Specials: If the Bible were licensed: "Noah! Quickly! To the high ground, the flood is making all of the animals zombies!"
Licensed games have a long and... well not proud... let's say humiliating tradition. There is a lot of talk of a licensed game curse and while they are often bad, there are plenty of ones that are pretty good. Everyone has their niche when it comes to games and for me that niche is licensed games. I can't get enough of being able to play as some of my favorite characters in an interactive playground created around worlds I already know and love.
So that's why it fills me with happiness (and sadness) when I look over the release calendar and I see that 2005 is flooded with licensed games. Movies, TV shows and comics will supply characters to over 30 games this year, just for the PS2. Some, like 24 The Game, are properties that I have been waiting to get the interactive treatment for a long time. For others, like Jaws, where you play as the shark and eat people, I question the developer's sanity. It probably says a lot that the last major developer/publisher to go under was Acclaim, a company built on licensed content.
But in most cases the lure of the licensed game is all about deniro (and not Robert). Because in the case of many licensed games, if you strip away the familiar characters, all you're left with is a stale game that would be scraping the bottom of a bargain bin with it's lameness. It's actually very interesting.
Say The X-Files: Resist or Serve didn't use the X-Files reference, say it was known as Aliens Among Us. Even with top shelf voice acting, the game would suck even more. All of it's problems and it's inherent Resident Evil cloneness would become more noticeable if it wasn't hiding behind Mulder's badge. It would probably be one of the lowest rated PS2 games out there. Or what if 2003's Spawn: Armageddon was known as Hell Warrior? The game's lame attempt at combat and average graphics would get it laughed right off the shelves.
There are hundreds of examples like this and so the curse was born. Some have attempted to break the curse. GoldenEye wowed everyone back in 1997 and The Chronicles of Riddick did the same thing last year. But there is always a South Park game or a Catwoman to bring everything crashing back down for licensed fare. But at least people are starting to listen.
And that's where the year 2005 steps up. A ton of licensed product is being readied for the summer and fall and I'm sure I'll even forget a few. The year has started off with a slight trickle. The Punisher
in February followed by Judge Dredd: Dredd Vs Death
and Dragon Ball Z: Sagas
in March. Then all was quiet until last week when Predator: Concrete Jungle
and Lego Star Wars
(two licenses for the price of one!) invaded stores. The early word on Predator is that it is another one that falls to the curse. Pity, I really wanted to tear up downtown Chicago with an angry, dreadlocked Predator. I probably still will, I'll just be disappointed.
In a few weeks the summer movie season will begin and geeks everywhere will finally get Star Wars: Episode III in theaters and Star Wars: Episode III
on their PS2s. Of course that's not all the Star Wars we'll get as LucasArts just announced Star Wars: Battlefront II
and it may just become the ultimate Star Wars game as players will be able to fight on the planet's surface and then hop in an X-Wing and take the dogfight to space.
Naturally, superheroes are all the rage as well as the Fantastic Four
and Batman Begins
will not only be battling for box office supremacy, but video game supremacy as well. The marketing and press materials for these two games couldn't be more different. Fantastic Four will be all about the fighting (and apparently the soundtrack) while Batman Begins is going for the dark brooding look of The Batman and actually brags that enemy AI will change depending upon how scared they are. Finally, someone that understands Batman is all about striking fear into the hearts of evil.
Superhero play will come about later in the summer as well as The Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction
will lay waste to the world in a sandbox game and the X-Men return for X-Men Legends 2
. It will be interesting to see how both react without a major movie backing them. Of course, X-Men Legends didn't have a major movie backing it the first time and it was considered the greatest X-Men game ever (and a pretty good game period).
But my eyes will also be peeled to the fall when EA unveils Marvel Nemesis: Rise of the Imprefects
, a fighting game featuring Marvel superheroes versus the evil empire of EA comics characters. it's great, the perceived evil empire of the video game world is taking on the role of the bad guys in the very odd EA vs Marvel fighting game. The jokes almost write themselves at this point. Of course, what was EA's other option? No one wants to fight as The Rhino when they could be fighting as Spider-Man.
Speaking of Spider-Man, he's going to show up again this fall (presumably) when Activision unveils their new Spider-Man game based solely on the comic. The walls talk and they say that Activision plans to use the Ultimate Spider-Man
world for this game, but they're being really quiet and secretive about it. I'm sure they'll say something at E3, but at this point, we don't officially know anything beyond "a Spider-Man based game will be released in 2005".
While superheroes are fun, you don't need spandex tights to be a badass. Take for example Jack Bauer and Ash, the stars of 24 and The Evil Dead, respectively. These two have probably never touched anything made out of spandex, let alone worn it (I'll let those images sink in), and yet they are bigger superheroes than anyone. So it should come as no surprise that this summer will see Ash killing Deadites in Evil Dead Regeneration
and this fall will bring the highly anticipated 24 The Game
I loved the last Evil Dead game, A Fistful of Boomstick, created by Vis and using their State of Emergency engine to fill the screen with Deadites. But with Vis' recent cash flow problems THQ has turned over the development duties to Cranky Pants Games and the results will not be as easy to predict as before. Anyone that's seen Evil Dead II or Army of Darkness would know what to expect if you said a game would be like State of Emergency except with Deadites. But THQ is being secretive about Regeneration and all we really know is that it will have the same sense of humor as Evil Dead II and will be sent in a mental hospital with rampaging Deadites and a mad scientist.
24 The Game is another one to be on the lookout for. Many people have thought the exploits of Jack Bauer would make an incredible video game and it's finally happening. The trailer for the game gives a good idea of what we'll see and it looks like an interactive episode of 24. With a mix of driving, stealth, pure shootouts and the ever-present clock of doom, those with bad eyesight might not be able to tell the difference. With a voice cast comprised of nearly the entire cast of the show confirmed (and others said to be announced later), it could be the experience 24 fans have wanted. And I can't wait to try my hand at the Jack Bauer Torture-matic Mini-Game.
And now speaking of torture, they're making a game out of Jaws
again. NES veterans may remember one of the low points in the life of licensed games if they played Jaws. It was a truly hideous game that involved driving a little boat around a little pond and then blindly dropping depth charges into the water. Thankfully, Appaloosa realized that that would be boring, so Jaws will be played from the shark's point of view as Bruce attempts to kill everyone. Now I know nothing else about Jaws, so maybe it's unfair to lash out against it. I love Majesco and I think they turn out a lot of interesting games. For example, this fall's Aeon Flux
, which should have gotten the video game treatment a long time ago. But it's just... you play as the shark for pete's sake.