License to thrill
Isnt it nice when a gripping piece of theatre is allowed to stand on its own two feet? Likewise gaming. Expansive titles like The Last of Us really can't be improved by a two-hour trip to the cinema, and yet producers the world over are becoming increasingly anxious to nail down these proven properties - yanno, in between all of the cocaine and caviar binges. Of course, the reverse situation is also true. What good does it do a solid piece of cinema to half-heartedly embrace a medium beyond its comfort zone? The resulting tie-in will almost certainly be 'toilet-contents terrible' and may even sour some fans on the original IP. Double KO.
To quote every inpatient woodshop teacher who ever lived - 'If you're going to do something, you may as well do it right - and for the love of god stop sticking your fingers in those sockets'. The following list posits 7 major franchises and the top quality games that best reflect their unique settings, strengths and oftentimes strange identities. Keep in mind that the resulting mutt may not outplay either of its parents, but damn it, it's got to be better than handing off another Marvel game to SEGA. Begin!
Far Cry 3 with the LOST license
Gadzooks! Has it really been a decade since Oceanic flight 815 first graced our humble screens? Where does the time go, ey? Backwards? Forwards? A little bit further backwards!? Who's to say? LOST was that kind of show - routinely jumping the shark but sticking the landing, eliciting sympathy one minute only to invite fan derision the next. A tattoo episode, LOST? Really? How dare you take time out from 'the new adventures of attractive people' to tell the tale of some uneventful ink! Wait a tick, that almost sounds like Far Cry 3!
A mysterious island? Check. Factions vying for survival? Double check. A pair of powerful shamans each herding our heroes into some sort of nebulous end game? Checkmate Alright, so maybe there are a couple of differences here and there, but the gooey innards of Far Cry 3 would more than serve as the basis for a top notch LOST experience. Poaching wildlife, liberating 'stations', cobbling together ammo and ploughing trucks into unsuspecting 'Others'. Count me in. It's just a shame Ubi never thought of it. In fact maybe it would have been good to have done that back when it they actually owned the LOST license. *shakes fist*.
Assassin's Creed 4 with the Pirates of the Caribbean license
You'd think that a franchise adapted from an amusement park ride would be more receptive to tie-in licensing. As it is, Disney's Pirates of the Caribbean series has done little more than fire off a few damp squibs - before sailing into a squall and surrendering itself to the Lego Empire. The resulting effort was - unsurprisingly - the franchise' best game to date, with the folks at Traveller's Tales doing an admirable job as Disney's proven privateers. Of course, as any salty sea veteran will tell you, the only real difference between privateering and piracy is one all-important license.
Had the 'House of Mouse' chosen to hook up with the peg-legged ne'er-do-wells at Ubisoft, we may well have witnessed a piratical pairing for the ages. Imagine: Cap'n Jack Sparrow swaying boozily at the helm, the insufferable Will Turner drowning somehow below, zombies duking it out with squid men, Kraken's dining on galleys and more weaponised cutlery on display than a Master Chef finale turned nasty. Savvy?
Elder Scrolls: Skyrim with the Game of Thrones license
To paraphrase a wise old adage 'Be careful what you wish for, you might just end up with a bigger mess than Oberyn Martell's jam doughnut face Yes, thanks to the folks at Atlus and the aptly named Cyanide studios, fans of the brand have already had to endure one painfully poor GoT RPG. Suffice to say it stank like Reek and ran like Bran, with a rep that fell faster than that of a Westerosi wedding planner. Of course, all of that did nothing to dent fans' enthusiasm for a truly Skyrim-esque adventure. Now if only Bethesda themselves could be brought on board
Just think of it. Fast travelling to the Wall one moment and riding down wildlings the next, shacking up with 'Stannis the mannis' in one quest before trading bitter barbs with Melisandre herself. Seven Hells, you could even keep with Elder Scrolls tradition and start off in the dingey dungeons of Harrenhal, or travel the Kingsroad as a sellsword, greeting Tullys, gutting Lannisters or doing whatever you damn well pleased. Talk about a license to print coin.
