I see what Uwe did there (and I hate it)
Imagine if you will, a world without Uwe Boll. Sorry, I know that maybe you feel a point is coming but there isn’t. It’s just if we can all imagine it just this once then maybe he will just… Stop it. Stop being a terrible person.
For years this director alone has set out to sodomize every video-game property he can put to film, the fallout of which has been turning a generation of movie-goers away from the idea of further properties ever making it onto the big screen.
The adaptation of these stories can be notoriously difficult considering the depth and immersion gifted to a player in the medium and is something actually not too dissimilar from you readers and them books that you read. This is not always something that can be translated into film and if done incorrectly, you will find the source material butchered like cheap cuts of meat and flung carelessly onto the big screen. Uwe Boll.
It is a tragedy to admit that too often you will find a terrible script being floated around the negative zone to some hack directors looking to make fast money yet somewhere down the line, a video-game license has been secured, so instead of launching the original nameless stinker, production companies will instead slap a recognizable name on the script and have a few fixes made to it so that us gamers can be lured into the theaters to be mercilessly shit on. Uwe Boll.
One look at Uwe Boll and his menagerie of hate will show you that this kind of cynicism is not entirely unfounded. To watch any number of his joyless ‘adaptions’ is enough to make you see that with a little imagination (literally next to none) and a complete misunderstanding of what makes video-game narratives so compelling is all it takes to completely tank a franchise.
Alone in the Dark, Bloodrayne, Postal, Farcry and House of the Dead. Two of these actually spawned sequels. All of these games had their problems but each in their own way were hidden gems waiting to be expanded, to have their worlds lovingly adapted and god forbid, their issues addressed and rectified. Except Postal. There is no redemption for Postal. It was senseless and offensive, violent and uncompromising. The satire was paper thin and the humour juvenile. Though I admit that decapitating people with spades and urinating on their bodies was unique but in the same way that there is only one Peter Sutcliffe.
Now don’t get me wrong, there are in fact some great movie adaptations of video-games and some okay ones too. Doom was okay if not a little misguided and hell Wreck it Ralph was straight up incredible but all in the all, the list remains very okay. Just okay.
Uwe Boll has thankfully crawled back into the womb of the Red Woman, his blade of shadow now dull and ineffective. He is a massive joke and thankfully everyone knows it. So imagine no more, just ignore him.
Now we flip the coin and take a look at the other side. Film and Television adaptations, finding new life as a video-game. The results here are similar in a sense; there is still an abundance of horrendous cash-ins and broken dreams. Superman 64 being perhaps the most famous example. However, when these adaptations hit, they absolutely take it out of the park. In my opinion, the success in movie adaptions are far more enjoyable than any success in a video-game adaption.
Developers are essentially gifted these franchises from on high, they have been given a holy grail of an already established franchise and so they are strictly monitored to produce only the best. And now, in 2016, we have mostly seen some of the greatest uses of movie licences there will ever be. Follow me and step into the worlds you loved on film and might not have experienced as games because here, here there be commendable uses of license.
Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic
Not to be confused with the mediocre MMO of a similar name (The Old Republic) Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic is the role-paying game, that in my opinion, has been sitting pretty at the top of the Star Wars gaming franchise ever since its release in 2003.
There are of course plenty of great Star Wars games to choose from; the Jedi Knight series, the Battlefront series, Republic Commando, Lego Star Wars, The Force Unleashed and of course, Rogue Squadron but KOTOR is a game that truly immersed you in the Star Wars universe, casting off the shackles of the movies timeline in the process and in doing so, had you the player forge one of the greatest Star Wars stories ever told.
The story takes you from extremely humble beginnings and whisks you off across the galaxy with a team of rich and deeply drawn companions. KOTOR takes place approximately 4,000 years before the emergence of the Galactic Empire and so in your search for the source of a power being wielded by a cruel and vengeful Sith, you will see the Star Wars universe like never before.
