Respecting the medium
Battle Royale With Cheese highlighted three film-based games that you may not have heard off and importantly are good games. As highlighted in my inaugural post, the relationship between film and video game studios doesn’t always produce the best results. Rather than see tie-ins as marketing collateral, partnered video games can augment the cinema experience.
The Matrix series had ambitious plans when it came to exploring the franchise across multiple media. The first of which was the Enter the Matrix, a third person action title for the GameCube, Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 2 and Xbox. Shifting 5 million in copies in its first year, Enter the Matrix was a stand-out in what was yet another disappointing year for the ultimately doomed Atari.
Ultimately video games based on Matrix mileu where killed by the lacklustre Reloaded and Revelations films following Enter the Matrix’s release. For fans of Max Payne, Enter the Matrix could be worth revisiting – with his and the films’ bullet time a central device to the title. Nostalgia for Enter the Matrix is marred by the cultural association and dated nature of the Matrix series.
Aside from showcasing The Wachowskis ambitious vision for the Matrix universe, the title is a model for integrating video games into a film franchise. Multi-media shared universes are being by Marvel and other IP holders with the relationship between films and TV. The amount of resources put in the title, with original writing and cast voice acting by The Wachowshi’s showed the respect the siblings had for video-gamers. Original voice acting with actors from the accompanying titles means the video game not only serves as a marketing devices or cash grab, but a solid partner to the film. Other candidates would include James Cameron’s Avatar: The Game which uses the same cast and builds on the world on Pandora.
Games > Films?
Execution had its issues with both titles but one can only hope that this approach will be revisited by film studios today. The Wachowskis knew that games can explore the cinematic universe in a way that the silver screen does not offer.
1993’s The Lawnmower Man on Sega Mega Drive, Super NES, PC, Sega CD and Game Boy ties into the film adaption of Stephen King’s 1975 short story. At first glance it’s The Lawnmower Man is a proto-typical early 90s side-scrolling, platforming run and gun. The gameplay transforms into first-person and third person virtual reality exploration upon collection of a set number of data discs. This transition between Contra-like action and first person virtual reality emulates the difference between computer-based omnipotence versus ‘mundane’ normality and apes the central conceit of the film.
Building on the world of the film is important, rather than repeating the script of source material also shows respect and will ultimately reward the franchise producer. The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape From Butcher Bay uses the medium of video games to explore the galaxy of the titular character which the film never could. Vin Diesel’s Riddick is anti-hero who would be sent to another of the universes most terrifying slammers and this is what the video game explores.
Despite the aforementioned titles, partner games don’t have to be in the action genre. Eurogamer’s recent review of The Martian: Bring Him Home highlights how a simple text based user interface better serves as a partner to Ridley Scott and Matt Damon’s latest film than third-party action every could.
South Park: The Stick of Truth reversed the trend of terrible titles tied to the adventures of Stan, Kyle, Kenny and Cartman by using the slower pace of turn-based role playing games to allow the wonderful humor of the title to wash over the player. Famously and importantly Matt Stone and Trey Parker respected the player by putting the effort in themselves to produce a companion to the series, rather than licencing a tie in. This respect was rewarded with shifting 1.6 million copies in its first month of release.
Thanks to Battle Royale With Cheese for inspiring this article.