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Think The Matrix Is Convoluted? Try Playing the Video Game

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We’ve talked a lot about movies adapted from video games on this column. Indeed, the two genres have become kissing cousins in the past few decades, but their relationship is not just a one-way street. There’s a lot of cash to be made in video games adapted from movies. Whether we’re talking about reverse adaptations (i.e., Batman Begins , the video game), game-only prequels, or other interactive tie-ins, video games have the unique ability to take a movie where it otherwise couldn’t — and oftentimes shouldn’t — go. Here are some of the strangest marriages between cinema and interactivity.

Enter the Matrix
Matrix_Ghost_125x125.jpgIf you think The Matrix Reloaded is a confusing mess of superfluous characters and random plotlines, you probably haven’t played Enter the Matrix — an equally jumbled video game tie-in meant as a companion piece. The plot focuses on Ghost and Niobe, two characters all but absent from the actual movie, and uses an additional two hours of live-action footage the Wachowski brothers shot solely for use in the game. Rather than trace the plot of Reloaded, Enter attempts to complement it with stories that occur at the same time as the movie’s. For instance, while Neo goes to find the Keymaker, you take Ghost and Niobi to destroy a power plant to make Neo’s task possible.

Were Reloaded a particularly good movie — or Enter the Matrix a particularly good game — this unusual media crossover might well have been remembered with the same fondness as the first Matrix . But as it stands, the game is not much more than a novelty.

Street Fighter: The Movie: The Game
Street_Fighter_Movie_Game_125x125.jpgStephen E. de Souza was so committed to being faithful to his source material that when he wrote and directed Street Fighter , he included every singe character, costuming them so they looked identical to their original game sprites. Capcom, noticing the similarities, decided to make a game based on the movie, which includes the same tournament-fighting structure of the original, but replaces its art with photorealistic video animations of the actors.

Imagine if someone took the original Super Mario Bros. and kept everything the same save for replacing Mario and Luigi with their live-action counterparts from The Super Mario Brothers Super Show. That level of absurdity is what fans of Street Fighter experienced when trying to play the game. Fans of the Street Fighter movie, on the other hand, were too busy not existing to actually pick it up.

Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay
Riddick_Butcher_125x125.jpgNobody really expected Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay to be anything more than a lousy cash-in on a lousy movie. The naysayers were only half right: Butcher Bay went on to become one of the best-reviewed movie games of all time, its Metacritic score eventually surpassing that of the Chronicles of Riddick and Pitch Black movies combined.

Rather than attempting to force gameplay into the existing movie plot, Butcher Bay serves as a prequel to both Riddick flicks, answering such almost-interesting questions as where Riddick got his eye implants. But the story doesn’t matter as much as the fact that Butcher Bay is just a damned good hand-to-hand combat game, with an innovative first-person fighting perspective that creates a visceral atmosphere for the player. To put it another way, a second Riddick game, Dark Athena, is slated for a 2009 release, whereas there are no current plans for a third Riddick movie.

Spy Hunter: Nowhere to Run
Spy_Hunter_125x125.jpgThis 2006 action-racer teaches a very important lesson to Hollywood producers and game developers alike: Don’t release a game version of a movie before a single minute of the movie itself has been shot. Nowhere to Run — the movie — was meant to be your typical action-flick update of the arcade classic starring The Rock. Nowhere to Run — the game — was meant to be a direct tie-in, similar to Street Fighter‘s except now it’s even more hilarious, because the movie never got made.

While the flick floundered in development hell, Midway Games, tasked with creating the video game, was left holding the bill: They had permission to use The Rock’s likeness, a vague idea that the movie would probably involve a badass car with a bunch of gadgets and weapons, and a fair amount of money already invested. Thus, in 2006 Spy Hunter: Nowhere to Run hit shelves to the bewilderment of gamers and movie fans alike, and the movie disappeared quietly into the abyss. Sadly, the game wasn’t even that good.

What are some of your favorite marriages between video games and movies?

Anthony Burch is the features editor for and the co-writer and director of the video series, “Hey Ash, Whatcha Playin’?” He’s also working on his first artgame, which should be done sooner or later. Probably later.

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