Reservoir Dogs: Bloody Days is owned by Big Star Games, Reservoir Dogs The Game is owned by Edios Interactive and Volatile Games, and Reservoir Dogs is owned by Lionsgate
The images you see in this editorial are the property of their respective owners
In 2005, Rockstar Games released a video game adaptation of Walter Hill’s seminal classic The Warriors to overwhelmingly positive reviews for its solid gameplay and interesting take on the characters and world of that movie. It’s by no means perfect, but it’s probably the best thing that Rockstar released on that console (sorry, but those GTA games don’t hold up nearly as well) and is easily in the upper echelon of movie based video games. One year later Edios Interactive tried to do something similar when they released a video game adaptation of Reservoir Dogs. I won’t go so far as to say that the Reservoir Dogs game was inspired by the success of The Warriors (it’s pretty unlikely they would have been able to have knocked this out in less than a year), but it’s certainly in the same vein as that and at the very least I’m guessing Edios were crossing their fingers that some of the good will built up by that movie based game will help this one get some recognition. Sadly though, the game turned out be… well pretty damn awful. I can speak from personal experience having bought the game for like three bucks at a dying Blockbuster that the game was an uninspired and boring mess with the only notable feature being the game breaking mechanic of holding someone hostage; resulting in all other enemies dropping their guns and just letting you pass right through.
But you know what? It doesn’t matter. There are certainly WORSE movie to game adaptations out there (*cough* Rambo *cough*) and if nothing else, we can take solace in the fact that it’s done and over with. That no one else is gonna try to take this Tarantino masterpiece and make another terrible video game… right?
Big Star Games with only one prior game under their belt (Fist of Jesus which isn’t terrible but is rather mediocre) managed to score the Reservoir Dogs license… sort of, and are making a top down shoot-em-up heist game using those characters… sort of. We’ve only gotten two very short trailers with a minimal amount of gameplay in them despite the game coming out in less than month at the time of writing (May 18th), but from what we can gather through the game’s website, the game will involve you choosing up to three “Dogs” as it were (though that’s not really what they were called in the movie) and trying to murder you way through banks, nightclubs, jewelry stores, whatever, and collect as much cash as possible. The game will have eighteen heists, twenty weapons, and some sort of rewind time mechanic that will let you redo the last few seconds of gameplay if you mess up rather than having to reload a previous save. In an interview with BSG’s CEO Liam Patton (conducted by Game Crate which can be found here), he confirmed that they have the rights to the characters and the plot of the movie, but not to the likeness of the actors; hence why they all look so different, yet you can still KIND of see the similarities to their screen counterparts. It uh… it’s certainly something to say the least.
Now look, I haven’t played this game and Mr. Patton seems like a nice enough guy. I don’t have any ill will against his company or him personally, and I hope they have all the success they can get in an industry that likes to chew people up and spit them out. I mean, I don’t have much HOPE for the game being good considering we’ve only been able to see a total of 23 seconds of gameplay across the two trailers release and the game comes out in less than a month, but honestly I’m not here to talk about whether or not the game will have sound mechanics or interesting features. Whether or not this turns out to be the greatest game of all time, it will ultimately fail as a licensed product because everything we’ve seen of the game, as well as what we have been told by Mr. Patton, belies a complete misunderstanding of what Reservoir Dogs is and why it’s adored by fans and critics alike. However, before we get into how this game fails to be Reservoir Dogs, we need to answer a more fundamental question.
Lookin’ for Some Happiness – What is Reservoir Dogs About?
On the surface, Reservoir Dogs is a nail biting bottle film about a failed jewel heist; carried by an all-star cast and Tarantino’s superb script, both in terms of dialogue and the overall structure of the plot itself. What it most certainly is NOT is an action film, but we’ll get into that soon enough. The film still holds up twenty five years later having rewatched it to refresh myself on some of the finer details, and it feels so damn polished in every area that matters. Maybe not so much in terms of cinematography as it did have a pretty low budget, but even knowing exactly where the story was going having watched it plenty of times before, it still stays compelling and gripping due in no small part to the judicious use of flashbacks and character building exercising in between the intense drama where they deal with the fallout of the failed heist. Now that alone makes it a brilliant movie worthy of all time classic status, but if you look a bit deeper there’s still more to it that puts it that much further over the edge of damn near transcendence in the medium. Tarantino LOVES stories which has been a running theme throughout his work; even up to The Hateful Eight which feels somewhat like a successor to Reservoir Dogs for that very reason. More so than this movie being about lies and deceits, it’s about the power of just talking to people and telling them stories. The way the characters build comradery and rapport through discussions of Madonna and tipping in the diner. The way Vic Vega and Nice Guy Eddie’s friendship and history together shines through just by them simply ribbing each other. Hell, the most important part of Mr. Orange’s training before going undercover is being able to lie convincingly and tell amusing anecdotes that will not only ensure his cover but endear himself to his fellow criminal cohorts. If he can’t convince these people he’s legit, he’s gonna get found out and will surely end up with a bullet in the head for his troubles. His life literally depends on him being great at spinning a yarn; much like Tarantino himself whose career as a viable director was riding on the success of this movie and the story he was telling with it. Not only does it work in the context of the movie, but it also works on us the audience as Tarantino makes this all gripping to watch through his very precise and interesting dialogue which is further supported by his actors who are able to sell the material in a very convincing and charming way. It really is the heart of what makes Tarantino’s writing so distinct, and sure it’s worked better in some of his films than others, but there’s a reason he’s one of the most important directors working today.
