5 Video Game Movie Adaptations (That Missed the Point)
Video games based on movies are almost universally terrible, we all know that. The studios want them to be commercials, the game designers haven't seen the movie yet and the only people who buy them are confused grandparents late for a birthday party.
But sometimes they go beyond just being terrible video games and actually manage to completely undermine the entire point of the property they're adapting. For instance ...
In Scarface: The World Is Yours, Crime Totally Pays
Brian De Palma's classic story of excess and the American dream gone wrong is one of those films where the ending is more famous than the rest of the movie. Al Pacino's Tony Montana is the center of that tale, and (spoiler!) when his ridiculously violent-yet-awesome death comes at the climax of the film, you knew it was destined to end that way. Guys like Tony don't just ride off into the sunset.
Unless the dragon was already heading that way.
Yes, Tony eventually reaches the top, but only by abandoning nearly all human morality. Finally, after taking a few thousands rounds to the chest and some buckshot to the back, Tony lies dead in the swimming pool at the center of his decadent mansion, with neon lights reading "The World Is Yours" glowing behind him.
As lessons go, it's not exactly subtle.
How the Game Missed the Point
When Scarface: The World Is Yours came out on all of the major game systems in 2006, it seemed like it'd be a lot of fun to live through the rise and fall of a criminal empire -- even if we all knew how it was going to end. Then they said that the game would be a sequel.
Really? Scarface: Mortuary Tycoon sounds like the worst idea.
So, what, the whole game is about a Weekend at Bernie's-style madcap adventure to pretend Tony is alive? Or is he a zombie?
Neither. In the opening cinematic, you see the finale of the movie. Only here, Tony whirls around just in time to kill his attacker and somehow escapes the mansion entirely unscathed.
"Ha, not this time! I ain't learnin' nothin' about no stinkin' morality!"
So, forget about that whole character arc thing. In the alternate universe of the game, Tony pays no price for his hubris, and so the story is instantly transformed from a gritty morality tale into yet another Grand Theft Auto-type game where you amuse yourself by wreaking havoc, with no consequences.
Man, he's really going to blunt those chainsaw teeth. He'll regret that later.
You also have to keep in mind that the only reason the drug dealers are coming to kill Tony in the finale is because of a good deed he did -- his humanity finally overcame his greed when he refused to murder innocent kids. Yet in the game, putting random civilians in danger is not just allowed --the player is actually rewarded for it. Driving on the wrong side of the road, creating unnecessary explosions and doing basically anything that endangers innocent life increases your "balls" meter.
What? Don't look at us that way. There is an actual balls meter. It measures your balls level.
For destroying balls, you get 30 balls. Game economics.
Anyway, when the balls meter is full, presumably meaning you are at total balls-saturation level, you go into "rage" mode. You become literally invincible, and you have unlimited ammunition. Reviewers absolutely adored this feature, saying it captured Tony's " seeming invulnerability during raging shootouts" in the film.
Tony, being invulnerable.
At the end of the game (spoiler, again!), if the player does everything right, Tony wipes out the competition, becomes the king of the Miami drug scene and lives happily ever after.
Thanks to some help from his little health-shooting friend.
Fight Club, Starring Fred Durst
Despite the title, the actual "fighting" is a relatively small part of the movie Fight Club -- most of the story focuses on how the male identity gets lost in the slurry of product placement and material indulgence that makes up our day-to-day existence.
"Nothing says 'reject the empty convenience of modern life' like a shattered face!"
And of the fighting that you do see, none of it could really be described as "fun." The fights that occur are simultaneously brutal and clumsy. Despite being not very good at fighting, people get really fucking hurt in this movie. And that's kind of the point: These are directionless males who are so desperate to escape their shallow everyday lives that pain and violence are the only way they can feel alive again.
"Fuck this, I'll go to Disneyland instead."
Of course, the most memorable thing about the movie is the mindfuck twist at the end (and spoiler alert to the comatose and elderly who haven't seen the movie yet, but have inexplicably placed Cracked in their cultural wheelhouse): Edward Norton's character and Brad Pitt's Tyler Durden are two sides of a split personality, and ultimately the film is a battle to see who will win out.
So if you're going to turn all of that into a game, there is all sorts of room for action, from executing Project Mayhem's elaborate vandalism to fighting "Tyler" as you try to defuse the bombs about to destroy half a dozen skyscrapers.
"Press 'X' to salvage global economy."
How the Game Missed the Point
The game makers' research into the film ended with seeing the word "Fight" on the poster, so they just cranked out a cheap Mortal Kombat knockoff, except the character models are flabby, out-of-shape regular guys.
