Why Were Shadow of Mordor and Alien Isolation So Good?

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Why Were Shadow of Mordor and Alien Isolation So Good?

A few recent movie tie-in video games such as Shadow of Mordor and Alien Isolation were actually pretty good. Let's hope we don't see a rash of them just because they were movie tie-ins.

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I've never really seen the point in complaining about the existence of movie theatres. Sometimes it's cool to go experience an Imax movie, or get a hundred people in a room and scare the crap out of them, but more often I prefer to watch stuff at home. Either way, the theatres have a huge amount of money and direct profits straight to the studios, so they're probably not going away anytime soon. Just don't go if you don't like them, and watch any of the literal thousands of movies you can see from your couch.

Also, unless I'm mistaken it also makes things easier for film companies to find out what's profitable by seeing sales for individual movies, rather than allowing Netflix to license their library for a set fee and noticing too late that a certain movie is being watched by everyone, but they can't change the fee now.

It's interesting to note that the article starts out by asking why these two recent tie-in games are actually good, answers the question about a third of the way in ("They're good because they were good game concepts regardless of the IP they're shackled to"), and then goes off on an entire tangent about how cinemas blow goats and Hollywood is a sclerotic mass.

This seems kind of odd, until you notice that the original title of the article (still preserved in the URL and page title) was "The Last Two Movie Tie-In Games Were Good; Don't Keep Making Them".

Kind of a misleading re-title, Escapist Editorial Team :-/

Basically you don't like Cinemas because you're a self diagnosed introvert right? Meh, I've always enjoyed film entertainment over videogame entertainment. That might change if I ever go into a cinema and find that I have the option to pay an additional price to see extra content or the movie's ending.

In the US, many people look down on direct to DVD movies. Without a theatrical release most people won't even consider watching or buying a particular movie.

As for the games being good, I think the fact that they took place in an established universe but told their own story was a good start. Most movie tie in games are just a retelling of the movie which usually have to be rushed to get them released around the same time as the movie. With these two, they didn't have a deadline set by an accompanying movie so there wasn't the same kind of pressure to get it out the door.

...Video games, meanwhile, seem to be a lot friendlier to the concept of new IP...


Come on, Yahtzee... More friendly to new IPs? 3 quarters of the publisher driven industry are sequels, licence or spin off of established franchises. While the movie industry looks with suspicious eyes everything with a number bigger than 3 on the cover, we have franchises that spawned over 14 main games, franchises with the same name every once in a while (Tomb Raider) or even started counting the years, because that is easier than thinking we have over 20 fifa games. That puts us beyond the movie industry... that is almost Sports Illustrated level of established sequelization.

Compare that with the new releases in IMDB, and there are dozens of quality movies with decent budgets being released every month.

Even today's article is about games that, even when good games on their own right, I would not call Alien and Lord of the Rings *new* IP.

Different strokes for different folks, but I'm firmly in Yahtzee's camp for this one.

To me, movies as a whole, not just theatres, are getting to be archaic and boring.

It isn't just that I have to drive into the city to see the movies since I live in the suburbs. It isn't just all the things that Yahtzee said in his article, it's the genre as a whole. It's boring. Structurally, it bores me to tears. The three act structure or any variation is still limited by the standard run time of a film. It's limiting, and I get tired of seeing the same formulas over again. The most enjoyment I've gotten from films in the recent years have been Harry Potter, LOTR, and recently the Marvel Cinematic Universe. I enjoy these because they're trying to be more like other mediums, at least in the larger picture. They tell larger stories and connect themselves in such a way that allows me to be invested in something, and make my time worth while. It's why I enjoy books, TV series', and games more. Because personally, I get more out those mediums than I do movies.

If I enjoy it, it makes it seem greater being connected to other things. It makes the 40 min trip in out to theatre and back, the waiting through ads for local businesses, the tedious coming attractions, the disgusting floors, the chance that some rude people will ruin the experience entirely, the fact that I can't pause the movie if I have to go to the bathroom, almost... almost seem worth it.

I'm willing to bet that the percentage of new IP that was released in movie theaters this year and the amount of new IP released as video games this year is not nearly as different as you think.

