August 12, 2009

Top Five Games That Should Be Movies

Shawn Lebert Says: It’s not every year that so many wonderful video games become major motion pictures. Isn’t it great to wake up one morning to read about how your favorite video game got the greenlight to become a movie? The Goozex Report breaks down the top five most anticipated game to movie adaptations.

Here is the list of the top five video games that merit a big screen appearance.

5. Nocturne (1999)
Nocturne had a surprising arrival on Halloween of 1999. It was developed by Terminal Reality and, indeed, was a survival horror game that took place in the 1920’s and 30’s, revolving around “Stranger,” the protagonist of this game, who is an operative working under an American Government secret organization known as “Spookhouse.” This organization was created by President Theodore Roosevelt to fight and protect citizens from monsters.
Nocturne was set up in different campaigns, but allowed the player to choose which campaign they wanted to dive in first, second, and so on. Each campaign had a mission briefing, which took place in the secret location of “Spookhouse.” Its dark tone included some clever, subtle comedy that was intertwined in Stranger’s smart-ass dialog, which fit in with the quirky labyrinth-like locale Stranger had to explore to find the “latest” 1920’s film projector to give samples of who or what you’d be up against.

Since each campaign was separate, so were also the enemies. One campaign that I fondly remember is being sent to an undisclosed location where you must hunt down vampires and seek and destroy the father of these bloodsucking beasts.

It was ideal survival horror at its peak. Stranger was sent to places like London to accomplish his goal. The game had pre-rendered backgrounds as you crept from one camera angle to another. Think the original Resident Evil and you get the feel for Nocturne. However, at the time, if you had a seriously beefed up computer, this game had top-notch graphics. The lighting effects were dynamic as you sent Stranger lurking through the dank exterior of a downtown London street only to find a dead end and upon turning the flashlight to shine in another direction, a slight gesture of creepy piano chords played for scripted musical fright; but, then once turning fully around, a ghastly lovechild between a physical bat and a vampire swooped down to grab you. The campaign was extreme as it went from gloomy nighttime streets and upon smart exploration, you’d find yourself yards underneath the earth’s surface to discover a cave with a myriad of brain testing puzzles reminiscent of Indiana Jones-like traps.

Other campaigns included enemies such as werewolves and the undead. And yes, since this was the 1920’s, you could even go up against crazed mobsters from derelict sections of the city. I fondly remember them having an infinite amount of throwing dynamite . . . gurr.

The game was built strongly around its narrative, which really pushed this game to a new height in story. It was big on cut-scenes and character interactions, so even before the mission debriefing, you could talk to everyone in Spookhouse before doing your mission, which always made things interesting, dark and hilarious in a . . Sam Raimi sort of way.

4. Thief: The Dark Project (1998)
The Thief series is something in itself. And anyone that grew up in the 90’s and loved PC gaming should have had this game on their mantle. And if you DID grow up in the 90’s and were a PC gamer and never played this series, it’s a shame because this game could possibly be the one of the fathers of the stealth genre.

Metal Gear Solid is legendary for its stealth action. Thief catapulted the stealth action to a greater level. Your items consisted of a standard broadsword, bow and arrow, a blackjack for nonlethal means, and different kinds of arrows, which included water and moss arrows. Water arrows torched those flaming torches, ironically, and created new shadows for you to creep in past guards to avoid detection. Moss arrows were used upon floors that would create sound upon stepping on them, so shooting moss on the ground would make you soundless upon approaching from an echoing tight corridor. The puzzles were here and there, but the greatest puzzle of them all was the entire way through a supposed impenetrable fortress and you are there to foil them, and take whatever it was that the King so loved and placed on his wall for safe keeping.

Set in the Middle Ages, the protagonist of this series was named Garrett, a young boy who didn’t understand right from wrong. He only understood what it was to survive. And upon being caught stealing from a master thief in broad daylight, he catches boy Garrett and essentially trains him to become a master thief in return, and this is how the story begins.

The original Thief was all about first-person perspective. And you soon learned the ropes through training what a thief was all about, including sneaking in shadows, making sure not to make noises while creeping up on someone, and of course, sparring in case you were ever caught in the heat of something you were not supposed to be caught in!