It was a game that finally gave you considerable options to choose between the Light and the Dark side and each choice made within every brilliantly written encounter would tip you ever closer to one or the other. It has everything a fan would want, from ruthless bounty hunters, charming rogues, cryptic Jedi, wildly inappropriate droids and a narrative twist that rivals the original trilogy reveal of Darth Vader.
It is a standard RPG affair with skill trees, feats, upgradable powers, full customization of equipment and even some lightsaber tinkering. Combat can be paused and restarted as you load your attacks in order, fully utilizing every ability you have invested in. Alternatively you can play it on the fly and make use of your two companions and their skills. The template of the gameplay would later be translated into a somewhat spiritual successor, Mass Effect which in its own right is a sprawling space opera right up the alley of all you science fiction nuts.
There was also a sequel made, Knights of the Old Republic: The Sith Lords and with it came another compelling narrative and minor improvements to the core game. For me personally I did prefer the sequel if only because of the two, it was the one I played the most. The story also tackled the morally grey in the form of Kreia, your enigmatic tutor.
Both games are still available to be played either on Steam or even IOS I believe and if you have already crushed both of these then I recommend the Cut Content mod for KOTOR2 to further stretch the imagination. The Cut content mod basically restores all of the content lost before the games hasty release.
Juice Box rating: 12 Midichlorians
As chilling and terrifying as the original Alien was, the game Alien: Isolation struck gold when it managed to capture that magic perfectly. It is evident from any number of screenshots that the team behind the game had taken painfully great care to recreate the exact white squishy aesthetic of the Nostromo and bring it to life on screen.
You the player take control of a little Ripley Junior, 15 years after the disappearance of her mother and ready as ever to slip into a pair of her mum’s tiny white pants. You are lured to the vast Sevastopol space station by galactic space-dicks Weyland-Yutani in order to recover the flight recorder of the Nostromo in the hopes of finally receiving some closure on what happened all those years ago.
The ambiance the game creates with every chime, ding and dong of the movie’s original sound track and the low gentle hum of the ship that would be your tomb is second only to the movie – yet the emulation of that 70’s science fiction aesthetic immerses you in that world and slaps them little tight white panties on you. Holy shit, with headphones on and the lights off, you will know knew fear.
I hear the bleeps of my motion tracker first, then the clattering of an air vent from outside. It’s distant at first but as I slide open EVERY FUCKING SLIDY SCI-FI DOOR EVER, the beeps become more frequent and I turn to look down the hall. She sees me. I shut the door and slink off to hide under that grotty old cot in the corner of the room, the lights overhead flickering to the beat of some deep space jungle when suddenly, big black and slimy skulks into the room, hissing like a mad kettle. I freeze, in real life that is, holding my breath because a part of me truly believes that if I move, if I dare wobble my lip or blink an eye that the next thing I’ll ever see will be the wrong end of toothy xenomorph kisses.
These moments make for great story-telling to me simply because these encounters are so thrilling that sharing them with your friends and other players is like talking up your favourite parts of the movie. The actual narrative however has a habit of leading you through, firmly squeezing your trembling hand and dragging you to the next section of the ship by force. It is A-Z progression, for example; you need to get onto another part of the station but to do that you need to get the power back on but the path there is blocked so you need to find another way there and so on.
Though not traditional, it is a labour of love to restore and painstakingly reconstruct every little detail in the world of this science fiction classic and then bringing it to your door and ask that you simply walk inside. The stories the game invents on the fly lay at the heart of this game, all of which are only made possible with the studio’s creation of the Xenomorph and it’s uniquely independent AI. It makes it unpredictable, it takes the story off script and into that inky black room of everything we fear; the unknown. That is primal as shit.
One issue to note would be that the game does run on maybe a little too long and in the process throws up several opportunities for the game to end. By the time you reach the last third of the game, you are running on empty; worn down by the constant stress and anxiety of evading the titular Xenomorph. Still.