Ishal:
Different strokes for different folks, but I'm firmly in Yahtzee's camp for this one.

To me, movies as a whole, not just theatres, are getting to be archaic and boring.

It isn't just that I have to drive into the city to see the movies since I live in the suburbs. It isn't just all the things that Yahtzee said in his article, it's the genre as a whole. It's boring. Structurally, it bores me to tears. The three act structure or any variation is still limited by the standard run time of a film. It's limiting, and I get tired of seeing the same formulas over again. The most enjoyment I've gotten from films in the recent years have been Harry Potter, LOTR, and recently the Marvel Cinematic Universe. I enjoy these because they're trying to be more like other mediums, at least in the larger picture. They tell larger stories and connect themselves in such a way that allows me to be invested in something, and make my time worth while. It's why I enjoy books, TV series', and games more. Because personally, I get more out those mediums than I do movies.

If I enjoy it, it makes it seem greater being connected to other things. It makes the 40 min trip in out to theatre and back, the waiting through ads for local businesses, the tedious coming attractions, the disgusting floors, the chance that some rude people will ruin the experience entirely, the fact that I can't pause the movie if I have to go to the bathroom, almost... almost seem worth it.

I can agree with some of this, but only because I've always been a book reader and storyteller myself. I never found that a 1.5-2.5 hour movie could contain great stories as well as a series of films could (Star Wars) unless the story was small and self-contained or a comedy. The MCU is probably my favorite because of the continuity within its films. It makes me feel like I'm able to catch a big glimpse of a world that has life to it. I'm not saying that one film can't tell a story, but it feels like a short story to me. Take for example how TV used to be one-shot stories that rarely had an arc to any of them because the execs had no concept of people ever seeing that particular episode ever again. It took a while but we didn't see continuous story arcs until the 70's/80's and even then it didn't kick in until the late 90's. They had self-contained stories but nothing that spanned seasons or even more than 2 episodes. I think the idea of the mini-series changed the way TV worked.
I still don't want book-level detail in my movies and TV shows though. Some things in literature don't translate well into visual media unless its done subtly. Hollywood doesn't exactly understand subtlety but rather only taps that vein seemingly accidentally before bludgeoning it to death by pure ignorance of nuance.

Didn't Capcom have a rule that over 80% of their output HAD to be sequels, and games like Lost Planet and Dead Rising were practically made in secret as a result?

I don't think the video game industry is nearly as different from films as we'd all like to believe. While it may not be a "franchise", video games chase after Call of Duty and Warcraft and whatever was once successful and copy and copy and copy it until it runs out of copy paper.

And we've remade/rebooted probably just as many games as movies, if not more. Reboots and remakes of Syndicate, Tomb Raider, Metal Gear Solid, Resident Evil, Mortal Kombat, Shadowrun, Zelda games, etc. Hell, the VAST majority of titles for current gen systems are mostly last-gen titled dolled up on new machines and released at a premium (Sleeping Dogs, Tomb Raider, Grand Theft Auto V, Saints Row IV, Injustice, The Last of Us, Diablo III, Minecraft, Metro Redux, etc.)

Microsoft's "big fall/winter release" is just re-releasing the old Halo games with new visuals. Their banking their holiday season heavily on games over a DECADE old because it's a safe, easy, reliable way to make money.

Movies aren't any different, but that's also not fair to the many fantastic, original films that come out that so many people don't bother to go see because Transformers Whatever makes a ton more money. That doesn't diminish the fact that movies like Snowpiercer, Birdman, Fury, or John Wick are amazing in their own right.

Of course I want to see more new (GOOD) IPs. I very much enjoyed that odd "golden year" where EA developed a conscience and gave us new, brilliant IPs like Brutal Legend, Mirror's Edge, Dead Space, Army of Two, Dragon Age: Origins, Bulletstorm, and Shadows of the Damned in short succession. I would love them to keep that up, even as I acknowledge that they have, begrudgingly, done so with Titanfall.

So, yeah, I think video games are becoming more like films in the way their business is handled. Focus groups, market testing, zombies and guns ruling the landscape. I don't think it's going to get "better", but that's what the indies are for.

