Historically, films and games have had a somewhat complicated relationship, the fruits of which were a million generic side-scrolling shooters and what are generally considered some of the worst films of all time. Recently though there’s been improvement in both areas, films of games have got to the point where they’re merely average instead of terrible, while games of films are now generally good, with a couple of titles based on licensed properties considered genuine classics. Straight adaptations rarely work, but the likes of the Arkham series and Shadow of Mordor/War have proved that providing a fresh adventure in a beloved fictional universe can earn you legions of devoted fans. Bearing this in mind, there are legions of films that are ripe for a fresh AAA videogame adaptation, and here are five that are crying out for one.
Pirates of the Caribbean
Okay, there have been many attempts at making a Pirates of the Caribbean game. Most of these, however, sank without a trace, unloved and unremembered, and were hasty cash-ins that bore little resemblance to the iconic series and irritated/bored those unfortunate souls assigned to review them. Digging through this back catalogue reveals an almost unbroken string of games that ranged from mediocre to terrible on everything from the Game Boy Advance to the PS3. The sole exception to this parade of pap was, of course, the LEGO Pirates of the Caribbean, a strong game that captured the humour of the series but came out back in 2011 and was inevitably shackled by the LEGO template, with all the building, platforming and repetition that that implies.
Based on what we saw at E3, Pirates in Kingdom Hearts III is going to look pretty damn amazing, but personally, that little glimpse just made me desperately want a proper AAA adaptation without all the other Disney stuff thrown in and without everything revolving around a Japanese kid with a magic key. The formula is simple, it’s essentially Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag meets Uncharted, with Jack Sparrow playing the part of an alcoholic Nathan Drake in a captain’s hat. And yes, it would need to be Jack Sparrow, as much as it’s fun to play with new characters, Sparrow simply is Pirates, and anyone else would feel like a pale imitation. A Pirates game would also set the stage for all sorts of supernatural silliness, and the films have a wide array of colourful characters to choose from. Aside from that, it would be a healthy mix of seafaring, sword fighting and treasure seeking, with all of it shot through with Pirates’ trademark humour.
So far there have been three Matrix games. The first was 2003’s Enter the Matrix, where you played as subsidiary characters Niobe and Ghost, both of whom kicked all sorts of ass in a story that was written by the Wachowskis and tied into The Matrix Reloaded. The game was pretty damn good, with dynamic, flowing combat and pretty impressive graphics for the PS2/Xbox. Despite this, everyone complained, they wanted to play as Neo, the superhero in a trenchcoat and shades that defines the Matrix films. They got their wish with 2005’s The Matrix: Path of Neo, which recreated some of the most iconic scenes from the films and let you experience all the fighting, flipping, and shooting fun that the series has to offer. I’m not quite sure what I was doing in 2005, but I completely missed out on Path of Neo, my best guess is I was put off by the general critical consensus that it was rushed, unfinished and equal parts pleasurable and painful. 2005 also brought a PC MMORPG, The Matrix Online, that received mixed reviews and lasted four years before being put out of its misery.
Now though, we’re at the point where the technological grunt of modern games consoles offers the opportunity to make a Matrix experience that was unimaginable 13 years ago, a fully open-world adventure where everything you see can be bent to your will. If you’re struggling to visualise this, think Watch Dogs 2 on crack, acid, or whatever your metaphorical drug of choice is – a dynamic, living city that’s just waiting for you to start running up walls, slow down and stop time, make buildings crumble with a wave of your hand, or levitate cars for the sheer fun of it. Given that Neo is basically a god by the end of the trilogy (or, to use the technical gaming term, completely OP), you’d probably need to turn the clock back a little and have him learn his abilities as the game progresses, and you’d have to create enemies that actually challenged him, but the promise is surely worth it. In short, you’d create the ultimate Matrix game, an experience that truly captures everything special about the franchise. Oh, and you’d also make 90s fanboys like me happy beyond their wildest dreams.
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
In what is becoming a familiar and depressing pattern, my careful research has revealed that there was a Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon game. It emerged in 2003 on the PS2, Xbox and Game Boy Advance and, you probably won’t be surprised to hear, was terrible. Review scores ranged from the average (5, 6, with Game Informer even giving the GBA version a 7) to the true depths of awfulness (Eurogamer gave it 2/10 and questioned whether the devs had even seen the film). This is a real shame as the film is a beautifully crafted piece of cinema that would make a fantastic game, one that replicated its trademark blend of martial arts fight scenes that are somehow both furious and graceful, exquisite exotic locales, trademark fantasy elements, and a story that’s rooted in ancient Chinese themes of honour and order. Of course, back in 2003, the PS2 and its ilk didn’t really have a hope of capturing all that, but now it feels like all the elements are there. Developers have nailed dynamic, flowing combat systems, games are filled with exotic locations, we’ve worked out how to incorporate superhuman abilities in a way that doesn’t break the game, and modern facial motion capture allows games to portray the subtle emotion and conflicted feelings that so often drive serious drama.
