Before I start on what will no doubt turn into a rant about how movie tie-in games are perhaps not the best thing to come out of the industry, I will say that I don’t hate all of them. There have been some really good ones over the years (two that immediately spring to mind are Wolverine Origins and Spider-Man 2) but sadly they are in the minority. As a general rule movie tie-in games are pretty bad and most gamers know to stay away from them by now.
Games take a lot of time, money and hard work to make, as as things have developed in terms of graphics and in gameplay the time and money required to make these games has increased substantially. However time is a luxury that movie tie-in games simply don’t get. There’s no pushing a release date forward a few weeks to fix gameplay issues or tighten up the controls, the game must be shipped (finished or not) in time to co-inside with the release of the movie. This has lead to some pretty awful games to be sold to the consumer at full retail price. Recent examples include: the majority of Harry Potter games, Thor, Battleship, Green Lantern, Iron Man 2, and far too many more to mention.
One of the most upsetting things about these shoddy games is that they are made by companies that we all know are capable of producing well written and well designed games, yet invariably they end up spending up to two years making a game that, due to time restraints, will be crap, all the while taking their staff away from better projects. Sure, these titles do make them a fair amount of money that easily covers the cost of development, however these games won’t bring much (if any) credit to their company’s name. Of course, when it does come for them to release a game actually worth buying, it runs the risk of being tainted by that crappy tie-in game they released earlier that year.
As I mentioned at the beginning not all movie tie-in game are bad. There have been some really good ones releases over the years, even some that I’m proud to have in my collection. The first one to spring to mind is Activision’s Spider-Man 2: The Videogame released in 2004 on every platform under the sun. The game offered something that had never been done in any other 3D Spider-man game: you could now swing freely off of buildings! I know doesn’t sound like much now, but at the time this was an incredible achievement. No longer would Spidey swing off the sky, he could now (to a certain extent) swing like his comic book counterpart. The system was so well regarded that it was later used (and arguably refined) by every other developer to make a Spider-Man game. Of course the web swinging wasn’t the only thing that made the game – there was a rather fun and in-depth combat system and being free to explore New York city (another first) made this game a blast to play. I personally have lost count on how many times I’ve completed it.
Sadly not all movie tie-in games turn out this fun, its sequel Spider-man 3 was not so excelsior. The A.I was poorly programmed, the controls unrefined, the web slinging almost unplayable, and the whole game was a complete mess. Thankfully other Spider-Man games that been released since then have turned out far better, but not all Superhero characters have been so lucky. Green Lantern Rise of the Manhunters is one such game that proved to be a bitter disappointment as it was a title that I was really looking forward to because it was the first ever game to focus entirely on the popular comic book character Green Lantern. Much to my disappointment it turned out just to be another button masher.
These games don’t give credit to the characters or the franchises that they are representing and that really annoys me. Characters like Green Lantern, Thor, and Superman deserve to have the same treatment Batman got in Arkham Asylum and Arkham City. Instead they get their name dragged through the mud by bad video games that potentially could kill any chance for a proper title. You can easily imagine the money men looking at the sales of Rise of the Manhunters and saying “well, I guess a Green Lantern game just won’t ever sell”. To them I say ‘Yes it would… if it was good!”
Now I know what you’re thinking ‘it’s a movie tie-in game you shouldn’t be expecting anything good’, but when it’s priced at £40 ($60) forgive me if I expect a standard that’s on par with other full priced games. I wouldn’t have much of a problem if it was priced much lowered, at say £20, but at it’s current cost I can’t stop making comparisons to far better games.
Regardless of how badly made they end up being, I know that movie tie-in games will keep getting made because, frankly, they’re an guaranteed return of investment. With the economy the way it is low risk investment is sometimes the only option. I am however hopeful that developers will find a way to produce these games in a way that makes them worth the money the consumers ends up paying for them.
Is that too much to ask?