Hang on eine minute, Yahtzee is a Generation Y dude? Either he's younger than he claims to be, or I'm older than I thought I was.

LenticularHomicide:
It's interesting to note that the article starts out by asking why these two recent tie-in games are actually good, answers the question about a third of the way in ("They're good because they were good game concepts regardless of the IP they're shackled to"), and then goes off on an entire tangent about how cinemas blow goats and Hollywood is a sclerotic mass.

This seems kind of odd, until you notice that the original title of the article (still preserved in the URL and page title) was "The Last Two Movie Tie-In Games Were Good; Don't Keep Making Them".

Kind of a misleading re-title, Escapist Editorial Team :-/

Agreed. I was questioning what the point of this article was by the fourth paragraph, and then I noticed what the preserved title was. That title, I felt, was much more appropriate for the body of the article, verses the new one...

So I then come in, with expectations from what the title said, only to have them dashed. It was a good article, and I did like it, but not as much as I probably would have if the title matched more with the content.

Things to point out.

Video game companies don't care if a game if good they care if it sells and with the sales of these 2 film tie-ins you have nothing to worry about in regards to a new flood of bad film tie-ins.

Johnny Novgorod:
Hang on eine minute, Yahtzee is a Generation Y dude? Either he's younger than he claims to be, or I'm older than I thought I was.

Generation Y starts with those born in the 80s, includes people who are now 34.

Rowan93:

Johnny Novgorod:
Hang on eine minute, Yahtzee is a Generation Y dude? Either he's younger than he claims to be, or I'm older than I thought I was.

Generation Y starts with those born in the 80s, includes people who are now 34.

Still feels weird to me. I'm used to thinking of 30+ year-olds as an older generation than my own. Though I suppose being 25 doesn't make that much of a difference?

This has got to be the most unfocused rant Yahtzee has ever indulged in.

Johnny Novgorod:

Rowan93:

Johnny Novgorod:
Hang on eine minute, Yahtzee is a Generation Y dude? Either he's younger than he claims to be, or I'm older than I thought I was.

Generation Y starts with those born in the 80s, includes people who are now 34.

Still feels weird to me. I'm used to thinking of 30+ year-olds as an older generation than my own. Though I suppose being 25 doesn't make that much of a difference?

Generations are so ill defined in ranges that Gen X can be any 20 year period between 1960-1985 depending on which university study you look at just as Gen Y can be 1980-2005.

This might surprise everyone, but I really hope MovieBob comments on this one.

I know I'm in the minority here, but I found Alien Isolation to be very dull. Dull, repetitive, un-intuitive, dull, annoying, obtuse, dull, cheap, boring, dull and most importantly dul-I mean not scary. I could forgive the dull dullness if it was scary, but its not. I found Bioshock to scarier and more subtle and that has literally glowing eyed possessed little girls draining blood from corpses.

I'm still shocked Yatzhee liked this one. I found that progress was achieved not through clever thinking, quick wits and constant situational awareness, but through endlessly grinding and random chance that sees the Alien go into a vent for 1min instead of endlessly walking up and down a hallway like he did in the previous 23 attempts.

I like challenging games. But the difference between difficulty and challenge is that challenging games dangle success in front of you, daring you to be more creative, faster, smarter, better, and then reward you with attainable, reasonable rewards that advance your progress if you do well. Alien Isolation is just obtuse, with no benefits to progress except more of the same. With an AI that learns from the player's actions, something like new ways to get around the alien would be awesome. As it stands the game slowly takes away options until progress really is just random numbers generated in a scripted subroutine that sees the alien turn left instead of right, and I find I can't take any sense of satisfaction from that.

And don't talk to me about the motion tracker making noise, sneaking around or using items. Fucking spare me; I know all that. Its still utterly useless. I've never been able to throw a noise maker down one hallway and then sneak through another because why? Why the teleporting alien, that's why. Yes, I know its not REALLY teleporting, but try telling that to my patience. Or asking the terrible save system to give me a freebie because the plot hasn't gotten around to explaining why the game sucks yet. I just love how people use 'oh the plot explains it!' as an excuse for crappy game design. Reminds me of those reviews of FF13 that said it gets good 30hrs in.

