Franchises like Grand Theft Auto, The Getaway, and True Crime have brought interactive cities to the forefront. Even platform games like Jak and Daxter and Ratchet & Clank have grown up over the years, as gamers grow older and look for more challenging and immersive environments to explore.
It wasn't long ago that most publishers spent a lot of cash on a license and cranked out subpar games to capitalize on a film's marketing muscle. These days, a growing number of licensed games can stand up to original content. Ubisoft's Peter Jackson's King Kong wowed everyone at last year's E3, and game publishers have risen to the challenge of bringing movie worlds to life.
Based on Dan Brown's best-selling book and the Ron Howard film interpretation, 2K Games teamed up with The Collective to unlock the secret of The Da Vinci Code. The game expands the story line by giving the player new experiences and locations not visited in the book or the film. Players must solve a wide variety of challenging physical and intellectual puzzles that will ultimately lead them to the resting ground of the Holy Grail.
Less modern but well-proven movie franchises are still in vogue. Electronic Arts is tackling the man of steel in Superman Returns, and is working closely with director Bryan Singer, who happens to be a big gamer. The game allows players to protect a massive, open-world metropolis that spans 80 square miles. Superman also returns to gaming along with Batman, Green Lantern, The Flash, and Wonder Woman in Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment's Justice League game.
Another summer blockbuster from the comic world gets a game component with Activision's X-Men: The Official Game. Cowritten by the film scribe of X-Men: The Last Stand, the game serves as a prequel to the Fox film and allows players to fight through enemies as Wolverine, Nightcrawler, and Iceman in rich 3D worlds that blend the film and comic universes.
A lesser-known comic hero from Top Cow Productions gets the dual treatment with The Darkness, a next-generation game from 2K Games and Starbreeze Studios and a movie from Platinum Studios and directors Danny and Oxide Pang. While the film will serve as an origin story for the central character, Jackie Estacado, a Mafia hitman who discovers that he is the heir to a formidable mystical force called the Darkness, the Xbox 360 and PS3 first-person adventure game delves deeper into the mythology with nonlinear gameplay.
Indiana Jones' comic book-style action comes to next-generation consoles next year, courtesy of LucasArts. The new game, Indiana Jones and the Quest, brings the action that fans loved on the big screen to life with all the bells and whistles that next-generation technology enables.
George Lucas' Star Wars universe is still alive in game form. Last year's sleeper hit LEGO Star Wars from Traveller's Tales, which sold 2.2 million units as of February according to the NPD Group, progresses forward from the prequel trilogy to explore the action of the original trilogy. Using LEGO bricks, the world of Star Wars comes together in a truly unique way.
Another movie trilogy is just beginning in the game realm: 20th Century Fox is unleashing the first fantasy action films based on the best-selling book Eragon this fall. Vivendi Universal Games is serving up the interactive expansion of this story, courtesy of Stormfront Studios. The adventure takes place on the ground and in the air atop massive dragons. The complete story can be played alone or in a cooperative mode with a friend, adding to the replay value.
Hellboy from Konami Digital Entertainment is bringing the comic and movie hero to the game realm. The game is being developed for PS3, Xbox 360, and PSP by Krome Studios. It's a brand-new story which is not directly tied to the original film or sequel. Gameplay is a mixture of brawler and puzzle-solving.