Juice Box rating – 30 Newts
A mere twenty years after the original release of John Carpenter’s classic, The Thing (the videogame) came blazing onto the Playstation 2 with some pretty bold ideas. For the time it was released, The Thing stood out as a daring and innovative project that would subvert the expectations of fans of the genre. It was a third-person shooter, one that let you gather a squad of snow-kissed soldier bros and take on those pesky things from another world. As a fan of the film (my favourite of all time), it was a joy exploring the lesser known locations like the Norwegian base and facilities further off the beaten path. Even trudging around the outpost and coming across a familiar face or Blair-Thing’s ship or MacReady’s tape in the ruins of his watchtower. It was a joy that made good use of its licence.
So far, a standard affair. You run, you shoot and you pick up health kits or flares. However what set this game apart was its desperation to emulate the perfectly captured paranoia of the original film. It did this by using a trust/fear system in the game. As you progress through the game and your squad is gradually exposed to the horrors of Outpost 31, they will begin to crack and eventually begin to suspect you. You can build trust by offering up ammo or guns or even stepping up to save their lives in a firefight. You can lose trust by taking from them or having a stray bullet from your gun nick them in the heat of battle. If they trust you, they will be happier and the happier they are, the less dead they will become.
Hand in hand with trust comes the element of fear. There is normal, scared and ‘crack-up’. You walk into a blood soaked room with a dozen sticky corpses and suddenly your hardiest winter soldier is sobbing in one corner of the room. Some of them are even scared of the dark (which is fine). These elements merge well enough to build tension and allow for you to employ a small degree of strategy since the more scared your men get, the less effective they become until finally they hit ‘crack-up’. And when they do, the chances are they will turn on you or suck down a couple of their own 9mm rounds. So it really is in your best interests to perhaps keep your medic smiling even if it means taking ammo from your soldiers to do so.
These elements are further enhanced by the titular fear, The Thing. There is a chance that during firefights or even separation that one of your companions will have been turned into a long johns tearing son of a bitch. There are limited blood tests to go around so it is a dynamic that makes the game that much more interesting. You can waste a test on yourself to ease your men but in the end, it is touch and go for a majority of the game. Could the aforementioned medic you were keeping sane be a waste of generosity if he turns out to be a thing? Why yes but that is the joy of never knowing.
These elements are what make the game a gem in my eyes, that elevate it above the status of a loveless cash in. It has its problems for sure; the combat, while true to the film, can become tedious and is exceptionally cumbersome in cramped quarters. And the story, while starting out strong, flags horribly towards the end and culminates in a tiresome cliché. Plus the randomized elements of who can be turned into a thing can be undermined by parts of the story that dictate somebody has to turn and so even if you had just tested somebody a moment before, a cut-scene might still reveal them to be an alien. This is such a shame and really starts to stand out the further you get into the game but for the time, what these developers wanted to achieve was incredibly ambitious. I mean originally they intended for the game to be completely open-world and for any person at anytime be available to turn but of course, given the restrictions of the hardware, it was next to impossible.
On the plus side, Big Willy Davis of the X-files fame makes an appearance as your shady as fuck Colonel and though not immediately recognizable as a smoker, it is made clear to you in the story that he has cancer. Typecast much. And best or worst of all, depending on your opinion of such things, I believe the game is considered canon on top of powerful endorsement from John Carpenter himself (who also cameos in the game) so if you are keen to see what transpires after the movie ends and find out who really was a thing, then an emulation of this game is for you. Alternatively you can pick up a Playstation 2 for a couple of quid and grab a copy of The Thing online.
While we are talking about The Thing, please if you have not already read The Things by Peter Watts. It is an amazing interpretation of the film from the perspective of the alien. It is a mind-bender of a short story.
Juice Box rating – 40 below zero
Straight outta cinema will be concluded next week so in the mean time, let me know your thoughts. Are there any games that you thought were made into great films or vice versa? Do you agree with these picks?
Let me know in the comments.