7 Surprisingly Good Movie Licensed Games
I know it’s common to have a negative impression of all movie tie-ins, especially given the amount of crap ones there are. After writing a recent feature in which I heavily criticized Prince of Persia: Forgotten Sands, an average movie-tie in game and interquel, I started to think about the good licensed games I’ve played that were a pleasant surprise. Seven names fondly sprang to mind, and in this feature I’ll be going through them and telling you why they were so good.
X-Men Origins: Wolverine
I remember coming home after watching X-Men Origins: Wolverine in the cinema, and thinking of what a crap movie it was. Hugh Jackman and Wolverine will always be cool, but it was a movie where the trailer was infinitely better than it. So you can imagine how uninspired I was to play the game. However, X-Men Origins: Wolverine the game is nothing like the movie. To my great surprise, it far surpasses the movie in almost every way, and the sad part is that many gamers probably avoided it like the plague because movie adaptions are hardly ever good. I almost didn’t play it because of that reason. But am I really glad I did. The game already did a good thing by being only loosely based on the movie, and if you played it on PC, PS3 or Xbox 360, you’d get a really violent, gory and awesome action experience.
Sure, it wouldn’t blow you away, but if you’re a fan of the character then this game was great to play. It did a really good job of making you feel like Wolverine as you brutally cut up, stabbed, dismembered and pounced on enemies, tearing them apart with your claws and fists of fury. On top of that, Wolverine himself could get torn apart by bullets and rockets and the like, and you got to feel like a badass as your missing chunks of flesh regenerated themselves when you avoided damage. It was by no means a kids game. It was the real deal, uncompromising on its violence and featuring a hack and slash combat system influenced by titles like God of War or Devil May Cry. While it was your standard system focusing on light and heavy attacks and grabs, it did well to make its mark with the Lunge ability, which let you pounce onto enemies, from some distance away, and mutilate them. A really awesome touch was also the fact that you could unlock additional costumes, like Wolverine’s classic one or his black and grey X-Force one. Except, to unlock them you had to collect enough dolls in the story mode and then fight the Wolverine wearing the costume you want. It’s a sweet idea for unlocking new content.
Overall, X-Men Origins: Wolverine was a very decent attempt from Raven Software that was plenty of fun and quite brutal, with the only real issue being that it eventually gets repetitive and lacked variety.
Wanted: Weapons of Fate
I’m sure everyone who has watched the movie, Wanted, would have enjoyed the whole bullet-bending action. I’m also sure, if you’re a gamer, you must have been thinking how cool it would be to be able to do that in a game. Well, Wanted: Weapons of Fate was a surprisingly decent answer to that by GRIN. It was dressed up as your standard third person shooter, except the selling point was of course the bullet-bending. The game took place immediately after the film and took inspiration from the comics. It wasn’t a ground-breaking game by any means, but it was a competent shooter with pretty graphics and extremely fun gameplay thanks to its bullet-bending, which made you lethal even when your enemies sat behind cover. Whether you wanted to think of it as a gimmicky mechanic or not, it was hard not to enjoy using it and feeling like a boss when you landed a headshot on someone by curving your bullet around a corner or over a piece of cover. And those assassin outfits were quite legit.
What I appreciated about the game was that everything worked, and while it may have been simple, it was effective, it was enjoyable and it paid a decent enough tribute to the movie. The one thing that let it down heavily though was its length, as you could basically finish the game in a few hours, and it wasn’t particularly challenging. But if you weren’t paying full price for this one, and had decided to lend it or get it cheap, then it was a great way to spend an afternoon. It was just satisfying to play.
The Chronicles Of Riddick: Escape From Butcher’s Bay
It’s a sad thing that many gamers probably don’t know this game or never played it due to it being a tie-in prequel to the movie, The Chronicles of Riddick. Despite how well it sold, standing among the best-selling games on any platform during June 2004, you don’t often hear about this game, which makes you wonder sometimes whether it was a sleeper hit or a cult favourite, or both. The bottom line is that The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher’s Bay is an exception to the general mediocrity of tie-ins. It was also yet another game that far surpassed the movie it was connected to.
The game was set in the prison of Butcher’s Bay, and you played as Vin Diesel (like a boss) as you, as the name of the game implies, tried to escape from it. It was a first person shooter that featured third person in certain moments. Allow me to blow your mind by saying that this particular movie licensed game was highly praised for its voice acting, fantastic graphics and atmosphere and awesome use of shadow and detail, and was also applauded for its stealth gameplay, hand-to-hand combat and adventure elements. It also featured a unique first person cover system, where crouching behind an object automatically attached you to it, and you could then peak around and over cover using the movement controls. Have a moment to take in all of that. A movie-licensed game getting praised for gameplay, graphics, mechanics and voice acting? That is certainly amazing, and should do well to tell you what a notable surprise this game was. It may even be more of one now.
I certainly remember the first hour or so as one of the coolest parts you’ll find in a game, as the opening cinematics are awesome, and when you start playing you’ll explore around your prison cell, interact with other inmates, get to know where you are, build yourself up as you work towards killing a gang leader and make use of your fists and makeshift knives to take out inmates who need dealing with. It doesn’t sound like much when I describe it like that, but the incredible atmosphere and execution ensures that it’s one to remember. And it definitely becomes real o’ clock once you escape your prison cell and get hold of a gun. Effectively, you had great shooting, fantastic stealth, solid hand-to-hand combat and intriguing adventure elements, leaving you with an all-round awesome experience.