Because it was set in the Middle Ages, you--as Garrett--were able to explore castles and dungeons in this big fantasy world, which gave you many alternate ways to sneak in and take out enemies. Of course, as a thief, there’s something very precious that the King has that you want, which happens to be a priceless scepter that belongs to him. The scepter is located in the center of the King’s chambers where he sits and mindlessly watches the guards patrol back and forth, which was about as smart as the A.I. ever got in 1998.

The game explores a variety of loot grabbing and progresses with the life of Master Thief Garrett, thick in narrative and such a compelling journey for the thief that it becomes a trilogy (with a fourth game along the way). It’s fun even to this day, so check it out if you ever have the craving for the PC retro box.

3. Half-Life (1998)
What a game Half-Life managed to become and to build such a huge community behind the series. By far one of my favorites, Half-Life stands out in many ways. While it is a first-person shooter, its value is definitely deeper than the surface of simply shooting a gun. Half-Life creates a dimension with a huge world that people just love exploring. If anything, Half-Life is from the first person perspective of a tragic accident gone wrong. Ever since the beginning from the Black Mesa Incident--and for those who don’t know anything about this game, dear god, why don’t you already--the story travels through the eyes of Gordon Freeman, the silent hero. A scientist by day, and a war hero by tomorrow, Gordon, goes through tragic events that no mere human could even withstand but somehow miraculously does it. The game itself, while somewhat linear from path A to B, sets itself up to become a puzzle in itself as you must find your way out of a catastrophe that’s happening right in front of you. Your reflexes must be quick. You must be agile and have endless stamina--luckily, you don’t have to train yourself to become in top shape in video games--in order to overcome all feats that a normal scientist, well, usually wouldn’t.
The beauty about this series is that it lacks cut scenes completely and creates a storyline from pieces of dialog that characters may manage to say. With the first game, for example, escaping from the destruction of Black Mesa was in itself a story that played out without telling much to the gamer. You just had to learn and you did. Later on, you get some interaction from the different characters, albeit briefly, about what could be taking place and how to get out. The thrill was the escape, which later becomes a phenomenon as Gordon Freeman becomes the face of the resistance, which becomes a full-fledged conspiracy along with lunacy over the mystery that is the so-called “G-man.”

However, let me tell you this, if Half-Life was to be made a film, all the things you naturally partake in within the game cannot be done in two hours, let alone justified within that time-span. So you have to think smartly and create something that may become, inevitably, a spin-off to the series, ala Blue Shift or Opposing Force. Something that is essentially about Gordon Freeman but isn’t about him.

You can’t justify having Gordon Freeman as the main character in a film because 1) he doesn’t talk in the games; 2) if he did talk, that would alienate Gordon as the model that he has become to so many people. No one would be content with the film with such a decision. And I do NOT think everyone would be seriously pissed if Uwe Boll lands the project and Ben Affleck becomes Freeman. No, sir. Not at all.

The film has to be 1) within the dimension of Half-Life. It’s a given fact. 2) Has to have familiar figures that we’ve seen from the games. 3) A cameo of Gordon would be appropriate. You know, like having him jump through some weird portal in the background, like we’re about to see him but he escapes our grasp. That would be greatly accepted and much, much more approachable if it was about someone else, or a troop of interesting Resistance characters during the war, perhaps, and we’re given brief snippets about Gordon. Let the director decide. Just not Uwe Boll.

2. Indigo Prophecy / Fahrenheit (2005)
Surprise! Yes, I’m one of the folks who adored Indigo Prophecy. I thought the storyline was one of the best developments in video game history. I mean, for a guy like David Cage, who came up with such a huge idea, why didn’t he just make a film out of it already? If The Matrix is the movie, Indigo Prophecy is the game.

The game itself is made to look like a film to begin with. After you pop that sucker in to play, the main menu doesn’t tell you to Start the Game. It tells you to Play The Movie. David Cage, the director and writer behind Indigo Prophecy, has created one of the most in-depth stories with dimensional characters that explores all levels of emotion that it is already infuriating to know that this hasn’t been made into a movie. If it’s already a movie, but driven to appear like a game, why make a movie, you may be asking. Well, I think this kind of story needs to be witnessed by the masses honestly. And if you have not played it yet, by all means, give it a whirl. If you didn’t enjoy it, guess it’s not your cup of tea. Could have been an issue here or there with gameplay, but let it be known that the story underneath this game could fuel a movie.