His name was Robert Paulson ... and he cracked some fucking skulls.
But it's still the same "mash buttons until the meter is empty" gameplay we've been using in fighting games for two decades. Fighting is fun, kids! And totally consequence-free!
All that's left of the original story is that it's random dudes fighting in parking lots and bathrooms for reasons that are unclear, or perhaps just unimportant.
"Gimme back that shirt!" "No, it don't fit you anyway!"
Oh, also they have included Abraham Lincoln as an unlockable fighter (going off the scene when the movie's characters are discussing which historical figure they'd like to fight).
He maintained the union with leg sweeps.
But the final insult is that the other secret "historical" figure you can unlock as a playable character is ... Fred Durst.
Sadly there's no hara-kiri option.
In case you need a refresher, Fred Durst is the lead singer of Limp Bizkit. He named an album after his own asshole and built his entire career on short, meaningless videos glorifying materialism and false bravado during the death throes of MTV, the channel most obsessed with the kind of trivial pop culture and misplaced priorities that Fight Club was rebelling against.
Chuck Palahnuik's bank account is the only epilogue the book needs.
Why, of all the people who have ever lived on Earth, did they pick him? Maybe because he's frequently used as an unlockable character in other fighting games. Or, more specifically, pro wrestling games. That's the same thing, right?
The movie Platoon is, at its heart, about two things: the unique relationship that exists between men under the extreme pressure of war, and the moral gray zone that war forces all men into. But first and foremost, it is the story of these men and the things they endure together -- things they may not have wanted to do, things they'd do anything to take back, but things that bond them forever, regardless.
"I stole his sandwich, and now he's dead!"
Basically, the movie's about a platoon. Go figure.
How the Game Missed the Point
On one hand, it seems unfair to judge an old-school NES and Commodore 64 video game for not capturing the profound message of an Academy Award-winning anti-war film. Still, didn't they have the option of, we don't know, not licensing it into a game?
Because the game is all about you, a near-invincible super soldier, mowing down motherfuckers like it ain't no thing. An endless stream of identical faceless Vietcong stream toward you, you shoot them, they fall silently to the ground and disappear.
"Man, I don't know what those vets are moaning about. This shit is easy."
Even within the limitations of the technology, there should be room for something to set it apart. But the game doesn't even begin with some text on the screen to set up the story, or to name your character. You're just Video Game Soldier #867152, mowing down bad guys until you find the end of the level.
Oh good, a sewer. That's new.
At one point in the film, a drugged-out, battle-fatigued Charlie Sheen (is there any other kind?) psychologically terrorizes a random peasant until Bunny, one of his fellow soldiers, snaps and ends up beating the villager's head in. Immediately after the fact, everybody seems sickened and hollowed out by the experience. It really rams home the dehumanizing effect of warfare, and how quickly we forget the value of life.
The game tackles this theme by giving you a morale meter. When you enter a village, if you shoot the civilians you get a little message reading "Do Not Harm the Villagers" that goes away almost instantly, and your morale meter drops a bit. So the consequences of murdering civilians is that it worsens your mood slightly. Wait, are we supposed to be playing the psychotic Bunny in this level? Because that kind of makes sense -- the meaningless reminder would be a very effective simulation of the niggling little pseudo-conscience in the brain of a sociopath:
It's more of a polite suggestion than an instruction.
So, once you fight your way through that, it's time for the final boss battle. Against, uh, Ho Chi Minh? It doesn't make it clear, it's just a guy in a brick bunker:
It could be a bush. Whatever it is, we're shooting at it.
If you throw enough bombs at him, he eventually dies, and you're treated to the ending cinematic.
Now, the film ends with a sweeping shot of the corpse-littered battlefield, including a bulldozer pushing dozens of bodies into a mass grave:
The game, on the other hand, goes for a more lighthearted approach, skipping right to your character doing a Tiger Woods fist pump in a helicopter:
Then you fly off into the sunset. You've won! You've won Vietnam.
Doctor Who: Dalek Attack, In Which the Doctor Murders Everyone
In Doctor Who: Dalek Attack, the Doctor has to fight Davros, who has an evil-sounding name, and that's all we need to know. Hey, if you didn't want your kid to eventually be murdered by a man with a strong jawline and a penchant for puns, you shouldn't have named him shit like "Davros" to begin with.
Also, stop breeding. You're pretty ugly.
So Davros is a dick, and now it's up to the good Doctor, our charming protagonist who solves every problem using only his wit, love, pluck and a screwdriver, to deal with this crisis the way he does best ...
