By Drew Parton
With the recently announced Just Cause movie starring Jason Momoa, it’s time to reflect on video game movies. Now, here’s a problem- video game movies suck. And movie video games suck. And I think that it might be because they keep trying to adapt the wrong franchises. Sometimes the story and mechanics of a game just can’t be translated over. Similarly, what works for a film might not fit well into a video game- for instance, often times game protagonists are meant to just be proxies of the player (especially in first person games). Often times, however, it’s just because they don’t care about doing the actual project. They didn’t make the Prince of Persia movie because they had a love for the game series and wanted to adapt it. They made it because they had brand recognition and could easily crap it out (though I unabashedly love the first Hitman movie with Timothy Olyphant). And almost all movie video games are shameless cash-ins on a movie. I think the two main exceptions are Spiderman 2 and Goldeneye 64. But we can do better, so here are my recommendations for games that should be movies and movies that should be games:
Videogames that should be movies
This kind of seems like a no-brainer. Uncharted is a deliberate throwback to classic adventure movies; Nathan Drake is like Indiana Jones for millennials. It deserves to be a movie- it practically is a movie, with minimal interaction from the player. Along with The Last of Us, these are begging for movies- and could really work well for the big screen. Already, the writing and character development are absolutely top notch. However, the gameplay and mechanics for the Uncharted series and The Last of Us are rather unremarkable, and often times just plain awkward. But the games stand out with their set-pieces and writing. The primary problem would be casting. Nathan Drake is such a great character, and Nolan North is so damn charismatic, that you would be hard pressed to find an actor that could really convey that. Similarly…
Tomb Raider (Reboot)
Yes, I am painfully aware that there have already been two Tomb Raider movies. I’m ashamed to admit that I saw the first one in theaters. But those were based on classic Tomb Raider– I’m talking about doing one based on the recent reboot. Here, Lara Croft actually has an arc and motivation instead of just being a collection of titty-shaped pixels. The plots of the two reboot games are a little awkward, and aren’t nearly as good as the writers at Naughty Dog. But in an age of dark, gritty, emo action movies, we could always use more adventure flicks with strong female characters.
All credit goes to my brother John for this- but Metroid could make for an awesome sci-fi movie- IF SAMUS IS DONE RIGHT. Not like in Other M. Please, god, not like that. Honestly, get the people who made Dredd to do it, they managed to do a lot of great character moments with a character like Judge Dredd, who doesn’t say much or react to most things. Make Samus a minimalist badass character who knows what she’s doing and doesn’t break down and cry or, need a man’s permission to do anything (Again. Lookin’ at you, Other M). And 100% yes Emily Blunt as Samus. Don’t believe me? Go watch Edge of Tomorrow. Please, Hollywood. Please, Nintendo. I know you’ve been hurt before by movie adaptations. But you need to learn to love again- let us have this.
Star Wars: Republic Commando
A supremely underrated game! It’s essentially a Star Wars version of the Rainbow Six games: a tactical squad-based shooter set during the clone wars. Now, god, I’m aware that nobody wants to go revisit the prequel trilogy. But think about the tone of Rogue One, as a war film (and not a Star Wars film). We here at the website have some serious problems with Rogue One, but if you wanted to add more weight and drama to the prequel trilogy, doing an adaptation about clone commandos during the war would begin to redeem the terrible movies. But you’d have to actually get actors in costumes. Not sterile and fake CGI troopers.
I played the absolute SHIT out of The Witcher 3. It’s a thrilling RPG with awesome combat and one of the best-realized worlds in video games. The characters feel like real people- even the minor ones, with actual arcs, motivations, stories, and faults. The games are super massive and the stories can be overwhelming, but you could do such a great fantasy adaptation. In fact- the video games are actually based on a series of novels, so there’s already a treasure trove of possible material. Who wouldn’t want to see more of smooth talking badass monster slayer Geralt hunt monsters and woo ladies?
