From E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial to Superman Returns, movie-spawned video games have traditionally only existed to serve as punchlines to jokes ending in “as bad as”. While there are a few exceptions (like GoldenEye 007, which may have sucked too), there are almost aways better ways to spend your time.
So you’re probably not too psyched for Ubisoft’s upcoming Avengers: Battle for Earth, slated for release on Microsoft’s Kinect and Nintendo’s Wii U later this year. I don’t think it’s too much of a stretch to predict that it will be bad. Very bad.
This is a serious shame, because Joss Whedon’s wonderfully entertaining, ridiculously successful take on The Avengers deserves a video game of the same class. The franchise is too deep, the characters too rich to be relegated to the motion control bargain bin.
While I doubt Whedon has much interest in writing a video game now that he’s king of the world, I can’t help but daydream about an Avengers video game that would meet his standards.
For example, imagine what a talented RPG developer like BioWare or Obsidian could do with this franchise. Imagine a party-based RPG that tasks you with roaming around the world, saving peoples’ lives and doing other superhero-related acts of goodness while your heroes banter and make hilarious, sardonic comments about everyone around them. It could be turn-based and isometric, like Baldur’s Gate, or it could be real-time and action-centric, like Mass Effect. It doesn’t really matter, as long as the writing is as sharp as Whedon’s film.
The Avengers is packed with so much interesting drama, the game could basically write itself. The movie’s six main superheroes are all insecure and flawed to the point where they’d make perfect video game protagonists. And as one meme points out, they’re basically all RPG archetypes already.
What about a point-and-click adventure game? You’d pick three of the Avengers, then swap between your choices and use them to interact with crazy environments and solve tricky object-based puzzles, Maniac Mansion style. Hawkeye would probably have a terrible special ability, because fuck Hawkeye. Hulk would just smash things.
No matter the genre, the trick to a good Avengers video game would be simple: do things that the player doesn’t expect. Pit the Avengers against insurmountable odds. Take away their powers. Have your bad guy force them to all fight one another in a deadly brawl. Blow up their home base. Do something more interesting than your average action-platformer.
But none of this will ever happen. Big publishers believe they don’t have to put a lot of effort or talent into movie tie-in games. Who needs a decent script or entertaining gameplay when your product will sell like hotcakes no matter what you do?
This may be true, in the same way that even movies like Transformers will do well at the box office as long as they have big robots and explosions. But films like The Dark Knight and The Avengers have proven that when you take a cash cow franchise and elevate it to a new level of quality, people will react with their dollars. So why not put a bunch of millions into a high-quality Avengers game and see what happens?
Hell, make a Kickstarter. You’ll get my $US20.