Yatzhee, you're going soft! The you on 2012 or 2011 would have crucified this game on rusted, Ebola and aids covered metal beams. Seriously, Bioshock 2 wasn't good enough but Alien Isolation is?!
For shame!

(No comment on MOOOORRRRDOOOOR. Haven't play it.)

Interesting opinions from Yahtzee, as always. Though I agree with other commenters that they seem a little unfocused. I have a couple of respectful criticisms:

- Movie tie-ins have existed almost as long as the home video game industry itself, mostly resulting in a lot of garbage, with a few gems here and there. A couple of recent successes isn't gonna change the frequency of licensed-IP games because they never went away. They've mostly these days been regulated to small downloadable or mobile games, because publishers realized they could make those games quicker and cheaper and still reach a wide audience - unlike years past where they had to have a retail game to move units. If anything, Isolation and Mordor show that publishers are finally starting to learn how to make good licensed games, which they should have learned long ago thanks to games like Spider-Man 2 and Arkham Asylum.

- With regards to movie cinemas, I mostly avoid them as well, except when the latest Marvel movie comes out and I want to see it it IMAX. What I've learned to do is be patient; it's still gonna be the same movie when it comes out on Blu-ray a few months later. Much the same as buying games these days: wait a few months or a year and you'll get the same game cheaper and/or with more content. I don't see it as "holding movies hostage" in theatres, just cinemas getting their money from impatient people, while us patient folk get to watch stuff in the comfort of our own homes.

I don't think you can compare movie IP's and game IP's to the same level of appeal (if that is the right word). Movies sell themselves on what they can show, and since most people generally want to see the same stuff they always do, you get sequels, reboots, and adaptations. But since games are an interactive media, they sell themselves on what you can do. So even if we're seemingly getting more new IP's in gaming, those IP's themselves display very similar gameplay to what is popular at that particular moment.

Both Shadow of Mordor and Alien: Isolation seem to be perfect examples of this. The first is apparently a mix between Assassin's Creed and Arkham Asylum, and the latter is not unlike all those "stalker" horror games that have been gaining a lot of popularity.

Seeing as I have come home from watching Fury in a cinema to this article, I will say that I disagree with the cinema part of this somewhat unfocused article. Cinemas are loud, sure, but the better sound quality does work to create a different feel than watching films at home. Is it worth paying much more and risking being discovered with your smuggled in food and beverages? I guess that's debatable.

LenticularHomicide:
It's interesting to note that the article starts out by asking why these two recent tie-in games are actually good, answers the question about a third of the way in ("They're good because they were good game concepts regardless of the IP they're shackled to"), and then goes off on an entire tangent about how cinemas blow goats and Hollywood is a sclerotic mass.

This seems kind of odd, until you notice that the original title of the article (still preserved in the URL and page title) was "The Last Two Movie Tie-In Games Were Good; Don't Keep Making Them".

Kind of a misleading re-title, Escapist Editorial Team :-/

Oh my god, the Inaccurate Title Goblin from Cracked escaped and made his way here!

TexDangerfield:
Basically you don't like Cinemas because you're a self diagnosed introvert right? Meh, I've always enjoyed film entertainment over videogame entertainment. That might change if I ever go into a cinema and find that I have the option to pay an additional price to see extra content or the movie's ending.

It sounds like the real issue is that they aren't giving the option. They should release on DVD/Bluray, Cinema and streaming at the same time so that people have a choice. Going to the Cinema is an activity you do with friends, fun yes but not something you want to do with every movie, so why make everyone wait longer for no real reason.

Yahtzee Croshaw:
Why Were Shadow of Mordor and Alien Isolation So Good?

"Where are we at..."

Why? Yahtzee, why? You're British! If I can't count on you to preserve the sanctity of the English language, on whom can I count?

OT: I agree with the principal underlying your disdain for the cinema. I feel like the industry has had a sinister need for control for a long time; and it only seems to be getting worse.

However, I will continue to see films at the cinema if I feel sufficiently excited / motivated for a number of reasons.

