Square Enix recently announced a ‘multi-game’ partnership with Marvel that will kick off with an Avengers game.
Those of us who aren’t five years old can remember when movie tie-in games were an industry standard. An all-action Hollywood blockbuster would be released and a video game tied (with varying degrees of accuracy) to the events of the film would follow thereafter. Just for added fun, sometimes the game would come first and tread dangerously close to spoiler territory. The problem was, almost without fail, the game would spend a fraction of time in development compared to the norm and, as such, be total rubbish. Specifically, they would be simplistic and buggy beyond belief. To make it worse, you could actually hear the contractual obligation in the delivery of the Hollywood actor’s lines.
So for the most part they were absolute bobbins. Yet if we’re going to get excited about the Square Enix Marvel games we need to remember that there were some notable exceptions. We all know that Goldeneye and Spider-man 2 were brilliant so here’s 5 more movie tie-ins that weren’t total shit.
1. Minority Report: Everybody Runs
First of all, Minority Report is an absolutely terrible movie. I adore Tom Cruise but even he can’t salvage this 2 hour and 25 minute train-wreck. But we’re not here to chat about rubbish movies, Minority Report: Everybody Runs (despite not featuring Cruise’s likeness, for reasons I am legally ill-equipped to even think about) is actually quite fun.
It’s a pretty standard 3rd person beat-em-up that lent heavily on its physics mechanics to provide the amusement, but this actually tied quite nicely into the overall feel of the film. The pre-cog officers (read: psychic future-cops) would employ non-lethal means to subdue the criminals of the future. So focusing on weapons of concussive force rather than flesh shredding metal, the physics engine gave the game a genuinely entertaining edge, including an exceptionally cool wind-up sound gun that sent people flying and a sick stick, which requires precious little explanation.
2. Enter the Matrix
Whilst not quite a traditional movie cash-in game, the events of Enter the Matrix were directly linked, and indeed intertwined, with those of Matrix Reloaded. EtM gave you a choice of two characters; the unbearably serious Nairobi or the equally solemn Ghost. However, we must remember that assembling a cast of unlikable dullards is a pillar of the Matrix movie franchise. And just like the Matrix movies themselves, the plot, dialogue and setting can all go hang if the action is good and the action in EtM is absolutely marvellous.
From the outset its free flowing combos, impossibly cool bullet dodging cartwheels and, if you could time it right, satisfying execution moves that felt ripped straight out of a film much better than The Matrix: Reloaded.
Then there were the driving sections and Sentinel shooting bits which were undiluted garbage.
However, the agent chase segments were where this game truly shone. You would finish up with whichever group of unfortunate thugs had decided to go toe-to-toe with someone who spends their time running up walls and doing backflips with assault rifles when one of the movies’ suited and booted agents would appear. My brain immediately flicks back to Morpheus’s line: “We have survived by hiding from them and by running from them”. So obviously on the first try I immediately tried to batter the fool. I was doing okay and I even managed to fire a round directly into the green hued bruiser’s temple from point blank range. His mighty frame sunk to the ground as the life fled from his artificially rendered body. I stood over him, feeling quite smug that I had done what Trinity and cp. never could. I was The One, Neo could suck a lemon. Right up until he jumped back to his feet and kicked thirteen different styles of shit out of me. He knew Kung fu.
3. Peter Jackson’s King Kong: The Official Game of the Movie
Bonus points awarded immediately for the unnecessarily long, self-indulgent title.
This game was broken into two contrasting halves that sat at opposing ends of the quality scale. One part first person run-and-gun adventure game, one part third-person/monster brawler.
The latter is contrived nonsense that handled like a bicycle made of liquid dogshit, but the former is a wonderfully executed exercise in scale and futile combat. Most of the enemies in this section are pants but the game really comes into its own when you face one of the bigger dinosaurs. I still remember the first T-Rex encounter very vividly. I stood in a clearing, clutching a spear, as a giant terror lizard barrelled in looking at me the same way I regard a plate of chicken wings. Much like my encounter with the agent, I decided that this oversized iguana would go the way of all dinosaurs and send it on a one way trip to Extinctionville, till the bastard ate me. Wonderful stuff.
4. X-Men Origins: Wolverine
I have a very strange relationship with the Wolverine depicted in the movies. I really like Hugh Jackman and I still think it’s the greatest marriage of actor to character in all superhero celluloid history (though Batfleck is giving him a run for his money). The concern is that the movies use Wolverine in a myriad of confusing ways that temper my enthusiasm for him.
In the original X-Men movie he’s a gruff and aggressive loner who hates everyone. Then as the seemingly never ending slew of movies progress, he softens and takes on a more father-figure role. I have no problem with this in principle, it’s character development done reasonably well. My issue is that he has razor sharp claws sticking out of his hands that eviscerate people in a way that if you took the Hollywood filter off, would likely result in some of the most brutal fight scenes imaginable. You can’t be a beloved and responsible role model whilst simultaneously running your enemies through a human blender. I understand that Wolverine is a tortured soul constantly combating his own instinct for violence, but the movies almost make the audience root for when he revs up the beast within and lets loose. Setting our goals as the audience diametrically opposite from those of the (often) lead character creates a dissonance that has prevented Wolverine from exploding at the box office.
This is precisely why X-Men Origins: Wolverine is such a good game. You take on the burden of human helicopter blades set to gooify and really get to experience what Wolverine is capable of. Both player and character work in perfect harmony to liquefy every poor soul in a 100 yard radius. It’s Wolverine unleashed, both thematically and mechanically. Combine this core concept with a nice combo system, decent visuals and intuitive controls and you’re left with a very entertaining take on everyone’s favourite Canadian psychopath/cool uncle.