So then. How did Big Star Games manage to fuck all that up in two very short trailers and one interview with the CEO?
We’re Supposed to be Fucking Professionals! – How They Fucked it Up
Let’s start with a direct quote from that Game Crate interview I mentioned earlier.
“It’s not dialogue based. It’s about action, action, and more action.”
– Liam Patton CEO of Big Star Games
Welp. There you have it! The guy in charge of making (and selling) a Reservoir Dogs licensed game doesn’t seem to understand what Reservoir Dogs is in the first place. There’s barely any fucking action in the movie! We get to see Steve Buscemi book it on a fucking sidewalk, Harvey Keitel go akimbo on two cops, and Michael Madsen torture some poor bastard, but action!? Sure. The characters are iconic and they have a certain look to them that would lend itself to something like this, but someone already DID that without dragging this franchise along with it! IT’S CALLED PAYDAY!! Payday is the distillation of that specific power fantasy that movies like Reservoir Dogs and Heat indulge in (the cool and super sophisticated criminals in sharp suits), but looking at Reservoir Dogs JUST on that level missed EVERYTHING THE MOVIE IS ABOUT!! Those badass criminals in the beginning of the movie walking down the street while Little Green Bag is playing? The rest of the movie is watching them slowly unravel as the situation gets worse and their suspicions eat away at their confidence! If all they wanted to do was make a badass top down shoot-em-up heist game, there was no reason to base it around a movie that is basically the antithesis of that… other than BRAND NAME RECOGNITION of course which seems to be the only reason this damn thing exists in the first place.
I mean for a guy who CLAIMS that everyone on this project is a HUGE fan of the movie; Mr. Patton and his studio don’t seem to have much respect for it. I’m curious how the hell we’re supposed to go through EIGHTEEN heists that are planned for this game with Mr. Orange being an undercover cop. Is that even the case in this version? The guy said that this was based on the movie, but I only recall there being only one heist in it where everyone was supposed to go their separate ways afterwards (hence why they all used code names)! Mr. Pink is the one trying to be the most professional and hold everything together (revealing just how shaken and rattled he is in the process), yet these fans of the movie portrayed him as some TOO COOL FOR SCHOOL hipster dude who can’t even button a shirt or fix his tie? I could go on, but I think we’ve beaten this dead horse enough already. Maybe the game will be good. Maybe it will be bad. The one thing it WON’T be though is Reservoir Dogs.
I’ve Got Something Outside I’d Like to Show You Guys – A Better Reservoir Dogs Video Game
Now obviously we can’t just end this on such a dour note! The thing is that I’m not against making a Reservoir Dogs game on principal as there are ways that I could see it working as a video game. We just have to think about what makes the movie special, and build a game around that. As we discussed, the most poignant aspect of the movie is storytelling and how it can be used in any number of ways; both in terms of how the character interacts with each other and how the filmmakers interact with the audience. So what genre would be best suited for a movie like that? To me, the most obvious answer would be a Visual Novel. Think about it! If the developers have the rights to the movie, they also have access to the script which means that a good portion of the work is already done! There could be story paths for each characters, choice that can be made that will change the ending of the movie (what if Mr. Orange let Mr. Blonde set the cop on fire?), and maybe they could even let us experience the jewel heist if they felt it was really necessary to flesh out that part of the story. It certainly makes a lot more sense from a licensing standpoint than just slapping the name on top of a top down shooter!
Are You Gonna Bark All Day, Little Doggie, or Are You Gonna Bite? – Final Thoughts
So what have we learned from all this, other than my endless capacity to be grouchy about mishandled licenses; an industry wide problem only slightly less cliché than underwhelming pre-orders and Ubisoft launch debacles? It seems in recent years that licensed games have started to flood the market in ways we haven’t seen since the glory days of cartridge based gaming, and not just on the app store. Just go to Steam and you’ll find such gems as R.I.P.D.: The Game, Garfield Kart, and even something called Scooby Doo & Looney Tunes Cartoon Universe: Adventure. Hell, do I even need to remind you of the recent Ghost Busters and Power Rangers games? This new Reservoir Dogs game… well it’s just another one to add to the pile, but not quite for the same reasons as those other games, so hey. At least it’s something interesting to talk about. Maybe I’ll follow up on this once the game comes out, maybe not. Honestly though, I’ll probably just watch the movie again instead.