1. My TV isn't that big. Sometimes a feature of the medium is making stories that are told as larger than life appear as such.

2. Often comedies / horror films are more enjoyable with company. Lauging alone is a totally different experience from laughing with others - even if they are strangers - especially if they are strangers. A room full of laughing, happy people is nice.

3. Dates. After just meeting someone, and coffee, etc. etc, its's a good way to see a movie and spend time together as neither party may be comfortable going to the other's place just yet. Or, afterwards, it's fun to get out after watching something on the couch becomes monotonous.

4. And finally, I still believe it to be an art form created specific to its medium. Ballet, opera, and theatre are all performed on stage. Getting a DVD or digital copy of the performances doesn't do the experience justice. There is a "screen play", after all, but it either isn't practical or it isn't the artist's vision to tell the story on stage. Rather, the story is on film (or at least was); and the cinema is the theatre or opera house of its own medium.

And now I'm going to see Fury. Again. It's good.

Personally I would rather have good overall gaming experiences, rather than worry if the games have related releases in other media. . The thing about gaming that generally grabs me most is the hands on nature of it. In a film you are watching a person do something and you're just along for the ride, with no input whatsoever. Rather in a video game I am directly participating in the experience, immersing myself in whatever the game world has to offer. Alien: Isolation is a great example of a solid hands on experience of what it could be like in the Alien universe. I realise the in game character is actually doing the act, but that is still more hands on than a film.

How did you not make mention of the particularly disgusting two final "boss battles" in SoM? How did most reviews miss this? Four QTE each after the build up? Then pay for day one DLC and season pass if you to actually have a bigger fight and boss battle? Not a single piece of gameplay to be had in the finale, the imbalanced gameplay, terriblely boring story. Nemesis was great, worth the price of admission but everything else placeholder.

Yahtzee Croshaw:
If the purse-string-holders start getting it into their heads that movie tie-ins result in success, then they might, with the usual sterling logic of the big-money entertainment producer, decide that they were successful because they were movie tie-ins, and not because they were, you know, decent games with good ideas that managed to innovate a bit in spite of the shackling to existing franchises.

"If?"

Colonial Marines happened.

They have always thought this.

Casual Shinji:
I don't think you can compare movie IP's and game IP's to the same level of appeal (if that is the right word). Movies sell themselves on what they can show, and since most people generally want to see the same stuff they always do, you get sequels, reboots, and adaptations. But since games are an interactive media, they sell themselves on what you can do. So even if we're seemingly getting more new IP's in gaming, those IP's themselves display very similar gameplay to what is popular at that particular moment.

Both Shadow of Mordor and Alien: Isolation seem to be perfect examples of this. The first is apparently a mix between Assassin's Creed and Arkham Asylum, and the latter is not unlike all those "stalker" horror games that have been gaining a lot of popularity.

Yeah, it's hard to call Shadow of Mordor original when it POSSIBLY stole code from Assassins Creed (and either way still stole the gameplay wholesale, even the crappy bits) and took it's combat from Arkham. I would think that Yahtzee would be the kind of person to make an article about how this separates games from movies or something. Kinda surprising.

hermes200:

Even today's article is about games that, even when good games on their own right, I would not call Alien and Lord of the Rings *new* IP.

yeeeeeaaaah games don't seem that much better than movies in that regard

Imperioratorex Caprae:

I can agree with some of this, but only because I've always been a book reader and storyteller myself. I never found that a 1.5-2.5 hour movie could contain great stories as well as a series of films could (Star Wars) unless the story was small and self-contained or a comedy. The MCU is probably my favorite because of the continuity within its films. It makes me feel like I'm able to catch a big glimpse of a world that has life to it.

Ishal:

still limited by the standard run time of a film. It's limiting, and I get tired of seeing the same formulas over again. The most enjoyment I've gotten from films in the recent years have been Harry Potter, LOTR, and recently the Marvel Cinematic Universe. I enjoy these because they're trying to be more like other mediums, at least in the larger picture. They tell larger stories and connect themselves in such a way that allows me to be invested in something, and make my time worth while. It's why I enjoy books, TV series', and games more. Because personally, I get more out those mediums than I do movies.
it.

