Like videogames based of certain film licenses, there has always been a problem with transferring material from comic books over to videogames. While some properties have been fortunate enough to have decent games created in their universe, such as the X-Men Legends games or Hulk Ultimate Destruction, there are still a few big names that have been continually cursed with horrible videogames. So hopefully, the New Year will bring with it opportunities to finally do some of these properties justice, rather than have them exploited even more.
The legacy of crappy Batman games goes a long ways back, all the way to the days of the NES with a game based on the 1989 film. Unfortunately, nearly every Batman game has been based on some property outside the comic, be it the cartoon series or the films. Even EA’s Batman Begins game, which many hoped would break the curse, ended up being fairly mediocre, earning only a 67% on GameRankings.com. However, the game did get some things right with the use of stealth elements and “fear events,” which would task the player with making their opponents vulnerable by scaring the living daylights out of them, something that Batman does use as a weapon.
So is Batman simply not suited for videogames? Probably not, since the dark night makes use of a variety of gadgetry and tools that could be used to create some compelling gameplay and EA may have been on the right track by bringing in stealth elements. Since he prefers to stick to the shadows, perhaps Batman would be better off taking some lessons from Sam Fisher, rather than always appearing as a straight up action game. While we can probably expect an enjoyable, humorous experience with Lego Batman, it would be nice to see a more mature and complex game for all the older Batman fans.
While the Spawn license may not be nearly as old as Batman, it has still had its fair share of bad games, going back to the original PlayStation. The latest game released in 2003 was by no means a success (60%Gamerankings.com), containing generic gameplay that suffered from an uncooperative camera and overall lack of polish. The game involved both melee and ranged combat in a style similar to the Devil May Cry series, so nothing new was really brought to the table other than the Spawn license.
While the Spawn universe is rich in atmosphere and contains a very compelling character, there are a few challenges. First, if you want to stay true to the character himself, Spawn creates some gameplay obstacles given the immense size of his cape as shown in the comics, which would become somewhat obtrusive when trying to play. Another problem is that Spawn does not exactly have a small strict set of powers, as they have gone through changes over the course of the series, making it hard to create a defined set to assign to buttons. Also, the kind of bash ‘em up gameplay found in the games does not really coincide with the gritty drama and horror elements of the comic book. It may take some unique design ideas, or even an entirely different genre (RPG or horror) to create a good Spawn videogame.
When you think about it, Superman is probably the comic book character best suited for a videogame, possessing immense strength, flight, and a host of other abilities. So how has a good Superman game just never come together? Like the Batman games, Superman also has an abysmal track record, with the N64 title being regarded as one of the worst games of all time. After that, things didn’t get any better with Superman: Man of Steel released for the Xbox, and even when EA got its hands on the Superman Returns property, we were still left with another below average game (53% on GameRankings.com). The latest game suffered from a camera and control system that fell apart once you landed on the ground, as well has bad hit detection and targeting during combat. The game did branch off from the film, but it featured a story that was clearly slapped into the films narrative for the sake of adding a more missions.
The Superman character brings with it opportunities and challenges for a game adaptation, all at the same time. Sure, he may have a host of different powers, but all of these do need to be seamlessly configured to a controller, and they must work well when maneuvering Superman on land or air. Another issue is the health meter, as Superman is invincible (except for that rock allergy); however, EA’s idea of having Metropolis’ health decline seems like a good way to handle this problem. Hopefully, one day we will get a decent Superman game with its own story instead of another movie marketing tool, and since the license is just as durable as the man of steel himself, there is always hope.
The Fantastic 4 have never really gotten the videogame treatment, aside from a forgettable PlayStation game and another two titles that accompanied the films. The last game based on the Rise of the Silver Surfer movie received poor reviews (47% on GR) for a horrible camera system, graphics, and generic action gameplay; a common problem among games based on comic books. While there was an inclusion of cooperative play, it was poorly executed with a single camera that had to track two players, and the title also lacked online play. In this generation, and with a game like F4, online four player co-op should be a no-brainer.
F4 is also perfectly eligible for the videogame format, as it has a team of heroes with varied powers that would be a blast to play with four other friends, especially online. Like the other comic book properties discussed, it would be better off to be an original storyline rather than a gimmicky movie tie in. If there was a creative system for each member of the F4 to supplement the other’s powers, it could make for some interesting cooperative play that could get players to really work as a team, which is also one of the central themes of the comic book.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
Now many of you are probably wondering why this one is here, but TMNT did originally start out as a comic book, and has suffered the same problems when it comes to videogames as the other properties listed. While older turtle fans may remember the classic Turtles in Time game for the SNES, it really is time that the turtles were justifiably represented in the third dimension. The latest game was again a tie in with the CGI film (TMNT) and the game received poor reviews (56% on Gamerankings.com). The game was a mix of platforming, which unfortunately suffered from severely linear pathways and combat that contained repetitive combos with no real flow to them. There was also the criminal absence of cooperative play, which in a turtle’s game is inexcusable.
Like Fantastic 4, a TMNT game absolutely screams for four player co-op, and if executed the right way, it could be a great deal of fun. There were even special co-op moves in the game, so it seems weird that this teamwork combat mechanic hasn’t been transferred over to multiplayer? Another possibility for a good TMNT game would be to bring the series back to its darker comic book roots, as the original live action film did, but of course, no publisher would want to leave the kids out of purchasing a turtles game. Although, we may have been graced with some decent TMNT games in the past, the series has probably had just as many bad games made in its name as any other property listed, and is definitely due for a comeback.