The good, the bad, and the downright ugly of video gaming / Hollywood crossovers

This month sees the release of the multi-platform big budget hero movie tie-in, Spider-Man 2. Sorry. The Amazing Spider-Man 2.

And it does appear that the general consensus is that this game is anything but amazing. Of course, they are not going to throw together a piece of crap deliberately and package it as “The Clunky, Crappy and Kinda Janky Spider-Man”. Actually, I would be sort of interested to see how it would play out. Perhaps the self-realisation of its own insecurities could make it altogether more acceptable?

Or not. Whatever.

Last year saw the release of a much anticipated Aliens : Colonial Marines. For fans of the franchise, which I guess Alien films now are, here was a tie-in to the most explosive, notable, and quotable film of the bunch. Many people I know consider Aliens to be one of their top 3 films of all time, and when the game trailers and announcement showed what looked like a true homage to this classic of cinema, this obviously spiked and peaked interest levels. Unfortunately, the game failed to live up to those expectations, on a number of levels. Not even a cameo from one of the films main characters could redeem this bang average title. I won’t pick apart its failings one by one here, as I simply don’t have the time! I might save that for another post maybe.

Other games have also failed to hit the high watermark of their blockbuster siblings. There are many more in fact, but I am not trying to name and shame here, just recognise there appears to be a complete disconnect in the mediums when they are driven to launch at the same time.

I don’t know what it is, but for some reason Studio Execs sit around a table discussing marketing opportunities, and think that rushing out a game – which includes all concept, level design, build, bug testing, and printing can be done in a window that exists almost exclusively post shoot and pre-release of its blockbuster counterpart.

Having witnessed some of the time and care that goes into creating a stellar game, and having the flexibility to push back on launch dates if the game simply isn’t right doesn’t always work for all studios. Mainly the budgeting and commitments to the City will determine if a studio can push back its due date, or if its forced to rush it to market.

When you start to peel some of those limitations away, there can be some surprising, and some downright brilliant results.

Most notable, the Batman Arkham games have been absolutely fantastic. Free of Hollywood, Rocksteady were able to hone in a great combat mechanic, plenty of collectables, and weave out a really interesting narrative. Now the Batman games, at least those crafted by Rocksteady, are a template for other games to follow, and (for some, not all to be fair) attempt to rip off.

There are a collection of the many Star Wars games that have been enjoyable to play through too. The LEGO games have actually proved that there is enough material in a film to flesh out a tie-in, and keep it interesting and fun. I think possibly the LEGO games offer a bit more grace because they can introduce their own building mechanics and collectables that keep you returning, as a completionist.

So rather than slinging shit, lets spread some love instead

Go ahead and leave some comments about your favourite movie tie-ins. I would be interested to hear what you have to say about not only your favourite film-games / game-films, but also why they strike a particular chord with you.

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What is the problem with Destiny?

Come with me on a journey, and cast your minds back to a time before PS4/Xbox One were officially announced, a now Halo-free Bungie invites a collection of press and associated game news sites to their offices where they prepare to announce their new IP to the world - Destiny.

Here was a title that, if delivered on its promise, was to be to gaming what Star Wars was to film.

What followed was a flurry of buzz and excitement about what this game could be, what it would offer, and how it could set a benchmark for the as yet unannounced next generation of gaming platforms.

There was a distinctly strange situation where Bungie were implying the title would appear on all consoles, but could only really confirm its presence on Xbox360, PS3 and PC. Clearly, the scale and scope of Destiny was one that would push the 360 and PS3 beyond its limits, and with Sony's next generation announcement right around the corner in Feb '13, and Microsoft due to follow suit shortly after, Destiny was rightly firmly in the spotlight for being able to take advantage from the power of the next gen.

Comments made from the Bungie team at the time were born from genuine excitement. This was a game they had wanted to make for some time, and since being released of Halo duties, were allowed to run free with their own destiny (if you pardon the expression) on their new IP.

What followed was quite simply, not a lot.

As time passed, and the new generation of consoles launched, other "hot" titles started to feel the heat - I'm looking at you, Watch_Dogs. More and more onlookers began coming to the conclusion that this promised land of truly game-changing, awe-inspiring titles was but a false profit prophet, and that actually these outstanding looking beasts were merely glammed up tech-demos. A lot has been made about Watch-Dogs being "not fun" during its play-test phases. So much thought and consideration was put into making this technical marvel, this truly interconnected city, filled with an exploitable population, that the "game" element was almost forgotten about. The inclusion of disconnected mini-games, and a bit of a refresh in the mission structure appears to have at least attempted to address those fears.

We will find out soon enough, I guess!

Other titles like DriveClub, which was due to be a launch title in Nov '13 for PS4, slipped and slipped, before being pushed all the way back to Oct '14.

So lets come back around to Destiny.

A lot of people have gone cold on Destiny. Partly because there hasn't been very much since the official announcement to explain how these grand ideas are all going to come together. There was a short playable demo of a specific underground area that some who are lucky enough were privileged to experience. And by all account, it was a very acceptable shooter, as you would expect from the team that brought you one of the generation defining shooters in Halo. But a lot of questions were left unanswered at this event, which left onlookers worried about the state of the promised "persistent online" features. Having seen dreadful situations unfold with the launches of online only games such as the PC versions of Diablo3 and SimCity, gamers probably rightly hold a bit of reservation about whether or not this game will fulfil its potential, without the nightmare of those games.

The reality is, Destiny will probably fall somewhere between Phantasy Star Online for the matchmaking (lobby) mechanics, Borderlands for the weapon crafting and Diablo3 for the multiplayer looting mechanics. All meshed together with FPS qualities of Halo (like it or hate it, Halo is an important game in the history of FPS) and more than a shred of inspiration from Star Wars.

With all that in mind, for me, it only takes another cursory glance over the concept artwork and the work in progress screens for me to forget about all of those concerns and get excited again. This could be the best Star Wars game that isn't Star Wars.

For this casual gamer, September 2014 cannot come quickly enough.

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