So the video game movie tie-in to Thor — Thor: God of Thunder — released on May 3, and usually when a new game based on a comic book character hits shelves, I purchase it, spend two days dissecting it, then come here to rant about it. But not this time.
I have absolutely no faith in Thor: God of Thunder being worth my hard earned $60. SEGA has consistently made me regret the time and money spent of their previous Marvel movie games (Iron Man, Iron Man 2, The Incredible Hulk), and until the publisher starts showing they can produce a truly great — I’ll even settle for good — superhero game, then I’m just not wasting my time with their products. I haven’t played Thor yet, so for all I know it could be an amazing game, but so far the internet is giving it a poor reception. SEGA will release Captain America: Super Soldier in July, and if Super Soldier ends up more of the same crap, then I’ll be the first to propose a boycott on SEGA superhero games until they get better.
What really makes me angry is that Marvel publicly stated that “there will be no more bad games based off their characters,” and since then, all we’ve received is garbage.
But enough about my rant about how SEGA steals from comic book fans.
For years movie tie-in video games have been revered as half-assed pieces of crap, and for good reason. These games are often given a small budget and a small time frame for development. And with the superhero movie boom of the last decade, most of all our experiences with our favorite superheroes on a game console have been due to some major motion picture release. Unfortunately, it takes longer to make a good game than it does to make a movie.
When I think of a bad superhero movie game, usually the first to come to mind is Catwoman. This is a perfect example of cheap video game making with intentions of only drawing its money with what popularity may exist due to its theatrical counterpart, rather than giving fans a memorable experience with their favorite character. The game for Superman Returns actually had to be delayed until the DVD release of the film, because it wasn’t ready for the theatrical debut, and it was still a recycled version of Superman: Man of Steel released for the Xbox in 2002.
Is technology to blame for bad movie games? Is creating a great movie game too demanding to coincide with the release of a film? I think yes. Back in the day we saw some great movie games based on comic characters, and just great superhero games altogether. All you had to do was be cleaver enough to keep a side scrolling beat-em-up exciting for more than the first three levels. Batman on the NES and Batman Returns on the SNES are both great games, if simple games. I don’t get why publishers would even attempt to offer the same quality of game play or beautiful appearance as a game like Batman: Arkham Asylam with only an 18 month development window. Look at Scott Pilgrim vs. the Wold: The Game. It was a simple, fun, old school style game that still took advantage of the popularity of the film, and was even my pick for best comic book superhero video game of the year in 2010.
But not all superhero movie games are bad. The first two Spider-Man movie games were not only awesome, but among the best Spider-Man games ever made. Batman Begins wasn’t perfect, but still the most complete Batman game experience ever in a video game (until Arkham Asylum), and Activision made Wolverine fans happy with a satisfying tie-in to X-Men Origins: Wolverine.
There is one terrible movie game that has a special place in my heart, though. Personally, I enjoyed the movie Batman & Robin, but I know how most fans feel about it, and I don’t blame them. But did you ever play the game, Batman & Robin? It was released in 1997, near the release of the film, and, I must say, it was kind of amazing. A lot of people talk about how they want a sandbox Batman game where they can explore Gotham City, but what a lot of people don’t know is that that game exists in Batman & Robin. Sure Gotham City was empty aside from a few clown-like street thugs (which was weird considering neither the Joker nor the Circus Gang were in the film), Batman walked like C-3PO, and the combat was like a cheap ass Rock-Em-Sock-Em Robots, but tearing around the streets of Gotham in the Batmobile was exhilarating, especially in the age of the PSOne, before Grand Theft Auto III.
I think the most important quality that we’ve seen in most comic movie games is the expansion on the film’s story into the realm of the comics. In the Spider-Man games you faced off against Vulture, Scorpion, Shocker, Kraven, Mysterio, and Lizard. In Superman Returns you saw Mongul, Mr. Mxyzptlk, Metallo, and Bizarro. X-2: Wolverine’s Revenge might as well have been “Ultimate Wolverine: The Game.” The upcoming Green Lantern: Rise of the Manhunters centers around (you guessed it) the Manhunters. That’s what’s going to make these games fun to the real fans, and interesting to the new ones. But we need to see real quality, real FUN games that are worth our money.
I think more game publishers should follow Scott Pilgrim and Watchmen’s example and start making their games simple and cheaper as downloadable games. I think more people would be willing to buy it, especially since today’s movie games are so frowned upon, and $19.99 is a lot easier to shell out than $59.99.
So what’s next for our superhero movie tie-in games? Hopefully something more promising! Honestly, I say forget the movie tie-in all together and just make great games based off the characters. I don’t need a game for Marc Webb’s Amazing Spider-Man or Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel, or some Marvel: Ultimate Alliance rip-off that passes as a The Avengers game. I just want good, fun games where I can become the characters I love! I don’t care how long it takes to release. Until such a bright future is realized, let us pay our respects to the greatest superhero movie tie-in that never was: The Dark Knight.
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