*GAMES DELIBERATELY NOT ON THE LIST
Been there. Done that. Failed it. And not necessarily for lack of trying- but also for lack of material. I really enjoyed Assassin’s Creed 2 and Brotherhood when they first came out. But looking back at them now, I’m not sure why. The plot is really, really stupid once you start to think about it. Most of the characters are idiotic and don’t make sense, and they just shamelessly shove in historical characters just to rub your faces in them and go “SEE THAT’S LEONARDO DA VINCI. HA! CHARLES DICKENS SPILLED HIS PAGES FOR THE MYSTERY OF EDWIN DROOD– THAT’S WHY HE NEVER FINISHED IT.” And the gameplay isn’t anywhere nearly as exciting as it should be. Most of the time, it’s just tailing someone or chasing someone through the streets. There really isn’t a lot of assassinating being done in the games. You really can’t make a good Assassins’ Creed movie. Heck, I’m not sure if you can make a good Assassin’s Creed game.
Metal Gear Solid
Firstly, with all the bloody cutscenes in the games, the Metal Gear games might as well be movies. Metal Gear Solid 4 has 71 total minutes of cutscenes- with one lasting almost 30 minutes. It’s like Hideo Kojima doesn’t want you to actually play the game! Secondly, the whole story makes no sense whatsoever. You need a freaking whiteboard and a team of scientists just to understand the plot. Nobody knows what the hell is going on except for Hideo Kojima- and even then I’m not entirely sure if he does…
Now on to movies that should be games
John Wick: Rocksteady studios
NO I WILL NOT STOP TALKING ABOUT IT. John Wick makes total sense as a video game: light on plot, heavy on action. In John Wick Chapter 2, the different assassins that John has to fight already seem just like bosses from video games. My pick for studio would probably be Rocksteady. Think of the fluid combat from the Arkham Asylum games and apply that to John Wick that sort of flowing fighting with counters and takedowns, combined with shooting mechanics and Rocksteady’s history of awesome boss battles would make for a hell of a game. If anything, it would most likely have to be a prequel to the series. Which, if you’ve seen my discussion about prequels, makes me a little uneasy. But video games have a better track record with prequels (Metal Gear Solid 3, Halo Reach, Resident Evil 0, Metroid Prime), so maybe there’s hope yet.
The Fast and the Furious: Rockstar Games
This seems almost too easy- but Grand Theft Auto’s mechanics and set-pieces mixed with the car chases and crazy action scenes of the Fast and the Furious franchise seems like a perfect marriage. You wouldn’t necessarily have to do an open world for the game- it might work better similar to their Max Payne series. But doing crazy-ass stunts as Dom and his crew would make for a hell of a time.
James Bond: Telltale Games
And finally, a movie that has been made into a few games before, but I don’t think that people have really done it justice. THAT’S RIGHT- IT’S SPACE JAM!
No, sorry. Really, I want to say that James Bond could be a great game. And I’m aware it’s been done before- but not correctly.
A lot of people put Goldeneye 64 up on a pedestal as the best game ever. But here’s the thing: Goldeneye sucks. It has some of the worst controls in video game history. The level design is subpar- and the enemies have the relative intelligence of a 2 year-old. I remember absolutely loving the game when it first came out- it was like nothing else in video games at the time. It does not hold up at all. Whatever love you have for it is 100% nostalgia. Go back and try it now, it’s almost unplayable compared to modern games. Yes, the shooting and multiplayer were revolutionary for its time- but so many games have done it better since. Look at the original Halo: Combat Evolved, that multiplayer was revolutionary for it’s time when it first came out. It created and codified the modern FPS, and you know what? It’s still good today! I used to say that 007 Nightfire had awesome multiplayer- but that suffered the same fate. It’s just rose-colored glasses.
James Bond movies are ripe for the gaming picking- but not for a first-person shooter. If you wanted to do it right, get Telltale games to make it. They do interactive fiction so well. And certainly do licensed property games: The Walking Dead, Back to the Future, Game of Thrones, Tales from the Borderlands. I played the first episode of their Batman adaptation, and instantly I thought of how great they could do a James Bond game. Just please not cell-shaded graphics. Really, we’ve had enough of it. Think about it: the action set-pieces, the narrative. Picture meeting Raul Silva in a Telltale game and having the tense confrontation- picture the Goldfinger table laser scene. James Bond movies have great action- but that action can’t be capture by traditional video games- certainly not first person shooters. No, a telltale-style game would work perfectly.