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Movie-based video games have been created for ages in the past. Ever since the first computers and consoles made it into the lives – and living rooms – of people, games inspired by silver screen adventures were there for them to play with. Unfortunately for their publishers, and the players who ran them expecting some level of extension of the big screen adventures, most video games inspired by some of the best movies turned out to be an utter waste of pixels and code. Some even resist to this day – out of the dozens of Terminator-inspired games built between 1984 and today, there is only one that is still played by the masses: a Vegas Palms slot machine inspired by the original movie, released ahead of the franchise’s revival.
Although they have a limited audience – they are clearly aimed at responsible adults who play the best online slot games at the Vegas Palms and beyond – movie and TV show inspired slot machines are an unbroken success. Perhaps it’s their nature: no slot machine at the Vegas Palms wants to be more than it is – a casual game with a look that appeals to audiences. This can’t be said about some of the highly promoted video games inspired by some of the best movie franchises in history.
Enter the Matrix (2003)
The Matrix has shaken up the movie business around the turn of the century. Its legacy couldn’t even be harmed by the two sequels that were visually flawless but fell short in many other ways – and neither by the tie-in video game released in 2003. With its action taking place at the same time as Matrix: Reloaded, the game told the story of Niobe, a character played by Jada Pinkett-Smith in the movie, and Ghost, the captain and the first mate of the Logos, the fastest ship in Zion’s fleet.
The story of the game was OK but the execution fell seriously short. The game got “mixed” reviews at best – GameSpot called it the “biggest disappointment” of the year, Edge author Steven Poole called it “Max Payne with celebrity scriptwriters,” and many other critics bashed it for its rushed execution, its repetitive gameplay, and the poor job the porting team did when transposing it to PC.
Shiny, the company that gave us Earthworm Jim and MDK, only released two games in its post-Matrix era, merging with The Collective to create Double Helix Games in 2007.
“Enter 1990s blockbuster title here”
The unprecedented spread of personal computers in the 1980s and the 1990s has seen the release of a myriad of video games inspired by and based on the plots of the most successful movies of the time. Since most of them were released not as a video game but as a promotional tie-in to the movie, they were most of the times either made by pseudo-professionals or rushed through their production cycle to be ready in time. This has led to the release of video games like The Lost World: Jurassic Park (1997) that gave its players too much of a hard time to be worth it, Jurassic Park: Trespasser (1998) that was an ambitious project that failed miserably, Batman Forever (1995) a beat-em-up worse than the actual movie, and Street Fighter: The Movie (1995) that ignored a decade of development to be built on an unfinished engine, with characters inspired by the movie inspired by the characters in the original video game franchise…. (Gameception, I tell you).
Aliens: Colonial Marines (2013)
Even the recent history of movie-based video games has its own massive failures – and Aliens: Colonial Marines was such a disappointment that it deserves its own subtitle. It’s hard to believe that Gearbox, the company that gave us Opposing Force and Blue Shift, as well as the Borderlands series, could build something that was on the brink of being declared the worst video game of all times.
Among other things, critics bashed the game for its low-quality graphics, unbalanced gameplay, bad enemy AI, and poor multiplayer – in short, everything that makes a game great. Luckily, Gearbox learned its lesson, redeeming itself with the DLC called “Bug Hunt” released later in the year.