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Nuts ‘N’ Bolts: Volume 9

What the hell is going on? Has everyone forgotten? Surely not.

We have Christmas every year on 25th December because it is tradition. Americans celebrate Thanks Giving annually because it’s tradition. Games based on a popular TV series or blockbuster film are shit, because it’s tradition. In fact it is the law, in which case plenty of people are going to jail very soon.

So how come The Matrix was above GTA Vice City for so many weeks? All the weight of expectation in magazines made the public cry out for it to be released. Co-inciding with the newest film (surely that was a big give-away?) it was so obvious that a multi-format release was a money-spinner. In the first weekend of sale over 600,000 muppets splashed out £40 on a Frisbee, something the Army Men games did perfectly well.

I can’t explain the amazement and confusion going on in my head when people say ‘not as good as it should be’ of course it’s not! Can’t you read? All movie spin-offs are crap. Fact. Fact fact fact fact fact. Like it or lump it, there will never be a great game featuring Bruce Willis, Mel Gibson, Tom Hanks or the king of rainy Sunday films Steven Seagul (I’m not worthy, I’m not worthy…) whilst videogames are as big as they are at the moment.

Sure, slap on a license and a game will sell millions. But why can’t a developer put in so much time and elbow grease as say, Rockstar. Acquiring the rights to songs worried people slightly that our favourite developer would ruin a follow up the highly successful GTA III. But they fitted DJ intros, phone-ins and puns around the tracks, and in fact the music was at the back of a very long bus once the gameplay took the wheel. With so much focus on creating an 80’s atmosphere (in little more than a year!) why can’t developers these days make licensed games (which they spend 2-3 years on) a little more respectable?

The Matrix was so drab and boring. Bullet Time was novel over 3 years ago when Max Payne showed us the proper way to shoot bad guys, so re-releasing an old PC game with knobs on shouldn’t have fooled the more ‘hardcore’ of us.
Tell me I’m hammering in nails to The Matrix’s coffin a bit fast, but the fact remains that while we still buy crap games (who kept on buying Rayman a year after it’s release?) developers will carry on releasing tripe for top dollars and won’t bother with original genres.

To be fair, ETM was based around several genres (shooting, action adventure and driving) unlike many other tie-ins (cough Toy Story 2 Die Hard Vendeta cough). Monsters Inc (probably the biggest computer generated movie last year) was based on a lame platform engine. The biggest crimes lay in the movie never actually played a part (MI floated about a training school, which never featured in the cinemas or in the minds of the creators) and neither did the original actors!

Toy Story 2 was an average tie-in and surprised many, especially me, in what it had to offer. Laid next to Bugs Life or Antz Racing TS2 is a benchmark title, but on it’s own the same problems riddle the woodwork. With samey levels (collect tokens, speak to characters, beat boss and repeat) people soon got bored. Thus the prcie dropped at we see Woody and Buzz in bargain bins a little too often. What would have been better is making levels as different scenarios. When Woody gets included in the yard sale, players should have controlled Buzz in a MGS-style, stealthy path to get our cowboy back. In Al’s Toy Barn we could have had a frantic racer around the isles, dodging the evil Buzz and eventually coming to Al’s office. Cue cutscene.

It seems that games want us to collect items in order to explore the movie environments rather than deliver the exhilarating experience we see at the cinema complete with surround sound. I think the way forward for games is to borrow elements from films and visa-versa. Grand Theft Auto 3 and Vice City took ideas from all the top gangster films, The Godfather Trilogy to Goodfellas and Miami Vice to Scareface. Thing was Rockstar could twist these ideas to fit in with their ideas, whereas licensed games have to follow set rules. Medal Of Honour Frontline’s first mission was directly taken from Saving Private Ryan, but the film was about a team of soldiers war experiences, and MOH centred around one character. Hell, you can’t tell me that Burnout wasn’t slightly inspired by Fast and Furious, Silent Hill by any Alfie Hitchock film and the Driver series by Bullett?

Here’s one for you- familiar track blasting, proper teams, kits and flags FIFA against Japanese Bop, grey for black made up names PES. Everyone says how much better PES is in terms of gameplay and fun, as opposed to FIFA’s regular 10-9 scorelines. Ah ha, caught you out that time!

Keep the faith.

The author of this fine article

is a Senior Staff Writer at Thunderbolt, having joined in June 2002.

Gentle persuasion

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