Why the Movie Is Better than the Game

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Why the Movie Is Better than the Game

We get a lot of tie-ins. Why do they always seem to suck?

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The only video-game adaptions of movies I ever enjoyed are the ones for Star Wars.

Steve Butts:
Why the Movie Is Better than the Game

We get a lot of tie-ins. Why do they always seem to suck?

Read Full Article

You're overthinking it. What you say is generally true, but the reason for the suckage of most game tie-ins lies in the simple fact that they are not good games. They were made in a rush to cash in on the movie. Corners were cut, stuff wasn't polised, the design was half arsed at best. If you take out the IP it's trying to use, you're left with what is simply a bad game.

Next tier of suckage are games that aren't rushed to coincide with the films, but the developers still count on the IP to sell the game. And again, we get sloppy design and rushed half-finished work.

The above two tiers of crappy movie adaptations cover ove 90% of all movie adaptations. Only after we wade through all that muck do we get to games that might be good but suffer from some of the ailments detailed in your article.

Also, while I agree with what you wrote for the most part, I disagree with the whole "movies are linear, games require freedom" part. Games can be almost as linear as movies. Another thing that bears mentioning is why the action sequences from a movie tend to be drawn out into most of the game. It's not so much a matter of convenience as it is the fault of the target audience who expect this. When the kids come home from a Harry Potter movie, they aren't pretending to be Dumbledore and Snape, discussing the merits of the school curicullum. They are pretending to be blasting Dementors and Deatheaters with their wands.

Ghost in the shell, I really shouldn't have to say more than that, the games were PURE CRAP!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

@Jandau: Something not being a good game is a effect, not a cause. He said that they are often rushed and that's part of the reason, but it's more complicated than that and it sure doesn't explain why almost every game based on a movie is horrible

OP: I find it interesting that you used Star Wars Galaxies and Matrix Online as examples of games based on big IPs that diverged from the main story - especially when there are games like LOTRO that do the exact same thing and are quite a bit more well known. (At least than Matrix Online) I see your point, though.

Goldeneye pretty much laughs in the face of everything in this article. Hell it came out two years after the film! And people are still playing it! Outside that one, I'd say Chronicles of Riddick, The Warriors, Toy Story 3, Most Star Wars games, Scarface, Spiderman games, Ghostbusters, Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis (personally I didn't think Emperor's Tomb was really that bad), aaaand...well that's pretty much all I can think of. I'm sure there's a LOTR game out there that the fans love, too.

Goldeneye pretty much laughs in the face of everything in this article. Hell it came out two years after the film! And people are still playing it!

Goldeneye also didn't follow any of the issues laid out in the article either. It wasn't rushed to coincide with the movie, and it was allowed to be adapted and expanded upon what was in the film. Bond spends about 5 minutes in the beginning of the movie breaking into the Russian base, getting his friend killed, and making his escape. That's the first three levels of the game right there. You have a large facility to play in with sub-objectives moving you towards the main objective slowly. The fact that the movie was based around lots of different locations and lots of different action didn't hurt either.

The Warriors was waaaaaaay better than the movie.

Onyx Oblivion:
The Warriors was waaaaaaay better than the movie.

Not "way" better but the game definitely captured the proper look and feel of the movie, and the same kind of intensity.

There have been a few games I've enjoyed which were based on films. Most are awful, certainly, but there are a few which are very good games in their own right.

Jedi Outcast is the first one that comes to mind, although it is based on the Star Wars universe rather than the films themselves. Characters from the films show up, but it's still an independent story set in the overarching universe. As said in the article, this is the best way to make a licensed game, because the developer isn't shackled by the events of the film, and is free to write their own story. The end result is that Jedi Outcast is a damn fine action game in its own right, rather than just a good licensed game.

King Kong is another notable example. While directly based on the film, it expanded a lot on the Skull Island sequences, and put a lot of effort into making the game world feel like a living ecosystem; the monsters would fight each other, and even eat each other when they died. It wasn't perfect; the sequences where you play as Kong weren't anything like as good as the FPS sections, and it was ridiculously short (beatable in 6 hours, easily), but it was still a very good game.

