Tag Archive: video game tie-ins


Review by C.J. Bunce

If you agree with us that the biggest landmark in the visual representation of futurism in science fiction over the last several years was Doug Liman’s Edge of Tomorrow, Luc Besson’s Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, and Netflix’s Altered Carbon, then you might also see something similarly new and refreshing–and yet new and different–happening with the new Paramount+ series Halo As I described it last month here at borg, Halo’s first episode was a dense set-up of a series opener, establishing the world building, the opposing factions and key characters in this new universe extracted from the video game franchise.  But the series’ second episode, titled “Unbound,” doesn’t miss a beat in showing viewers an even more layered science fiction story is in play, with plenty of visual surprises.

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Tekken is a fighting video arcade game franchise from Bandai Namco that premiered in 1994–one of the first fighting games to use 3D animation.  The game has gone through seven main games over the years, Tekken 3 (the one that gets named-dropped in Shaun of the Dead) notable as the third best-selling fighting game of all time behind two Super Smash Bros. games.  Tekken has seen several spinoff games, as well as movie adaptations, both in animated (Tekken: The Motion Picture and Tekken: Blood Vengeance) and live action (Tekken), form, and in comic book adaptations.  Netflix is bringing the next iteration of the franchise to life in the animated series Tekken: Bloodline–fans of the games will understand the “bloodline” reference.  Check out the first trailer for the series below.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

At $6.5 billion in sales, Halo, the 77th biggest media franchise, is nothing to sneeze at.  So what took the video game franchise so long to make it to a major live-action production?  It was just stuck in development stages.  But for both those who never played the games and those who have, Halo is now a live-action series joining sci-fi’s Star Trek franchise on Paramount+.  The series opener is full of all the pew-pew action you’d expect of a first-person shooter game.  Neither a continuation, adaptation, or prequel to the games, the show is meant to be a standalone world.  It’s Lost in Space meets Ender’s Game and Star Wars: The Clone Wars, with similar plotting to Dune and Gears of War, a non-human threat like Ender’s Game and Starship Troopers, a 26th century mad scientist’s super squad with Edge of Tomorrow armor and guys in them that talk and stomp around like Jayne in Firefly.

Fortunately the pilot comes together like the short mini-series that touched off the successful Battlestar Galactica reboot.  Yes, this is a military sci-fi genre series to check out, and one you’ll likely return for next week.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Guardians of the Galaxy–the game–is space fantasy action with comedy notes, available now at Amazon for PS4, PS5, XBox, and more.  A new tie-novel is a prequel to the game, and it’s not a book to be overlooked.  After more than a decade of reviewing nearly every tie-in novel produced by Marvel and DC, I’m going to say M.K. England’s Guardians of the Galaxy: No Guts, No Glory is a contender for the top spot.  You need to get a lot right when you’re crafting a tie-in for familiar characters–one wrong bit of dialogue and you’re sunk.  It’s going to be more of a challenge if the team you’re writing about is as diverse and different as the members of the crew of the spaceship Milano.  You don’t need to know anything about the game to jump right in, and readers will find the characters and their backstories are 99% consistent with the characters as seen on the big screen in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.  And fans of the comics can look forward to 300 pages of humorous banter among these beloved space adventurers.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

In Michael A. Stackpole’s first venture into the Gears of War universe, the author puts the franchise’s military sci-fi storytelling into the realm of Aliens, Predator, Starship Troopers, and Edge of Tomorrow.  Focused on the same elite military squad of “Gears” as in the video games and previous novels in the series, Gears of War: Ephyra Rising takes a surprising turn into the gritty, real-life aftermath of soldiers returning after the war is over.  Focusing on the toll that battling the Locust and Lambent threat has taken on Sgt. Marcus Fenix and Lt. Anya Stroud, Stackpole infuses an adjustment to life narrative that is believable and real, while also creating a love letter to one of the franchise’s most beloved characters.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

You are Star-Lord in the new Eidos-Montreal video game based on the infamous Marvel Comics band of misfits, the Guardians of the Galaxy.  The third person, action-adventure has players calling the shots as the team tries to save the universe again, but not before you cause a chain of events to make it all unravel.  Guardians of the Galaxy–the game–is space fantasy action with comedy notes, available now at Amazon for PS4, PS5, XBox, and more.  There’s even a purple llama.  And if you like the game, or you want to know what it’s like to be a voice actor for video games, don’t miss the behind-the-scenes guidebook, Guardians of the Galaxy: The Art of the Game, just out from Titan Books.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

They’re outnumbered and outgunned.

Last year Halo, Destiny, and Crackdown game writer and Spawn comic book writer Jonathan Goff created a comics mini-series last based on Xbox′s Crackdown 3 (previewed here at borg).  A military science fiction-action series not requiring readers to know the game, it featured some nicely rendered futurism from artist Ricardo Jaime (The Shadow).  Goff and Jaime created a future world ruled by a corporate power elite, and a city sitting on a powder keg of class warfare ready to blow.  Then the lights go out.  Literally.  Someone has taken control of power sources everywhere.  Dynamite’s Crackdown is heading to a comic shop near you next week in a complete trade paperback edition so fans of the game and sci-fi can join in on the action.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Having escaped an Assassins brotherhood training camp in his youth where his mother is killed by the villainous Maxime Torm, 17 years later–in 2017–readers meet the escapee in the new graphic novel Assassin’s Creed: Bloodstone His name is Tomo, now a young man working in a video arcade in Tokyo.  With Hajime, the man that helped him escape, Tomo is now seeking to destroy the man that ruined their lives and murdered their brethren.  The Templars are now using DNA databases to track down the remaining Assassins.  Tomo and Hajime find a lead in far off France, a doctor named Nathalie Chapman, who Tomo believes will take them to Torm and the Templars.  But Tomo hasn’t finished his training.  He is not an Assassin yet.  He poses as a doctor and is hired to work for Chapman, when he gets closer to one of her patients, a young woman with amnesia named Elisa Adler.

