them on and featured Bill Paxton’s sample, which was no-brainer, but a commendable one. I borrowed a friend’s SNES and this game and played the living shit out of it. Alien 3 was amazing.
Result: The restored version of Alien 3 on DVD wasn’t too bad, but, then again, shingles doesn’t seem so bad 10 years on. The AvP films have also been released in the interim, and were so bad that they could make you remember terminal illness through rose-tinted glasses from the afterlife.
The Matrix (Xbox)
The film: One of the major problems with The Matrix sequels is that by the end of the first film they’ve essentially created a Superman, albeit one you might see down the bus station, sulking. So when they came back for part 2 they were faced with a common problem: how do you pose a threat to Superman? You could either labour him with the kind of problems that affect mortal men, like in Superman Returns (an unexpected kid, a girlfriend with a large forehead), or just unravel what you accomplished in the first film. The theme of choice also played a large part in the sequels, at least I think it did. They mentioned it enough. Maybe the obsession came from the Wachowski brothers’ inability to make a good one?
The game: Imagine a Matrix sequel that didn’t involve attending a huge, stupid rave, didn’t involve awkward conversations about choice and half-hour lectures from Colonel Sanders about, well, whatever that scene was about. Imagine if it just cut to the chase while removing the fat…
The Path of Neo not only allowed you to re-enact the good parts from all 3 films while moving beyond the films in a way that was actually quite decent. Along with Drunken Master 2 inspired scraps and B&W dust-ups in pagodas, when you reached the end, instead of ‘winning’ by lying down and allowing yourself to be violated by Agent Smith, he turns into a massive monster made of cars and starts throwing shit at you. This scene was supposed to be a joke, as confirmed by a comical introduction from the Wachowski brothers, but they only helped to dig a bigger hole for their films by displaying more passion in 20 snark-filled seconds than they managed to muster in both of their Matrix sequels.
Result: The Matrix sequels are a perfect showcase for computer graphics and by the same token are robotic and lifeless with barely an ounce of passion. The Neo game was something of a rough diamond, showing that video game conventions were probably better suited to telling a story that was so clearly video game inspired.
Goldeneye 007 (N64)
The film: Timothy Dalton was ahead of his time as Bond. People generally weren’t ready for scenes of violence committed by a man who didn’t look like he spent his weekends in the window of C&A. In this regard, Goldeneye was a step backwards. But in every other way it took the series forward in the most entertaining way possible, including the best 2 Bond girls evvah. Goldeneye may have dated slightly with some obvious model work (not just from Brosnan) and by not featuring villains in turbans, but it was clearly the best of the Brosnan’s, as evidenced by director Martin Campbell’s return for Casino Royale.
The game: Not really sure how to put into words just how good Goldeneye was on the N64. Basically, 1997 was a blur due to a perfect storm of this game and a “relaxing” social habit. I invested countless hours with my equally aspiration-less chums running around pyramids in search of golden guns and swearing at well-dressed Japanese midgets.
The single player was no slouch, either. Despite offering little variation in terms of replayability it kept you hooked by offering solid mechanics and by dangling cheats at the end of maddening speed-runs through its levels. In fact the mechanics were so solid that few experiences in my life have been as satisfying as using a silenced PP7 to ventilate Russian soldiers with weirdly realistic faces. Goldeneye was a truly a game for the ages, often emulated, never bettered.
Result: Goldeneye the film was good at the time but its legacy is in heralding better things: a game that became a social phenomena (to the least social members of society) and a revolution for the Bond franchise.
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Lancaster based writer, blogger and digital navel-gazer. Opinions are, sadly, all his own. Favourite games include: Streetfighter II, Ocarina of Time, Goldeneye, Tenchu, Red Dead Redemption, Deus-Ex and Granny’s Garden.