When a video game, movie or idea that uses an established title or name strays so far from its original concept that you can hardly even recognize it, do you ever find yourself wondering why the creators even bothered using the name at all? Everything comes from something, and although the orgy of sequels and reboots we seem to be seeing in the popular media these days is most certainly inspired by classic ideas and concepts, they are also stand alone works of art in themselves. We don’t call the latest Call of Duty game ‘Doom 5000’ anymore than we refer to Star Wars as ‘The Hidden Fortress 2: In Space.’ So why do we do it? Yes…money, of course. But aside from that, how many new and exciting concepts, stories, and characters could have sprung forth if we hadn’t been clinging to a specific name or brand?
This question came up for me as I watched and read more about Rockstar’s upcoming title, ‘Max Payne 3.’ Being a huge fan of the original game, mentions of this title made me mildly excited, but I soon discovered that Rockstar’s rendition of the Max Payne franchise looks nothing like what I remembered (aside from the bullet time, I suppose). It is important to keep in mind that, unlike the first two games, which were developed by Remedy Entertainment, Rockstar is doing this project on their own. Rather than being set in the dark and rainy streets of New York City, which all seemed slightly reminiscent of the settings seen in James Obarr’s ‘The Crow,’ Max Payne 3 will have us running through the bright and sunny streets of Brazil.
Max will also be ditching his trench coat, along with everything that I found originally compelling about him as a character. Max Payne’s story in the first game was heart breaking, engaging, and seemed to set a new precedent on the term ‘dark video game.’ Drugged up junkies kill some cop’s entire family (including his infant child) and it causes him to go out on a bloody quest for revenge. Solid story, good motivation, plus the gameplay was awesome for its time. The second game stretched things a little further, but it was still slightly believable. Dragging things out into a third game not only seems unconvincingly redundant, it also partly taints and spoils the entire feeling of the games. I guess Max just really likes going on killing sprees…
What might have happened, I wonder, if Rockstar had commissioned the same team that has been working on Max Payne 3 to make a Max Payne inspired game, with the liberty to create whatever story or protagonist they liked?
I am just using Max Payne 3 as an example here, but I think you can see my point. When the writers for Max Payne 3 were trying to come up with the original premise for the game, how many times did they have to stop and think: ‘no… that doesn’t fit the Max Payne story… Why does it have to be Max Payne?’ It isn’t easy to explain why a man would go on three murderous rampages of bloody revenge.
What do you think? Are good ideas being thrown away, or being left unexplored, as we try to rehash and retell stories that we already know the ending to? Could the team working on the revamped versions of Total Recall, The Crow, or Toxic Avenger have been working on something new and fantastic? Sound off in the comments below!