Jul 11, 2012

In Defense of Franchise Games

I have a deep dark secret to confess. I absolutely love franchise games. Does this make me a bad person? It might, but a franchise game isn't what it used to be in the previous era of gaming.

First up, the whole superhero genre has exploded thanks to the likes of Iron Man and The Dark Knight. These films ushered in an era of respect for superheroes and summer block busters which usually got over looked. Now sure some tie-in games are pretty bad, like Iron Man, but then you get stunning tie-in games like The Amazing Spider-Man. Not to mention the great non-tie-in franchised based games, like Marvel: Ultimate Alliance, Transformers: War for Cybertron and of course Batman: Arkham City.

Let me talk about the latter two titles I mentioned. Transformers: War for Cybertron initially looked like nothing but an excuse to have an annual Transformers game in between movie tie-ins from Activision. To be clear, it does serve that purpose, but not being hindered by Micheal Bay's film pushed the game into a realm that is rarely seen for a franchise game: Great. With the freedom to do nearly anything, High Moon Studios placed the game on Cybertron and dived deep into the canon to create one hell of an experience. It was so well received by fans that codes for multiplayer skins were going for hundreds of dollars on eBay. Not even Halo, the most marked games only franchise in the world, has mere codes for online play going for a hundred bucks.

Then there is Batman. Ever since the fantastic movie tie-in of Spider-Man 2, which was essentially Grand Theft Auto with damn good web swinging, most superhero games tried to tackle the open world approach. And then Batman Arkham Asylum did something extremely drastic. It followed a linear progression path that called back to video game classics like Metroid and Castlevania, with skill unlocks allowing you to back track to enter secret areas to hunt collectibles. Ever since, superhero games have been trying to copy Batman as best they can. Heck, the fun and slightly above average Captain America game from SEGA was a straight up rip off of Arkham Asylum. And honestly, who could blame em? If the car works why try to reinvent the car?

Well the answer to that is simple: Cars are awesome, but we want hover crafts. Batman pushed the envelop by doing something 'radical' that hero games had traditionally stayed away from because of blandness. Transformers took the creative license and just dialed everything up to a thousand. While I absolutely love franchise games to fill my child hood nostalgia, I am ready for the next iteration.