Please Don’t Buy Movie Tie-in Games

Mavel’s highly anticipated Avengers movie is being released tomorrow after having been hinted at since the release of Iron Man. This isn’t exactly video game news, but it is relevant that The Avengers is not being released with a video game tie-in. I can’t imagine why not as they are par for the course for all major blockbuster movies, but it is most certainly a good thing. Movie tie-ins are the absolute worst gaming has to offer. That is not to say that they provide the worst games, but they are the premier examples of lazy, poorly thought out, rushed games. You see, a game like Chicken Shoot is indeed worse than all movie tie-in games, but Chicken Shoot never had the budget or brand of these either. It’s the brand that is the most dangerous. People want a Captain America or Matrix game, and people desperately want that game to be great. This always makes for disappointment, and that is the true problem with movie tie-in games. They offer a chance to get into a world that gamers are very interested in, but they are never of the quality that those games deserve. Today’s post will be about these movie tie-ins, why they are so popular and why they are so bad.

At least they got the really fake awful abs right.

Movie tie-in games have been around as long as games have been. This makes perfect sense from a development and marketing standpoint. By basing your game off of a movie, you get to cut all kinds of corners. The only thing story-wise you have to do with a movie game is to try to loosely tie the movie’s plot to wave after wave of identical enemies. Characters and plot points are already done for the developers, and why would you have the Die Hard game star anyone other than John McClane? The idea of playing as John McClane will be enough to sell many, many games, so the character model doesn’t even really have to look like him. It is so easy to market these games they should pay YOU to watch the advertisements. Blockbuster movies already have huge advertisement budgets and it is very easy to tack the video game to the end of one. What better to sell video games than a huge trailer for a movie that you desperately want to see. I mean, if the game is anything like the movie, it will be awesome right? That is the thinking that made games like Enter the Matrix insane sellers. I’m not trying to sound like some hipster idiot, who calls people “sheeple”, what I’m trying to point out is that there is a reason that movie games are so alluring to people. It is a very good reason, and it is a shame that the games themselves aren’t very good.

That’s totally John McClane… right?

The biggest problem bar none with movie tie-in games is one of the development advantages I listed above: it is extremely hard to shoehorn a movie’s story into a video game. Developers have two choices with their games. Either they try to stay as close as possible to the plot of the movie, or they diverge considerably. The first option is very problematic. Hack and slash video games need one thing more than anything else and that thing is bodies. Movies on the other hand often don’t have excuses for enemies to constantly be hounding you through the plot, because, even in an action movie, there is more to it than just action. Hack and slash games are only about the action. You can kiss all of Bruce Banner’s emotional discoveries good bye. All gamers want is to smash things as the Hulk. This makes following the exact plot very difficult. No, the better option is when the game forges its own path, but the problems still exist. You are still limited to what can happen in that world. You also run the additional risk of derailing the story so much that when you try to get back to the main plot line, the player has long since stopped caring. Even for those who don’t care about the story and only want the gameplay, it is easy to be taken out of the game when you kill the five-hundreth random robot who is after Batman.

Hulk want satisfying, emotional storytelling!

Of course a game can be great without a good story; all it needs is great gameplay. This is another area where movie games come up short. Movie games come in two flavours: hack and slash and shooter. It simply depends on what kind of weapon the hero uses. The problem is that movie tie-in games usually simply copy the combat of another series and try to shoehorn it into their game. Captain America was likened to Arkham Asylum, X-Men Origins: Wolverine to God of War and so forth. The problem with shoehorning these combat styles is that they come across as cheap imitations of better games. This hits especially hard when you realize that the story is a cheap imitation of the movie. In the end you’re simply left with a cheap imitation. Some games try to throw in unlockables and add RPG elements, but that doesn’t stop games like Wolverine from being a cheap God of War clone. Sometimes copying the gameplay of another game is fine when you have a lot to add aside from that and you just need grounding. Unfortunately, it is just one point of a long list of corner cutting in these games.

I question the tactical advantages of that outfit.

Not all movie tie-in games are terrible, as some are just thoroughly mediocre. The previously mentioned X-Men Origins: Wolverine is a game that many heralded as the first good movie tie-in. It is not a good game in any conceivable way. It isn’t bad is the best I can say about it. The gameplay was boring and repetitive and the story was awful, but it serves as a great example. People are so desperate for a good movie tie-in that this mediocre game could be heralded as great. This happens every once and awhile. A movie tie-in comes out that isn’t terrible, or even bad, and people herald it as not just good, but great or even excellent. In the end, people want these games to be good, but they are simply created under too many limitations to achieve this feat.

I’m sorry to the many fans, but this game just wasn’t very good.

Of course you can’t place the blame for how bad these games end up being entirely on the developers. It is common knowledge that movie tie-in games are frequently subject to serious rush jobs. After all, most of these games are released before the movie has been in order to maximize the marketing synergy. Often the biggest reason for all of the corner cutting is because of time constraints. If you need to get a game out under a heavy time constraint, you better believe you are going to be cutting as many corners as possible. This doesn’t excuse the constant stream of alluring, but thoroughly mediocre games, but it does explain them.

It’s OK guys. It isn’t your fault

Cheap, poorly made movie tie-ins are a fact of life in the video game industry. The reason for this is that huge summer action movies cause many gamers to want to reenact their favourite scenes. The unfortunate fact is that these games will always be subpar, as the very industry which makes them viable pushes them out at a pace which cannot possibly create the type of game they want. In the end these aren’t so much video games, but, rather, are simply marketing tools. Gamers shouldn’t support this type of cheap, lazy development. In short, please don’t buy movie tie-in games.

– Mistranslations for the Modern Gamer


2 thoughts on “Please Don’t Buy Movie Tie-in Games

  1. Spiderman 2 was a pretty solid movie tie in game since it did add other elements story wise and not just rip it stright from the movie. If they did do a avengers tie in game all they would have to do it make it good is take the story maybe add a few extra story bits into make it diffrent, and use say a marvel ultimate alliance system of combat and fighting ( like they did with the fantastic four movie game ) but BETTER!.

  2. The problem is that it would always be better to make a separate game. Spider Man 2 wasn't bad because of its swinging mechanic and open world, which was really new last gen, and as you said, it separated itself a lot from the movie. An Avengers game would better be served as stand alone and not as part of movie advertisement. The X-Men Legends/Ultimate Alliance battle system would indeed work well with a co-op RPG-style Avengers game, so it would be interesting to see.

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