Plus, if E3’s Ghost of Tsushima gameplay was anything to go by, the visuals shouldn’t be much of a problem, the climactic encounter fought against the backdrop of falling autumnal leaves was so redolent of Ang Lee’s masterpiece that I’m now half expecting his name in the credits of the finished game. Now, I’m sure Ghost of Tsushima will be great, and perhaps this just comes down to me preferring ancient Chinese warriors to samurai, but I’d love a game that truly captures the spirit of a classic Chinese martial arts film, that recreated their balletic fight scenes, the effortless grace of the protagonists, and reflected how they so often feel trapped in a world ruled by strict codes of ethics and morality. Properly adapting Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon would be the perfect place to start.
It looks like this one actually might happen, with Square Enix announcing in January 2017 that it has signed a multi-year deal to develop multiple Marvel games, starting with an Avengers game. However, things have gone awful quiet since then, and we still have no real info beyond what was included in a short CGI trailer that accompanied that announcement and some industry news. As far as we know, the Avengers game is going to be co-developed by Tomb Raider devs Crystal Dynamics and Deus Ex devs Eidos Montreal and will be helmed by Uncharted: The Lost Legacy creative director Shaun Escayg, who left the studio after seven years in January 2018. However, the project was entirely absent from this year’s E3, and it remains to be seen whether it will really capture the feeling of being one of the most powerful beings in the universe. It’s this that’s been lacking from previous games featuring Iron Man, Hulk, Captain America and co., with the likes of LEGO Marvel’s Avengers (2015) and Marvel: Ultimate Alliance (2006) being fun to play but not really conveying the awesome power of these iconic heroes.
It was playing this year’s God of War that really made me want a proper single-player narrative-driven Avengers game, with Sony Santa Monica succeeding in making you feel the power of Kratos, with even the simple act of opening a chest reflecting the superhuman rage that is arguably the Spartan’s defining characteristic. Of course, most of the Avengers are not fuelled by rage, but similar techniques could be employed to truly reflect the awesome power of Hulk, the impact of Iron Man’s missiles or, most obviously of all, the destruction wrought by a certain long-haired Norse god’s magical hammer. This would, obviously, require a huge amount of work, capturing the disparate abilities of some of the most beloved fictional characters ever would be a serious multi-year project with a budget that would easily go into the hundreds of millions. But, get it right, and it would be a license to print money, the definitive adaptation of one of the most successful film franchises of all time.
Unlike the other films on this list, there’s every chance you won’t have heard of Equilibrium, it was neither a commercial or critical success and many dismissed it as yet another generic sci-fi film upon its release in 2002. I, on the other hand, loved it, and while I’m not sure I could mount a serious argument for it being a great work of cinema, it’s still one of my favourite films of all time. The plot concerns a 1984-esque future society that has eliminated war, murder, and all the other messed up parts of humanity by having everyone take a pill that suppresses emotion and bad-ass future cop Christian Bale discovering his emotions and overthrowing the whole thing. Aside from one great scene where Bale shoots Sean Bean dead for the heinous crime of reading a book (literature, art, and music are banned as they elicit emotion), the story is not much to write home about, but what makes Equilibrium great are its action scenes. The idea is that shooting has now become a martial art with gun katas practiced by Bale and his ilk, rigid sequences designed to dispatch foes in the most efficient manner possible with one gun in each hand. Even now, 16 years later, Equilibrium’s fight scenes are still great to watch, as Bale almost dances his way through dispatching his foes, a spinning, leaping, fatal force of nature.
It doesn’t take too much imagination to see how much fun this would be in a game, especially with an Arkham-style control system that replaced punches and kicks with bullet sweeps and backflip headshots. Indeed, Equilibrium has the potential to work much better as a game than it ever did as a film, its simplistic, melodramatic plot would function perfectly as the backdrop for running through waves of enemies, and no one would really care that this is well-worn cinematic territory. Of course, there’s almost no chance of this one happening, Equilibrium is considered, at best, a cult classic, and there’s no dedicated fanbase clamouring for it to be adapted. Still though, I’m going to keep my fingers crossed really hard and hope that maybe, just maybe, something like those amazing, balletic gunfights finds its way into a game soon.
View these films and more at Netflix.