Gaming's Fall Guys
by Scott Steinberg
Aug 31, 2003, 8:35 PM PT
Summer vacation is ending, but that needn't stop you from spending long, leisurely weekends in scenic Middle Earth.
Ironically, while the videogame-based movie Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life tanked at the box office, movie-based games are among the hottest tickets in town this fall.
Observe Enter the Matrix (PC/GC/PS2/Xbox, Atari), which, despite critical backlash, has sold upwards of a staggering 2.5 million copies since its debut in May. Similar fan support propelled massively multiplayer online role-playing adventure Star Wars: Galaxies into the number-three slot among best-selling PC games in June, according to the NPD Group.
Further reports from the Entertainment Software Association estimate that 41 percent of all Americans plan on contributing to the $6.9 billion industry by purchasing at least one PC or console title this year. But with a slew of new big- and small-screen tie-ins slated for release throughout the coming months, choosing a top prospect can be tougher than spotting next year's Sundance winner.
Rather than risk readers accidentally snapping up a copy of Gigli II: They Needed the Writeoff, we present a candid look at the season's hottest attractions in licensed titles, soon to be debuting in a living room near you.
James Bond 007: Everything or Nothing (GC/PS2/Xbox, Electronic Arts)--An all-star cast--Pierce Brosnan, Judi Dench, John Cleese, villain Willem Dafoe and two new Bond babes, Shannon Elizabeth (the good one) and Heidi Klum (the bad one)--lends voice to a dazzling action-adventure that's an official episode of the acclaimed superspy saga.
The Simpsons: Hit & Run (PC/GC/PS2/Xbox, Vivendi Universal)--Cruise through nearly 60 new missions created by official show writers in a driving game so frantic, it'd give even Otto pause.
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (PS2/Xbox, UbiSoft)--Four characters karate chop their way through multiple battle scenarios, using both fists and weapons as a means of defense with graphics inspired by Ang Lee's Oscar-winning epic.
Madden NFL 2004 (GC/GB/PS2/Xbox/PC, Electronic Arts)--Just in time for the new season, this classic franchise, now in its 14th year, is out with its latest eye-popping installment. New features include on-the-fly playmaking, better online gameplay and improved owner mode.
Wallace & Gromit in Project Zoo (GC/PS2/Xbox, BAM! Entertainment)--By hopping around and collecting items, our claymation heroes attempt to stop Feathers the penguin's nefarious plans to rule the zoo.
Daredevil (PS2/Xbox, Encore Software)--He may be "the man without fear," but you'd have to be pretty brave as well to stomach an action game based on Affleck's summer smash. Bonus: A digital version of Jennifer Garner's Elektra that could threaten Lara Croft's videogame-queen supremacy.
TRON 2.0 (PC, Buena Vista Interactive)--An update of the classic sci-fi movie (and its classic arcade game), play Jet Bradley, the human beamed into the digital world to battle it out on light cycles and toppel the dreaded MCP.
MTV's Celebrity Deathmatch (PC/GC/PSOne/PS2/Xbox, Gotham Games)--Tommy Lee
, Marilyn Manson
, Anna Nicole Smith, 'N Sync and other top names mingle, then beat each other bloody for laughs.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (PC/GC/PS2/Xbox, Konami)--The cartoon legends return in grand fashion with designs on doing battle yet again with Shredder and the evil foot clan.
Law & Order II: Double or Nothing (PC, Legacy Interactive)--Jerry Orbach and other cast members give voice to this two-part mystery-adventure, where gamers first uncover clues as a detective, then go for the conviction as an assistant D.A.
Harry Potter: Quidditch World Cup (PC/GC/PS2/Xbox, Electronic Arts)--Wizards gone wild! J.K. Rowling's magically twisted game of high-flying mayhem debuts as a full-fledged sports simulation.
Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (PS2/Xbox, Atari)--He said he'd back, but whoa... someone failed to mention the man's preferred vehicle would be an explosive action-adventure.
WWE Smackdown! Here Comes the Pain (PS2, THQ)--Over 55 superstars such as Brock Lesnar and Goldberg butt heads in a series of matches and backstage brawls that actually represent a cohesive story line.
The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (PC/GC/PS2/Xbox, Electronic Arts)--Sauron won't know what hit him when eight heroes cleave through the evil regent's legions in a side-scrolling, hack 'n' slash tour de force.
Star Trek: Shattered Universe (PS2/Xbox, TDK Mediactive)--Space combat in a bizarro mirror universe starring characters from the original series. More than 10 ships and 19 levels await aspiring captains.
Final Fantasy X-2 (PS2, Square-Enix)--Girls just wanna have fun, as you'll see when you try your hand at a stunning role-playing adventure that lets the ladies take center stage.
Starsky & Hutch (PC/PS2/Xbox, Gotham Games)--The funky '70s cop duo--soon to be onscreen in an action comedy with Owen Wilson and Ben Stiller--is back in a racing game/shooter that lets one player work the wheel while the other mans the guns.
Mission: Impossible--Operation Surma (PS2/Xbox, Atari)--Travel the world, wear outlandish disguises, and undertake demanding missions as special agent Ethan Hunt and his IMF cohorts.