There have been plenty of video games in recent years that have only come into existence because they’re (more often than not) the lovechild of a massive gaming corporation and a strategically chosen high-grossing film. By-and-large, the majority of them have been quite successful; The Godfather and Scarface: The World is Yours come to mind as two examples of open-world action games that were great in their own right. Lord of the Rings: Battle for Middle Earth and its sequel proved themselves as great pieces of strategy gaming and Star Wars: Battlefront (including the second instalment) made for some memorable playing in its innovative combination of shooter and strategy. In review, it would seem that films and video games go hand-in-hand. It is, however, a strictly one-way relationship. It’s rare thing to find a successful film that’s been adapted from a video game; the results are often not as pretty as one might think, and they’re best left forgotten. That being said, however, I think the fault lies in the choice of game, and not the end result that lies in the film it’s adapted into.
As an avid fan of the game and the series, I still muse on the idea of seeing Niko’s exploits on the big screen. The cinematics alone, regardless of their age now, are still of a good enough quality to give you that sense of immersion that you normally would only find in a proper movie. The plot is top notch; Niko Bellic, a Serbian merchant sailor and former soldier, comes to Liberty City (a fictionalised New York) to track down the man who betrayed his army unit during the Yugoslav War and got all of his childhood friends killed. But Niko must first deal with his cousin Roman’s problems before dealing with his own; Roman is in a massive debt to Russian moneylender Vlad Glebov, and Niko needs to tend to his hapless cousin from the moment he arrives in the city.
As Niko re-discovers his talents for assassinating people, the majority of the unfortunately repetitive gameplay revolves around killing various undesirables. That being said, a lot of surgery can be performed on the story, leaving some plucky film producers with enough of “the good stuff” to make an ample sized action/thriller from the basis of GTA. It’s simple really; change the location to New York City, and cast the voice actors as the live-action counterparts of their original characters. The latter may seem like a bold move but, due to Rockstar’s change of heart in casting character actors, a film adaption of GTA IV would be able to retain its faithfulness to the original game by including the people that made the characters as memorable as they are, instead of replacing them with A-listers that wouldn’t come anywhere near capturing the original brilliance of some of Liberty City’s most infamous denizens. Roman Bellic just wouldn’t be the same without Jason Zumwalt, nor Mikhail Faustin without Karel Roden and that harsh Siberian voice of his, and of course it wouldn’t be complete without Michael Hollick pitching in again with his portrayal of Niko.
To top it off, Dan Houser and his team are such good writers that I think if the film were given enough of its own space people would soon forget it was actually the offspring of a Grand Theft Auto game. I often find myself wondering if it is the game itself that makes it what it is, or if it’s merely a platform from which to project the amazingly dramatic and thrilling story they conceived. Personally, I still play this game after five years because of the story, not the gameplay. The latter has long since been superseded by other games in its class, but not many have managed to surpass the writing found here. It’d be a shame to let it go to waste just because it was a video game in its initial incarnation.