Spider-Man: The Movie is a similar case to King Kong. It uses the film's plot, but expands on it a great deal by adding in other villains from the comics for you to fight. It ends up feeling like a Spider-Man game which was inspired by the film rather than being directly based on it, which is a definite point in its favour. The fact that there had been previous Spider-Man games which its mechanics were derived from also helped a lot.

Steve Butts:
Be sure to come back tomorrow to read our thoughts on how movies are made from books.

Can't wait for that one ;D Metro here we come !

OT: Games that tie in to films only ever work if they use the films setting but not the plot.

Enter the Matrix was good (back when I played it all those years ago) and it didn't feel stunted as it sort of explored it's own area outside of the plot.

It's the same for things like Spiderman 2, if you keep the idea but not the restrictions of the plot then the game is going to do a hell of a lot better.

Ive always wondered why they never go a more jrpg route for a tie in, a game like ff7 is much closer to a movie then most games, instead most movie games go for some kind of 3rd person action game, or plat former (used too at least)


Well, fans really dig the LOTR game, Battle for Middle Earth 1 & 2. There are still mods going hard for those games.
And for me, best video-game movie adaptation is Riddick. Great stuff.

not really a direct movie tie in, but the KOTOR Series of games was and with the new online one, are amazing, they use the Star Wars universe but set the game thousands of years in the past, long before Luke, Han, Leya or even Yoda, that coupled with Biowares ability to create great game narratives, a good, although obvious twist, made and continue to make a compelling series. that and i personally enjoyed the Godfather game.

I think you did a far better job in articulating something I've been saying for years.

*THAT* said, I've also felt that a big part of the issue has been in budget. With rare exception not only is the time table for the release of video games based on movies short, but also it seems that they are designed for a quick cash in, so very little effort is made to budget them appropriatly, so they always wind up being a few steps behind what other non-tie-in games manage to do. Not only is stretching out that 5 minute scene into a 30 minute one, and expanding the number of enemies an issue, but the mechanics typically aren't going to be very polished. What this means is that a 3rd person shooting scene in a tie in game, is liable to be pathetic compared to the game play for that in a more polished, dedicated title like say "Gears Of War" which spent the money to get things as perfect as possible.

I also have to say that it would be nice if more got liscences and used them for indirect tie ins. I like the idea of playing your own character in the "Pirates Of The Caribbean" universe, even if it got canceled. I don't see why with a good book/movie universe you even need to use the iconic characters directly, as Star Wars products have proven a few times.

Truthfully I have been wondering why nobody has observed the amount of fanfiction about things like "Harry Potter" and simply created an RPG allowing people to create their own student mage set in that universe, but unconnected to the plots of the books. I mean there were Death Eaters around in hiding beforehand, and doubtlessly remnants later on to build plots out of. When I look at the relative success of things like the cash sucking vampiric child exploitation tool that is "Wizard 101" or single player indie games like "Academagia: The Making Of Mages", not to mention general "school simulators" like the Persona series, or Alchemy focused versions like "Mana Khemia", that nobody has bothered to do something similar but with the Harry Potter Universe.

I can't really see a direct movie tie-in working, but stuff that's just based on a brand can definitely work.

Spiderman games are unique sandbox games that use web slinging as a core part of gameplay.
Knights of the Old Republic was a great RPG set in the universe of Star Wars, even though it had very little to do with the movies.
Batlle for Middle Earth was a great RTS, while again having little to do with the films.
Goldeneye more or less defined console shooters (at least until Halo came along)

I could go on, but I won't. Direct tie-ins like this are doomed from the start. I just can't see them working.

Tie-ins usually suck due to time constraints. How many games are rushed out to coincide with the movie release these days? Good movie games come out much later after the movies (over 20 years for the Ghostbusters game, which is what I consider the real Ghostbusters 2).

