And so it begins. Tomorrow we see the release of the long-awaited X-Men Origins: Wolverine to the big screen. Hitting stores shelves the same day will be the video game tie-in of the same name, available for the Xbox 360 and PS3.
I am suitably hyped for the film component of this cross-media marketing blitz. Despite the tepid reviews, my love for comic book movies and for Wolverine specifically ensures the question of my ticket purchase is a foregone conclusion. A star vehicle for our favourite mutton-chopped, mutant canuck as been teased for years. What self-respecting movie and comic book nerd wouldn't be excited? But the big question as it pertains to the writers of this blog and to all of you reading is just how good of a movie game will this be?
Although I may be fine with risking $12 (or rather, $7 with my prepaid Famous Players voucher) and 90 minutes of life on a movie, the same cannot be said for a $60 game and a few hours in front of the tube.
Traditionally, video game adaptations of movies have never fared very well at the hands of critics or at the retail counter. Gamers approach these kind of games with trepidation and with good reason. They are typically rushed products, rife with bugs and uninspired design mechanics. They are regarded as quick & dirty cash-ins, just another cog in the machinery that is our modern entertainment industry.
The thing is, gamers know this, publishers probably know this and developers are no doubt intimately familiar with the pitfalls of movie-licensed games. There's actually been a trend of late for publishers and developers to step up their efforts to improve the quality of their product. And in the absence of quality, there is still the marketing angle being pushed of, "THIS is the movie game that finally breaks the negative stigma of movie games". This message is then disseminated to the gaming press and we all hold our collective breath wondering if this truly is the case.
Well, one only needs look at games like The Bourne Conspiracy and Wanted: Weapons of Fate to see that the industry still has some ways to go in elevating the quality of movie games.
So it's not unreasonable to cast a doubtful eye towards the next great hope. The X-Men Origins: Wolverine games comes to market with a full head of steam, gliding on the coattails of some extremely sexy trailers along with the barely contained over-confidence of developer interviews with various Raven team members. And why not? This game looks like a wild ride: breath-taking set pieces, blistering melee combat and unprecedented displays of gore. Wolverine's fury has rarely been so unflinching in its grit and violence.
So the hype is there and god knows, so is the pedigree. Raven built their name on being one of the finest purveyors of Quake engine-powered shooters (Hexen anyone?). They have also transitioned very well to current-gen console development as the masterminds behind the fantastic Marvel: Ultimate Alliance.
But is it enough to break the curse that has plagued movie games for so long? Activision and Raven would certainly like you to think so. My skepticism persists, however, as developers continue to make Starbreeze's work on the Riddick franchise look like a once-in-a-lifetime fluke instead of the new standard for the genre.
C'mon, Wolvie, make us proud! I dare you to brood and slash your way to our hearts.