How the Game Missed the Point
... by strapping himself onto a flying Segway and arbitrarily laser-blasting and grenade-chucking his way through an army of aliens.
You probably thought we were kidding about the Segway.
For those of you not intimately familiar with the show, the entire point of the character is that he's a pacifist action hero. His defining character trait is to avoid violence at all costs. Hell, some of the biggest problems the Doctor's ever faced could have been completely avoided if he had just shot his enemy in the face, and yet he's at his happiest when everybody lives. The show is out to prove that you can have fun, be entertained and beat the bad guy without losing your collective humanity.
By way of contrast, here's the Doctor straight up murdering a guy.
But hey, why draw up decades of awesome mythology (this show's been around for a while) for your game when lasers are a thing, and can go through other things that used to be alive? Even though you could easily go around enemies or, since the Doctor in the game has infinite health, just ignore them, the levels place endless living beings right in your path, forcing you, the Doctor, to callously mow them down without a thought.
Somewhere, K-9 is downloading tragic_disappointment.exe.
Seconds later, the Doctor shoots him dead.
The Hunt for Red October: Just Blow Up Goddamn Everything
As badly as the last two items on the list botched their source material's anti-violence message, The Hunt for Red October somehow takes it to a whole other, apocalyptic level.
Nobody gets to see Montana.
In the film, Sean Connery plays a Russian submarine captain who has decided to defect because he believes the Red October, a prototype stealth sub carrying nukes, was built with the intention of starting a war -- a war he wants to avoid at all costs. Connery really stretched his acting chops here, both in pretending that he didn't want to solve every problem with his penis and/or karate chops, and in almost thinking about trying to disguise his Scottish accent a little maybe (but not really).
"I'm doing thish for freedom and Mom'sh apple piesh."
Connery's character has to contend with both the Russian military, which wants to stop the October from falling into American hands, and the U.S. as well, because the Russians have misled them into believing that Connery is actually a rogue soldier out to nuke Washington, D.C.
The situation is a powder keg, so the goal of basically every character in the movie is to prevent war. And they are successful: In the end, Connery isn't killed and everything is resolved peacefully. Only one submarine actually fires a torpedo in the whole movie, and that submarine ends up blowing itself up.
How the Game Missed the Point
By now you can guess that for the official movie tie-in game, the designers decided that we needed way more explosions, because there just weren't buttons for "terse dialogue" and "beards." So as with Platoon and Doctor Who, the result is a game where every problem is solved in exactly one way: killing the shit out of it. In the first level, you navigate the Red October through a gigantic underwater military labyrinth, nuking absolutely everything you see. Underwater laser cannons? Explode that shit! Other submarines? BOOM! Dolphins? BLA-DOW!
Screw you, wall!
The SNES version is somehow worse, where the Red October's defection starts by basically sinking the entire Soviet sub fleet. The first level has the player obliterating about 25 subs, which would mean killing about 4,000 of the defecting Soviet captain's friends and comrades.
"I never liked you, Steve!"
Then the level ends, and a new mission objective comes onto the screen:
"ILLEGAL ARMS MERCHANTS OPERATING FROM ISLAND BASE. DESTROY BASE AND ALL SUPPORT SHIPS AND PLANES."
Wait, what? OK, so apparently you made it safely to America, and now are a mercenary boat for hire? That's what the rest of the SNES version of the game is like -- sailing all over the world, using your secret super submarine to explode every vessel in the seven seas. Until the final level, where you are told:
"COUP ATTEMPT EMINENT IN U.S.S.R. -- PROCEED IMMEDIATELY AND PROVIDE SUPPORT."
Wait, we're supporting the rebels, right? This game is set in 1984, at the height of the Cold War ...
... and by this point you've destroyed a trillion dollars' worth of Soviet naval vessels. You're certainly not going to show up and offer help to your former government. So, you're there on behalf of the insurgents, and you proceed to destroy a fucking Soviet aircraft carrier:
That's the end of the game. So ... how do you think the Soviet government of 1984 would have reacted to Ronald Reagan ordering a former Soviet sub to go destroy one of their carriers and the 1,500 crew on board?
Yes, a movie about a desperate attempt to prevent World War III gets turned into a game where your actions almost certainly trigger it. The message is clear: America, this is what happens when you trust a Russian.
J.F. Sargent is the managing editor of PCulpa.com. He also teaches poetry to youth that have been charged as adults in Washington, D.C. jails, and you can read his students' work here.
For more on video game failures, check out The 15 Most Annoying Video Game Characters (From Otherwise Great Games) and 8 Horribly Misguided 'Futuristic' Video Game Controllers.
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