The Animus, Abstergo, the Helix, and Pieces of Eden, the same trippy quests back through the generations, and an expanded tale of the Adler and Gorm families spinning out of Dorison’s 2018 graphic novel Assassin’s Creed: Conspiracies mixes historical fiction, sci-fi, and fantasy.  In a similar vein as Ready Player One, Bloodshot, and Dollhouse, you’ll join Tomo on a virtual reality ride back into the past of the Gorms that takes Tomo to the beginnings of the Vietnam War.  But what will Chapman and Hajime do when Tomo tries to help Elisa?

Rich, detailed worldbuilding by Guillaume Dorison (translated by Marc Bourbon-Crook) continues the Assassin’s Creed universe beyond the video games and nine prior graphic novel stories from Titan Comics.  Assassin’s Creed: Bloodstone (the first book of a two-book series) has all the elements of the Jason Bourne saga: good action, intrigue, smart dialogue, and likeable characters.  Ennio Bufi′s artwork is gorgeous, a mix of the contrasts and shadows of Jock and the vivid, sweeping imagery of Bill Sienkiewicz.  Bufi is an artist readers can only hope to see more of.

Check out this preview of both volumes of Assassin’s Creed: Bloodstone courtesy of Titan Comics:

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Usually a franchise tie-in novel or sequel will be able to serve as a standalone story to create a springboard into the story’s universe for new readers.  That’s not the case for readers of the new Gears of War prequel to the Gears 5 video game, Gears of War: Ascendance.  Author Jason M. Hough takes fans of the games on a journey back into field combat with a group of familiar characters battling close-quarters with the Swarm, with a backdrop focus on the political machinations of Coalition of Ordered Governments’ Minister Jinn and her reliance on Damon Baird and his robot army.  Unfortunately the story reads like the down day at a Dungeon & Dragon session, all about a group of characters getting from Point A to Point B, with little happening in between.

The entire novel is a set-up to bring the franchise’s first heroine to the lead position of gameplay, Kait Diaz.  The lack of development of the character is unfortunate, because it could have the potential for another alien bug fighter like Ellen Ripley, Rita Vrataski, Dizzy Flores, or Private Vasquez.  We meet Diaz following the burial of her mother.  She and her team are rescued from this planet only to return later so she can try to save a boy and a girl that she believed were dead when her group had abandoned their location.  So readers will be drawn toward her mission.  Backstory (available elsewhere) for the video games explains the significance of a special talisman she wears, yet each time it is discussed the reader is ready to learn more about it, but its purpose is ultimately skipped over in this book.  And readers don’t get to learn much about what makes Kait Diaz tick.  For that, readers will need to look to the game (which has been well-received by gamers).

So Gears of War: Ascendance is truly for fans already familiar with the game and its characters.  What a “Gear” even is, and what the opposing factions are and why, what one weapon is versus another–none of these concepts are ever explained (a Gear is a soldier, but is it an elite soldier or any foot soldier?).  The Swarm and other beasts are some kind of alien monster inspired by the Arachnid Bugs of Starship Troopers or that creature from Mimic, a kind of giant locust (it’s called the Locust Horde so I assume it looks like a locust) but all creepy like the Xenomorphs of Aliens, and telepathically connected like the hive mind of The Borg from Star Trek.  Why are they bad?  We don’t know, just as Heinlein treated his antagonists in Starship Troopers, although game players who dig in outside this novel will see they become more than that to Kait Diaz in the game.  Opening paragraphs in each section providing some backstory and setting, along with descriptions of characters would have been a welcome addition for those not familiar with the game yet.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

I reviewed the first issue of Dynamite Comics new series Obey Me last month.  It was actually labeled Issue #0, although I’m not sure why.  Tomorrow Dynamite Comics releases Issue #1, a continuation of the series.  I loved the first, zero issue.  Check out my review here if you missed it.  So does the next issue fare as well?

Absolutely.

I was surprised the series is video game tie-in–it comes from the Obey Me PC/console game from Error 404 Game Studios.  The story is playing out as a solid supernatural fantasy, with superb writing by Mario Mentasti, artwork by Ben Herrera, and eye-popping colors by Emmanuel Ordaz Torres.  Each issue is a chapter you don’t want to end, following a badass super(natural)hero team of Vanessa and Monty, a girl and her dog.  Of course, she isn’t the typical girl and he isn’t the typical dog.  Vanessa is a bounty hunter tasked with hunting down souls contracted to the devil, and Monty is the hound assigned as her partner.  Only in their next case readers will learn even more about Monty’s potential.

 

As with its first issue, look forward to some amped-up action and dialogue that will be loads of fun for mature readers.  It’s quickly becoming a favorite from this year’s comic book releases.

Take a look at this preview of Obey Me, Issue #1, courtesy of Dynamite Comics:

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