I’m sure many old-school gamers may remember GoldenEye 007 on the Nintendo 64, an incredible critical and commercial success story that spawned its own legacy. It picked up tons of awards and plaudits, especially for its unbeatable multiplayer mode at the time. The game is widely considered an important entry in the history of first-person shooters, as it showed that the genre could pull it off on consoles, and it demonstrated how great a more realistic approach could be over the then-standard Doom-like shooters. GoldenEye is also responsible for bringing fame to features in shooters that are common today, such as mission objectives with variety, sniper rifles with a zoom function, stealth elements and a deathmatch mode for console multiplayer. Are you still believing what you’re reading?
GoldenEye received a mountain of praise for its deep gameplay that blended strategy, stealth and fast-paced shooting, as well as for its graphical detail, sound, precise controls, awesome multiplayer component and polish. It was a thing of awe back in those days to have variety in how you approached your game, and GoldenEye is often seen as a revolutionary entry in the FPS genre, especially for console gaming as it was deemed the first big console FPS release to be amazing. So if you want to know how first person shooters became popularised on consoles, you may want to start with this title. For a game that released in 1997, I’m sure you can see why it was so influential to our beloved FPS genre. Since its release, it has been featured on many awards lists and even greatest games lists.
Spider-Man 2, for the PS2 and not that atrocious abomination on PC, is still a big surprise and a memorable title for not only being a great movie-licensed game, but being an excellent superhero movie-licensed game. It’s one of those rare games where you truly felt as the hero you were playing as, and that was due to the amazing gameplay and array of powers, the realistic, life-sized depiction of Manhattan and the large variety of crimes to stop throughout the city. It was effectively the game that invented the famous Spider-Man open-world formula, and one of the things it will always be remembered for is creating the spectacular swinging system, where you had total control of your movement and actually had to attach your webs to buildings rather than fire them into the sky.
This is the Spider-Man game I remember for starting my web-swinging craving. Come on, be honest. You’ve all got it before when looking at a Spider-Man title or after playing the game. That feeling you get when you just want to kill a few minutes swinging around the city. You could spend large amounts of time just doing exactly that, or fighting crime you stumble across in the city. For once it was great to be a superhero in a game, and with fantastic swinging, good combat and a notable length, Spider-Man 2 was an excellent adaption. Also, following on from and inspired by it we got Ultimate Spider-Man, which is another lovable Spidey title that is an adaption based on the comic book of the same name.
Lord Of the Rings: The Return Of The King
Lord of the Rings: Return of the King is a 2003 game that I fondly remember from my youth. Why? Because in addition to it being a game of pure awesome, it was also a time where you could get Hot and Spicy Pringles here in South Africa, before those dark days when it got discontinued. Anyway, I’m side-tracking. This game also arrived as a great surprise, releasing to critical praise and being hailed as a game that set a new standard for movie to game adaptions. Once again, we had a movie-licensed game being highly praised for its graphics, presentation of epic scale battles, sound effects, voice acting and gameplay. Admit it, you can hardly find yourself believing any of this.
The gameplay in Lord of the Rings: Return of the King was really great. Depending on where you were in the story, you took control of multiple characters from the famous movies, such as Gandalf, Legolas, Aragorn and Sam. Each had their own playstyles and magic skills or abilities. The combat was hack and slash, and was superbly satisfying and visceral, having enough depth to keep it entertaining. A sure highlight of the game was the variation in its levels, and of course its presentation of epic scale battles. You truly felt like you were in the movies in some of the levels as armies crowded around you and you fought alongside your allies, the sound of clashing steal and flying arrows filling the air.
The game was mainly criticized for its camera control and save system, but apart from those two things, it was a fantastic effort from EA Redwood Shores that left its mark on movie licensed games.
There was no way I was going to put the full name of this game in the title. But in case you’re in need of a quick laugh, here it is. The game is called, wait for it, Peter Jackson’s King Kong: The Official Game of the Movie. Right, take a moment to get that out of your system so I can tell you why this game was cool. After the success, both financial and critical, of the 2005 movie King Kong, you can naturally expect that there’d be a video game tie-in. What you definitely wouldn’t have expected was that the tie-in was actually a great game, if you played it on PC or consoles that is.
In the game, you took control of New York scriptwriter Jack Driscoll as well as Kong, as you fought your way through Skull Island. The game was notable for not featuring an HUD to add a greater sense of immersion and challenge to the game, although you could turn this feature on if you wished. The game played out as a first person shooter when you were in control of Jack, but when playing as Kong it took on a third person view and the entire gameplay changed, as you fought your opponents with punches, grabs, and projectiles taken from the environment. Kong could also bite, climb, charge and hurl enemies flying, as well as enter Fury mode which made the giant gorilla take less damage and become more powerful. Kong usually delivered the game’s tense boss battle sequences.
Featuring solid gameplay, amazing graphics and voice acting and high production values, King Kong was a definite winner as far as movie-to-game adaptions go, with its only major pitfall being that it was short. Although that’s relative, because in today’s times a seven hour game is almost the norm.