I personally feel differently

I think our current obsession with "universing" everything doesn't always happen for the best reasons, its like priming it for milking to the point where I feel as a fan of something that I'm being exploited

because there comes a point where I want something to END, I want something to be a nice contained package rather than something will eather go on forever or fizzle out into nothing

I don't disagree with the sentiment, but I will say I think the difference between an Alien Isolation as opposed to Star wars episode one pod racer, is that the first draws its inspiration from the source material in a way that pays homage to the film, and doesn't use a cookie cutter outline of a game to create a walking fan service tour. They made a point to tell a new story but kept the aspects that made the films scary, and they went above and beyond with translating those aspects into a game that makes you feel something a horror game is supposed to make you feel.

Star Wars Episode 1 Pod Racer was a cynical cash grab that said hey, remember that one scene in this popular movie? well We've re-skinned Xtreme G but slowed it down a bit, and We really didn't get Xtreme G but it's Star Wars so enjoy the recycled John Williams garbage, and leave us alone till the next movie comes out.

As a huge game fan but not a terribly in depth movie fan, Alien Isolation is a great game and has raised the bar for horror games as almost a master class for creating atmosphere. I understand that the film had a similar impact on horror films back in the day. But now as a fan of the Alien IP, I like this game precisely because it's not a who's who of small details the developer found on wikipedia. Everything that they introduce from the Aliens lore is done at the enhancement of the game, and only serves to enhance this games place in the story rather than detract from it.

The fact that they didn't take the Androids and try to use the same plot twists from the movie was a perfect example. Yes there are androids, but these androids exist in this game, with the only reference being that androids exist in this world. There is a reason for why they are in the game, and how they appear there, and why they look the way they do and how they act and above all it is introduced in the narrative in such a way that it is completely believable within that universe without seeming revisionist or obtrusive.

Stopped after the first line to make this comment.

Its hard to call Alien Isolation and Shadows of Mordor movie tie-ins, because they aren't "tied in" to any movie. They both have their own plot and characters that are separate from the movies.

Not only that, but they're not being released beside movie releases, which frees them from the shackles of having to be shallow promotional material designed to get people to the movie theater.

Now, back to the article.

...was there a second page to this I missed somehow, or is the answer to the title's question of "Why Were Shadow of Mordor and Alien Isolation So Good?" really *supposed* to be "I HATE THE CINEMA"? (Or, as a more likely third option, was the title kind of not properly matched to the piece following it?)

Vault101:

I personally feel differently

I think our current obsession with "universing" everything doesn't always happen for the best reasons, its like priming it for milking to the point where I feel as a fan of something that I'm being exploited

because there comes a point where I want something to END, I want something to be a nice contained package rather than something will eather go on forever or fizzle out into nothing

I don't want everything to have its own shared universe with over a trilogy's worth of material. I enjoy MCU for what it is and haven't found anything I really dislike about it. However I do hate watching movies I know could have been better if they'd been split up into multiple movies, and likewise I'm also very disappointed with the direction that was taken with The Hobbit. I've always been a book reader and stories with more than one book attached have always gained more interest from me than one-shots, though there are a handful of great one-shot books I love dearly. I guess I just enjoy details and love movies that aren't convoluted messes.
I don't know what I want exactly but I want something different than what most of Hollywood is doing, even though I love the MCU I don't think everything needs shared continuity, just that some things could benefit from it. Like the Universal Monsters getting their own continuity? Yeah, not something I'm looking forward to or even remotely positive about.
I take Hollywood with a grain of salt because a lot of what comes out of there I'm not always in agreement with. *shrug*

RicoADF:
It sounds like the real issue is that they aren't giving the option. They should release on DVD/Bluray, Cinema and streaming at the same time so that people have a choice. Going to the Cinema is an activity you do with friends, fun yes but not something you want to do with every movie, so why make everyone wait longer for no real reason.

Because if they gave that option, cinemas as we know them would completely collapse, and they know it. The reason most people still go to theaters is because first and foremost they want to see the new releases. Watching it on a big screen comes second.

You give people the option to see the new Avengers 2 at home on release, and the financial loss would be staggering.

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