Alien: Isolation’s release is right around the corner, and what we’ve seen of it so far has us hoping against hope that it will be the one movie tie-in game that won’t suck like so many have before it.
It’s the game’s setting that has us holding thumbs: instead of the more action-heavy Alien movies, Isolation is based on 1979’s Alien, and it’s all about the stress and tension of avoiding the Alien in the confines of a cramped spaceship while trying to figure out how you’re going to dispose of it. Think Amnesia, but in space.
At least, that’s the premise of the game. Whether it will work out to be as good as it sounds remains to be seen.
Which brings us to this particular list. Gathered here are ten truly awful games, each based on iconic source material, each showing how hard it is for game developers to capture the mojo that made the movies fun to watch. Alien Isolation is not quite in the same situation, as its source material is 35 years old this year and there is no upcoming Alien movie to put pressure on the developers to get it done on a very tight schedule, adding to our hope that it may actually be good.
Still, with such a long history of terrible movie tie-ins, it’s easy to feel a bit cynical about Isolation’s prospects.
Without further ado, here are ten of the worst movie tie-ins in recent memory whose mistakes we hope Creative Assembly won’t repeat.
#10: Enter the Matrix
Released: May/June 2003
Platforms: PC, Xbox, GameCube, PlayStation 2
Developer: Shiny Entertainment
The Wachowskis really tried to use every medium available to them to make The Matrix franchise as wide-reaching as possible, and while they succeeded for the most part their lowest point was undoubtedly this ugly mess of a game starring two of the movies’ bit players – Ghost and Niobe. Its general lack of polish, aggravating controls and awful, blocky graphics mar what is otherwise a welcome explanation of some of the back story missing from the Matrix trilogy’s more confusing moments. But only if you can sit through the game bits, that is.
Metacritic Score: 62
#9: Jaws Unleashed
Released: September/October 2006
Platforms: PC, PlayStation 2, Xbox 360
Developer: Appaloosa Interactive
Publisher: Majesco Games, THQ
31 years after the film, a Jaws game made its way to the original Xbox, the PS2 and PC, and it was just terrible. While eating people proved initially fun, it quickly became clear that was just about the only thing the game had going for it. The open world of Amity Island and its surrounding ocean doesn’t offer much to do other than eating things and missions, because you know, sharks love missions. And having to find keycards to open doors. And upgrading their abilities through the accumulation of points. Yes, really. It’s all just so silly and poorly put together that Jaws Unleashed is best avoided altogether.
Metacritic Score: 52
#8: Superman Returns
Released: November 2006
Platforms: Xbox 360, Xbox, PlayStation 2
Developer: EA Tiburon
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Very little Super and too much Man sums up this poor movie-game. Awful controls, bland enemies and a final boss that’s a tornado (!) of all things just outright ruined the potential to make gamers feel like Brandon Routh’s Superman. Its story had nothing to do with the movie either, and while the flying mechanic was pretty cool (you could totally go supersonic over a vast cityscape) there was really nothing else to recommend the game.
Metacritic Score: 51
#7: Transformers: Rise of the Dark Spark
Released: June 2014
Platforms: PC, Xbox 360/One, PlayStation 3/4, Wii U, 3DS
Developer: Edge of Reality
This game kills everything that makes the idea of giant robots cool with ugly, low-budget levels, an incoherent story, tedious shooting and, worst of all, more recycled robot models from previous Transformer games than is respectable. Shooting things gets very repetitive, very fast, and the game drags on for altogether too many chapters (14). It’s so bad that not even seeing Grimlock, a giant robot that transforms into a giant robot dinosaur, stomping around breathing fire on everything is enough to save the game from the scrap heap of shame on which it belongs.