Indigo Prophecy is about a man named Lucas Kane, who beyond his own will, murders a man in a local bar one late, cold evening in New York City. Now, right away, you gotta think: most good people in movies are always innocent. Sure, but how the hell do you explain that you didn’t commit the murder consciously, but you yourself did it beyond such control? How do you explain that to any loved one? Any police officer? Any lawyer? Damn, it’s already too much. You must prove your innocence even though your own hands were used.

The game doesn’t just revolve around Lucas Kane, but two detectives who are assigned to Lucas Kane’s murder, as they dissect the truth behind this very mysterious, psychological thriller that turns into one big event that no one could have expected.

The game is strict with game-play elements because Indigo Prophecy is so strong with its narrative that the only elements you do decide on is choice making, such as what you should bring up in dialog with another character to reveal different areas of a conversation. Other game-play elements include, for example, controlling Lucas Kane where he must escape from a house. While the police pursue him, quick-time events might take place, which makes your escape easier and less noticeable. Not only quick-time events, but events that might include using your time efficiently could effectively render your character more emotionally stable; whereas, if you were careless with decision-making, could destroy him from the inside out.
If you liked it or not, at least you played it. True, there were some story elements that felt weak, but I’m sure a little adapting to film could create a really, tight, suspenseful action thriller that’s actually, well, smart.

1. Resident Evil (1996)
“What!? Resident Evil? But why Resident Evil? Damnit, Shawn, I was hoping for Metal Gear Solid or at LEAST Final Fantasy VII. Why!? Doesn’t it already have enough movies for it?? What the hell.”

Well, I’ll tell you why. I grew up with Resident Evil since I was 11 years old and I was scared out of my wits. It was the most horrifying game I ever played. This was not just some video game to me. This was me in Jill Valentine or Chris Redfield’s shoes, becoming part of S.T.A.R.S., and venturing through this creepy zombie infested mansion, I now am forced to commit to doing so, because if I don’t, I’m a dead man.

Resident Evil is about a service team called S.T.A.R.S. who were created by the Raccoon City Police Department to control and protect against highly dangerous situations. When the situation becomes deeper than what the police force can handle, these guys come into play. One evening, their Bravo team disappears into the northern Arklay Mountains and so the Alpha team goes to search for them. They uncover a mystery of unspeakable horrors. Not only do they discover the truth, but deep in the woods, a hidden decrepit mansion is revealed that inhabits every thing from monsters and zombies to ravenous dogs and man-pecking crows, and much more. The mansion was designed to be a labyrinth, and this game had massive amounts of puzzles mixed in with fighting enemies. Puzzles ranged from securing a key to a locked room, to bigger situations like lowering water levels in a vast aquarium filled with flesh hungry sharks. It presents stressful situations and the gamer had to do their best against the onslaught of terror of the night in the most nightmarish events captured in a video game for its time.

Resident Evil at its core isn’t about the zombies. It’s about the conspiracy behind it. It’s about the huge history embedded through the creation and development of the mansion that our S.T.A.R.S. Alpha and Bravo team unfortunately discovered. Resident Evil has value on all different levels. 1) It’s perfect for horror. A lot of films nowadays with the genre “horror” slapped on it are quick and cheap ways to make money in Hollywood. Resident Evil will freak out anyone. 2) It’s deep; conspiracy theorist fans will enjoy it also. What exactly is going on in this mansion? There’s so much to talk about and if you haven’t played it, well, that’s sad too. Not only for its own well-made story, but it helped the survival horror genre of video games progress. 3) It’s quite religious; considering all about the virus and the zombie infestation, someone clearly wanted too much power to develop something too extraordinary for living beings. Someone needs to be stopped, but who is responsible? It’s up to you to figure out who all is partaking in this evil act. 4) It’s historical; the mansion itself has a ton of history that could be valuable to explore too, and why it exists. 5) It’s contemporary; all the elements could still work in a film to this day and scare the crap out of everyone.

Forget what you know about the current Resident Evil movies. They need to make a movie based on the first game, to the tee. Seriously. Now’s the time to bring back horror to its finest with not knowing horror itself but a deep, conspiracy theory underneath all that which could make this film a truly smart, horror movie – and for once?

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