If there were a list of Rules for Videogames, the #1 rule would have to be, “Always make cutscenes skippable.” But the number two rule may very well be, “Don't play games based on movies.” It's a truth that's been self-evident rarely without exception ever since ET stunk up the Atari 2600.
Above: A painful lesson indeed
But Rule #2's been in for some revision lately, as GoldenEye-shaped aberrations and Butcher Bay-escaping anomalies defy the “movie games are crap” truism. Maybe the way to make a non-terrible adaptation is to hold off until you're sure you have a classic property on your hands. Given movie games’ review history, the simple act of getting them to a stage where people say they’re “well-executed” or “worth the price” is a pretty big step.
Above: “Accurate” and “fairly expansive,” we effused halfheartedly
With positive examples like Godfather, Scarface, GoldenEye and King Kong, should we just open the classic-film floodgates? Every gamer has a wish-list of movies they're sure could be the next crossover hit, but the simple fact is that many geeks like movies that should never, ever become games. If you see something in this list and go “oh, that would make a great game!” please walk to your DVD shelf, pull that movie out, think about what it means to you, and then picture what happens to 99% of all movie games. Yes, please, let’s leave these guys alone.
Hailed as “the best comic-book movie ever” by people who haven't seen Darkman III: Die, Darkman, Die!, Christopher Nolan's grim superhero fable did its level best to treat concepts like “Man dresses as animal to avenge parents” and “Crazy person paints face like crazy clown, is crazy” in such a way that grown adults weren't embarrassed to ask for a ticket. It was a massive success, which is testament both to Nolan's skill as a storyteller and the difficulty of embarrassing grown adults nowadays.
Above: The first Batman movie was great, but uh, didn’t really sell the drama
Seems like a great idea because: It's got everything a blockbuster game needs: powerful characters who are both human and larger-than-life; a fast-moving story, with high-stakes dilemmas resolved by punishing action sequences. The movie's success isn't in presenting the gravelly pathos of a God/Gears of War minus the silly bits – it's in treating those silly bits with enough respect that they work onscreen.
Above: The Batman Begins game. Were you really crying out for another?
But actually: EA worked on a Dark Knight videogame, seeking to improve on the lackluster Batman Begins adaptation by contracting Mercenaries developers Pandemic Studios. The game never happened; The Dark Knight joined Casino Royale, The Bourne Identity and Collateral under the banner of action movies that were taken more seriously because there wasn't a videogame version.
Instead, try: Duh, Batman: Arkham Asylum. A less obvious second choice would be IO Interactive's Kane and Lynch: Dead Men. The connection? Both were strongly influenced by Michael Mann's crime epic Heat, a lineage proudly acknowledged by their creators and clearly visible onscreen.
Dateline 1995: Enjoying an economic boomtime, Americans turned their attention to planting the seeds of what would become internet culture. After going through the dictionary and adding the prefix “Cyber-” to everything, the logical next step was to make a movie in which the act of sitting at a keyboard and forgetting to shower was turned into a hot-n-sexy aspirational lifestyle. Hackers was born!
Seems like a great idea because: Listed as a “guilty pleasure” by many people who should feel guiltier about using the phrase “guilty pleasure” in the first place, Hackers provides neon-lit thrills with a side of irony broad enough that even your aunty knows not to take it seriously. Having turned out plenty of what-is-reality head-scratchers in its time, surely mid-90s cyber-culture (sorry) is ready to have a bit of a laugh at itself with a Hackers videogame?
Above: Another hacker (you can tell from the shades)
But actually: Just as The Craft inspired Tori Amos-listening girls to pursue the secrets of witchery until they realized that the movie had grossly oversold the glamor of such a lifestyle, so young boys in their droves saw Hackers, donned yellow glasses and took to computer terminals in search of adventure and Angelina Jolie. They quickly realized that real hacking is dull, painstaking and ridiculously time-consuming... at which point they abandoned it to play Quake. And we don't need a game about an unrewarding time-sink that gets ditched for Quake, because there is already Daikatana.
Instead, try: Rez, whose storyline (such as there is one) revolves around hacking a supercomputer to save a malfunctioning super-AI, personified as a polygonal naked chick. Ticking the boxes, so they are.