I've enjoyed quit a few games based on movies.

The Star Wars Battlefront games for example, they're just fantastic.

And Spider-man 2 was really good. It had its issues, but the core of the game, and Spider-man(swinging around with webs) was just perfect.

Ya, 95% of tie-ins are just some low budged rush job indie developed bullshit, that is no way to make a game it's simply a cash in on the popular name.
And the others mostly suffer from constraints, following the movie story, making it all about cut scenes, then padding it out with mini games, ...

The very rare ones that do succeed are simply inspired by the same idea, not tied down to it, this gives the developers the freedom to implement their image of it.
The perfect example here is Batman, only stems from the same idea, and they both take the serious route, but other then that both the movie and game go their own way.

I've worked on a couple. The reason they usually suck is because not only do they have extremely tight, rigid deadlines, but they also have the bonus of having to be cleared by the licensee at each step, which to a degree means that they are a "design by committee" affair.

Look to Pandemic's "Dark Knight" game for proof. I played a build of that game which had been appropriated by a former Pandemic employee. It was freaking awesome- basically a Batman GTA game. Looked great, played great, only missing design elements that they didn't have the time for. It went past the release window so it was canceled. Such is what happens if you miss the all-import Christmas release date with a license.

Actually a Die Hard game with only a few bad guys I think might just work. Have most of the game be about puzzle solving and stealth, and when the fighting does come around, make the player very suspectable to bullets, make the enemies use cover very wisely and force the player to think about every single kill.

I personally have never really played a movie based video game that I've enjoyed. Die Hard, Pirates of the Caribbean, Indiana Jones, Jurassic Park, Fifth Element, The Mummy, Scorpion King... all terrible.

The old Alien 3 game I had on my Atari wasn't too bad, but it had too much of a time limit for me. I like my games sans time limits for the most part.

Actually no, I will say I enjoyed the Indy Lego games, but I think that lego could have any image or brand slapped on it and the games would be generally enjoyable because it goes off into a slightly different category.

Not G. Ivingname:
Actually a Die Hard game with only a few bad guys I think might just work. Have most of the game be about puzzle solving and stealth, and when the fighting does come around, make the player very suspectable to bullets, make the enemies use cover very wisely and force the player to think about every single kill.

I agree, give it a mixture of Splinter Cell sneaky balls and whatnot and throw in some gunshootin' and you may have a good game there. But it would definitely have to be voiced by Bruce Willis, no knock offs! ;)

Going way back, the old Data East RoboCop arcade game was one of the best 2D sidescrollers of its day. Of course, back then sidescrollers didn't need much plot beyond "walk to the right and shoot everything that moves". It was basically a sprite swap with any other game in the genre, but with better graphics and controls, direct vocal sampling from the movie (a new thing at the time) and the target shooting bonus game between levels.

It seems the rule applies more to games that are timed to coincide with a current film, where the constrained release schedule and whole marketing machine wreck the process. Whereas adaptations based on a setting or with time to develop are better, even if they're not necessarily great.

Most of the Bond games are competent, even if they can't all hold a candle to Goldeneye, because the Bond setting and formula have been inspirations for hundreds of games themselves. The typical Bond plot incorporates FPS, stealth, combat driving, and puzzle solving (mostly via gadgets). You can even work in roleplaying if you wanted to. Yeah, mixing genres usually makes the whole game shallow, but honestly, Bond films in general are shallow (and I say that as a huge fan of the franchise).

The Star Wars setting is so vast and varied it allows for a variety of different games. And it's perennially popular so LucasArts can release SW games whenever they want without always having to time things for a film release. Interestingly, the non-Jedi/Sith games tend to be the best: X-Wing, Tie Fighter, Battlefront and the like. Coincidentally, those ones are rarely based on specific films. Similarly, some of the Indiana Jones games were good. The Emperor's Tomb for PS2 depicted Indy's fighting style extremely well, but was sadly padded during the puzzle-platforming sections.

Also, E.T. was awesome.