Metacritic Score: 48
#6: Aliens: Colonial Marines
Released: February 2013
Platforms: PC, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3
Developer: Gearbox Software
No other Alien game has disappointed quite as much as Colonial Marines. Thanks to a troubled development history, the final product offers only disastrously bad first person shooting and a disjointed story that contradicts events of the films. Hicks lives? Really? Then who was in the escape pods with Ripley and Newt in Alien 3? And how is Hadley’s Hope not a pile of rubble, blown to pieces by the thermonuclear explosion at the end of Aliens since the game takes place shortly after those events? It’s made even worse with ridiculous enemy AI, overpowered weaponry that undermines any sense of tension the designers attempted to create, and sub-par, glitchy visuals on the console versions of the game.
Metacritic Score: 45
#5: G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra
Released: August 2009
Platforms: PlayStation 2/3, Xbox 360, PSP, DS
Developer: Double Helix Games
Publisher: Electronic Arts
They could have called this Action Game 3 for all the originality it boasts, which is to say “none whatsoever”. The Rise of Cobra is a mediocre third-person action shooter with some of the worst graphics seen on the Xbox 360, a stupidly aggravating checkpoint system that doesn’t work and dull, lifeless levels. Inexplicably, it tries to mimic late-90s games like Contra but falls flat on its face with repetitive combat, cheesy explosions and a wildly fluctuating level of difficulty but none of the charm that made those older games great. When you hear “generic movie tie-in” and “cynical cash-in”, this is the game that should come to mind.
Metacritic Score: 42
#4: Star Trek
Released: April 2013
Platforms: PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
Developer: Digital Extremes
Publisher: Namco Bandai
This third-person shooter was an all-out disaster. Everything from story to graphics to animations to shooting were broken, boring or incomplete, and its buggy AI made for some of the dumbest enemies in recent memory, even when they weren’t glitching out. Not even being able to play as New Spock and New Kirk together with a friend could save it from being anything but a huge waste of time and a slap in the face for fans of the source material.
Metacritic Score: 42
#3: Iron Man 2
Released: April/May 2010
Platforms: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Wii, Nintendo DS
Developer: Sega Studios San Francisco (Xbox, PS, DS), High Voltage Software (PSP, Wii)
What’s only five hours long, pursues a story that has diddly-squat to do with the movie it’s based on and looks about as attractive as 4am outside any given drinking establishment? Yup, you guessed it, Iron Man 2. This is a game that offers very little challenge, a dull story and a half-hearted attempt at an upgrade system that falls flat when you discover soon after starting that one of the early weapons works really well and doesn’t need upgrading. It’s such a poor effort that only two of the movie’s cast lent their voices to its creation, and neither of them was Robert Downey Jr. You do get to play as War Machine, though, but he plays so similarly to Iron Man that it’s a little pointless.
Metacritic Score: 41
Released: July 2013
Platforms: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC
Developer: Old School Games
You might expect a game based on a movie to offer some sort of story, but the RIPD game crossover skips over it entirely and instead throws players into an arena that has them killing waves of people/things for no apparent reason. Apart from the studio’s only other game being an arena shooter called God Mode, that is. There’s only a slight whiff of the characters, locations and enemies from the movie to convince you the game is even related, and while you can play it with a friend, the dull combat, weak weapons and mind-numbingly repetitive arena shooting give you no reason whatsoever to do it. It’s a lazy tie-in from a movie studio that clearly thinks a game must accompany a movie release but not necessarily have a lot of money spent on it to make it, you know, worth playing.
Metacritic Score: 39
#1: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1
Released: November 2010
Platforms: Xbox 360, PC, PlayStation 3, Nintendo DS, Wii
Developer: EA Bright Light
Publisher: Electronic Arts
EA turned Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 into the equivalent of a mediocre cover-based third-person shooter, with spells taking the place of guns. The action is broken up on the 360 by some clunky stealth bits and on-rails side missions that let you use voice commands and arm movements to cast spells if you own a Kinect, but none of these components justify the asking price or spending your valuable free time playing . This is not the game to play if you’re a fan of Harry Potter, third-person shooters or videogames in general.
Metacritic Score: 38