The Movie Tie-In Video Games That You’ll Never Play

There used to be a time where every major movie had its own video game—but some titles never made it further than the trailers.

by Ed Smith
Apr 24 2015, 3:20pm

Robert De Niro as Travis Bickle in 'Taxi Driver,' via Wikipedia

This post originally appeared on VICE UK.

GoldenEye 007 is the best movie tie-in game, obviously. Also: Spider-Man 2, The Warriors, and that Scarface one with Ricky Gervais in it. But could they have been toppled? There's a bunch of movies-to-games that never made it to shelves and some of them, based admittedly on only scant surviving evidence, could have been fantastic. For example...


Gearbox Software first announced Heat back at E3 2006, trailing that it would be either a prequel or sequel to the 1995 movie and that it would involve, in some way, director Michael Mann. But in amongst the company's other emerging franchises, like Brothers in Arms, Borderlands, and of course the movie tie-in that everybody on Earth was pissing their shorts for, Aliens: Colonial Marines, development on Heat: The Game got lost. As of 2009, the licenses Gearbox owned have expired, sending Heat—not unlike Val Kilmer at the end of the movie—into permanent hiding. Plus, Grand Theft Auto V has covered the whole heist movie angle, leaving Heat out in the cold.

Nevertheless, it could have been a banger. Obviously there would have been shooting, looting, and car chases, but imagine how the rest of Heat would have looked mapped into a game. Press X to moodily stare out of the window at a blue-tinted Los Angeles nighttime. Tap Y repeatedly to become obsessed with your job at the expense of your personal life. Rotate left stick to yell, "She's got a great ass!" Sadly, all we can do is daydream—there are no assets for Heat anywhere.

Taxi Driver

Where Heat sounds like a plausible idea for a game, one I would have quite liked to play, Taxi Driver: The Game can fuck itself sky high. Development began in 2005 and was helmed by Papaya Studio, an American company that had previously released tie-in games for George of the Jungle and Top Gear, and done some outsource work on the Medal of Honor series. And in terms of hype, Taxi Driver actually got a ways down the path, warranting E3 trailers (see below), some press screens, and a few magazine previews. But thankfully it was canceled, shot in the stomach and chest and head like Harvey Keitel, before it could see the light of day.

Reasons behind the cancellation are unclear, but you can imagine Papaya eventually realizing, as anyone who'd read about the Taxi Driver game up until that point, that it was fucking stupid, and throwing the entire project into a big digital bin. One thing that survived however was the original trailer, which in less than two minutes takes all the nuance, subtlety, and post-Vietnam war scrutiny of Martin Scorsese's film and—I'm not even going to try to be clever here—FUCKING RUINS IT.

The Dark Knight

Pandemic, the ill-fated developer behind Mercenaries, Star Wars: Battlefront, and The Saboteur, was supposedly developing this one, however, it was never formally announced. Instead, Gary Oldman, who if you don't know is the brother of Laila Morse who plays Big Mo in EastEnders, mentioned it during an interview talking up The Dark Knight movie. Oldman said he was involved and that the game's gliding system was a focus. After that, a few anonymous sources confirmed Pandemic's involvement and said The Dark Knight would be an open-world game. Coupled with the massive, shuddering, billion-dollar success of the movie, that made it seem like the game was a sure thing. But then, silence.

Likely occupied with its own internal struggles, Pandemic had nothing to present on The Dark Knight. Also, Rocksteady was at this point busy on its own open-world Batman game—Arkham Asylum. So with the developer crumbling and competition already looming, The Dark Knight was quietly canceled. It now stands as the only of the Nolan Batman movies not to get a tie-in. If you're hungry for some of that good old-fashioned gravelly, serious, Christian Bale-man, you can pick up either Batman Begins for PS2 or The Dark Knight Rises on your smartphone.

Related: These Two Kids Made a Shot-by-Shot Remake of 'Indiana Jones'

Dirty Harry

The Collective, Inc. had a pretty good track record. Buffy the Vampire Slayer for Xbox was all right, also Indiana Jones and the Emperor's Tomb and the Star Wars Episode III game. If anyone had a shot at delivering a decent tie-in based on the actually-not-that-decent-when-you-watch-it-again Clint Eastwood film, it was the Collective. And based on surviving evidence, albeit a single, non-gameplay trailer (see below), the studio wasn't making a bad fist of it. The tone was violent, the aesthetic was 70s, and even Clint himself was supposedly on board—this one had potential.

But not unlike Pandemic, the Collective was battling various internal problems, and in 2007, the same year Dirty Harry was originally slated to release, the studio was stripped back and merged with Shiny Entertainment to create the new Double Helix games, which moved on to development of Silent Hill Homecoming.

Kill Bill

This could have been a real goer. Development on Kill Bill was announced before the film had even launched, with Quentin Tarantino supposedly working in tandem with Vivendi (which around this time was, for some reason, calling itself Black Label Games) to produce a worthy tie-in. Like Taxi Driver, actual gameplay footage exists (see below). However, unlike Taxi Driver, it's not total nuts. For a hack-and-slash game, circa 2003, it looks OK, doesn't it? I mean, it's just a flavor, but they could have had something here.

Unfortunately, Vivendi had always been a troubled company. Black Label was just another in a series of name and identity changes the studio went through between 2001 and 2006, before eventually merging with Activision. The exact reason behind Kill Bill's cancellation isn't out there, but it's likely one of several projects that got side-lined as Vivendi—or Universal Interactive, or Black Label, or Vivendi Universal Games—moved itself around. However, if you really want that interactive Tarantino experience—Tarantinteractivity—you can go play the Reservoir Dogs tie-in. It's shit, obviously, but Michael Madsen's in it. Bless him.

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Reservoir Dogs
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