"Is there something inherent in the process of adaptation that ensures most games based on movies will be terrible? Frankly, yes."

I strongly disagree with that.

There are plenty of good video game adaptations, but most of them have one thing in common: They were not rushed projects.

Either because they came out after the movies or because they got lucky with the schedule. The very first thing a developer needs for making a good game is having enough time. Give it to them and the probabilities for doing a good movie game increases dramatically.

Actually, I can't remember a movie game that was bad because it followed the film's plot too closely. All of them were because they felt either rushed or clumsily designed, whether the mechanics, the levels or both.

And for good movie games examples, they may not outweigh the bad ones, but that doesn't mean that there are not plenty of them.

"GoldenEye 007" is arguably the best movie adaptation in video game history. "Spider-Man 2" was an amazing surprise and became a cult classic. The SNES "Star Wars" games had a couple of difficulty balance issues, but they really reproduced the feeling of playing the movies. Hell, even the EA "The Lord of the Rings" games were pretty good. And play the 2002 "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets" game for a pleasant surprise.

And of course, if we go to games that aren't based directly in movies, but rather their universe, the list grows. We even have timeless master pieces like "Knights of the Old Republic" and "Fate of Atlantis".

So no, there's nothing that makes a game worst than the movie just because it is a game. Honestly that's being way too narrow-minded. And it's not anything new either. Movie fans have always had to endure the critics of movies that were based on books or comic books.

Well the pedigree of movies based on video games is pretty piss-poor too. Maybe Uncharted will prove this trend wrong? (Ha ha)

I don't think there's a reason beyond they were lazy. They didn't want to make a good game, they wanted a cash in. Seems like they've been doing this with the games since the 4th one.

If they wanted to make a good game it isn't as hard as people make it out to be. Star wars battlefront being my example.

The programmers just need to work around a story but when the game isn't good enough for selling standarts they add some irrelevant elements to it that either doesn't match the movie or the game as a whole.

Sometimes I wonder if they really think about it. Listen to the players, look at the result of: Street Fighter: The Movie: The Game.

I really liked the early GBA Harry Potter Movie Tie-ins, they had the story and they were RPGs (which suits the story more than FPS).

Also the lego series works well, probably because it doesn't take itself too seriously.

This article is right on the money. I agree completely.

There have been movie tie-ins I liked (and I only count a game as a movie tie-in if it's released to coincide with a film, not just a game set in the same universe like Dark Forces or KOTOR for Star Wars), but no movie tie-in game has ever exceeded the film it's based on for me.

From my recollection, the best movie tie-ins let you do something different, and let you get the experience of being in the movie you just watched without rehashing the same experience, and maintaining a degree of variety. Spiderman 2 is an example of this, and, come to think of it, so were some of the older Harry Potter games I could remember playing. They just let you loose in the HP world and let you dick around with your powers a lot, and that worked. The levels and encounters were varied and interesting, despite all of them being set in Hogwarts, with your powers being solutions to pretty witty puzzles and there were enough different challenges that it never really got boring.

That didn't make the game better than Chamber of Secrets, not by a long shot, and it still had the problems this article mentioned storywise, but it certainly made it worth playing for fans of the series, or just for people who wanted a fun game.

Just look at LotR to see how to do it right. I can count the number of bad games that they've made on one hand. And they've made a lot of games.

Actually, come to think of it, there was a Fellowship of the Rings game I can remember playing that definitely stayed more faithful to the book than the films did. And it was a hard, challenging game. Not as good as the films, for sure, but definitely a game that legitimately worked as an RPG on its own merits.

There was a Return of the King gamecube game I liked enough to unlock literally everything.

I think it's a cost/reward problem.

An average game is going to be mostly profit, whereas a good game could end up being a massive loss.
Why bother trying when people are going to buy it either way?

I loved the Chronicles of Riddick games ;)

As a child, I really loved the Lion King game one the Genesis. I think that stands alone as the only Game-to-Movie that I really enjoyed.

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