FTL with the Battlestar Galactica license
This entry practically writes itself, so just let me grab my coat aaand I've been locked in Well I guess a quick refresher couldnt hurt, could it? Battlestar Galactica follows the adventures of Galactica, a sentient star with sweet ninja abilities aaand I'm being directed towards Wikipedia... Oh, okay, it's actually about a crew of stranded civvies and soldiers all banding together to avoid the complete annihilation of humanity. Cue much hyperspace jumping, locker room humping and bits of the ship exploding at inopportune moments.
Similarly, FTL is all about keeping your ship together while avoiding the attentions of an ever-encroaching army. You'll recruit newbies, safeguard the crew and order staff into key positions. It's a fun, if oftentimes infuriating title, and one that would almost certainly benefit from some official Battlestar sheen. After all, who needs drones when you can send out a couple of Mark II Vipers? And who among you hasn't dreamt of dispatching ol' Gaius Baltar to repel an alien incursion? What do you mean he isn't coming back? Oh well.
Fight Night Champion with the Rocky license
The Italian Stallion's already appeared in his fair share of video game count-outs. Unfortunately, what most of these titles tend to forget is that Rocky fans crave more than just a big southpaw swing. They want his feuds, his foes, his rock-bottom lows. They need to see him hand out and be on the receiving end of some truly inspirational speeches, to montage his way through crazy training regimes and rival Top Gun itself for a 'Most homoerotic beach scenes' award.
When it comes to boxing games, no other franchise does narrative quite like EA's Fight Night Champion. Released during a period of diminished interest in the sport, the publisher bet big on a flashy central storyline, and in doing so crafted an intriguing tale of struggle and redemption. Seems like a perfect fit for Rocky, right? Imagine taking the champ from boxing bum to hometown hero, sifting through sponsorships and outrunning sticky children. There could even be branching paths, different opponents - maybe a third fight against Apollo Creed (after choosing to chuck in that towel, of course). How about a Paulie punching mini-game, or the ability to dispense tips to foul-mouthed urchins? Eye of the tiger, baby!
NCAA 15 with the Friday Night Lights license
As any hometown fan will proudly attest, sport means that much more when you have a personal stake in the action. Maybe you're friends with a few of the athletes, or the team means a great deal to your community. Whatever it is, being able to see the human side of 'red' v 'blue' or 'Pistons' versus 'Rabies-addled Ducks' can transform even the most uneventful of match-ups into a truly unforgettable experience. NBC's Friday Night Lights took that exact same premise and ran with it - turning every viewer into a militant devotee of the fictional Dillon Panthers. Fans cared about Matt Saracen, Tim Riggins, and to a far lesser extent Landry Clarke. You were engrossed in their struggles and wanted them to win.
It's that kind of deep, meaningful attachment that's so missing from many of today's top sporting titles. The likes of Madden, FIFA, MLB and NHL may make the right moves on the field, but few can truly generate a sense of genuine investment. That's why the pairing of NCAA 15 and Friday Night Lights makes so much sense. QB injured? He's no longer just a stat damn it, he's a young kid with dreams, goals and an absurdly beautiful girlfriend. Curse you, gridiron gods! Curse you!
L.A. Noire with the True Detective license
Retro cops with conflicting opinions pursue a mystery killer. One case in particular takes years to unravel, with both men irrevocably changed by the experience. Oh and someone has the word 'Cole' in their name. Or 'Cohle'. Whatever, it's all relevant... Of course, as any 'authentic investigator' will have no doubt deduced, the preceding description applies to both Rockstar's L.A. Noire and HBO's True Detective. Together they're gritty, personal 'procedurals' - with all of the crime, adultery and outrageous chalk budgets that the moniker entails.
There may be a world of difference between 1940's L.A. and mid-90s Louisiana, but the basic parameters of investigation remain roughly consistent throughout. Both sets of cops show up to a crime scene, check out all the evidence, and take down witness statements. Remove modern DNA profiling from the mix and you're essentially left with just your wits and intuition - or in Cole Phelps case, the ability to scream at innocent people. Ever forced a confession with a rambling existential musing? Now you can!
Are these licensed titles a dream come true or an artistic nightmare? Have your say in the comments section below, and be sure to include your own suggestions alongside the usual crop of wild-eyed slurs and crazed accusations. Ciao.
If you're lingering though - and you definitely should - check out some of our related features. In for some puzzling and pondering? Then have a go at our Bond movie quiz. And if you want to keep it weird and gamey, why not peruse The 9 weirdest video game uses of perfectly sensible licenses?