I want a good Starship Troopers game. This franchise is perfect video game fodder and it’s not hard to explain why.
It’s very easy to pitch such a game whilst taking cues from the 1997 movie adaption (more than the controversial 1959 novel) by pitting an army of online players all guns blazing against a writhing mass of warrior bugs and screaming death.
Just like the iconic act from the film: where a squad of troopers deploy to Tango Urilla, all you need is a squad, lots of hi-tech weapons, a turret fitted outpost that needs defending and a whole lot of bugs to shoot.
It’s a video gaming specialty really.
And fittingly enough, Strangelite Studios would attempt exactly that with their first person shooter title simply named Starship Troopers.
This PC exclusive reached the market in 2005; eight years on from the release of the first movie and a year on from the movie’s first abhorrently bad sequel. But its release seemed to fit with the times; many publishers in fact were starting to see the potential that older film licenses could have if they were turned into contemporary games.
Remember Scarface: The Video Game? The Godfather got one too and so did Rocky.
Licensed film tie-ins were nothing new at the time of course, but they often carried a rather lethal stigma; that of the rushed, altogether shit piece of software that only sought to make a fast buck on the back of hype for the existing movie.
Whereas tie-ins such as The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay and the aforementioned Rocky would find some measure of success however, Starship Troopers was practically burnt at the stake by almost every critical review outlet around at the time.
The standard laundry list of faults for half baked PC shooters is accounted for in full: jerky animation, inconsistent graphics, bland character models, repetitive gameplay and a regenerating shield ripped straight out of Halo.
Whilst I never played the full game, I was lucky (or unlucky) enough to try the demo version once upon a time, only to be greeted a gameplay experience that was indeed as bad as it was commonly made out to be. The sheer number of bugs (the software kind that is) was shocking enough and it wasn’t long before my preview would be mercifully cut short by a black screen and crash to desktop.
It was for the best, I feel.
Other than the abysmal FPS there have been a couple of other attempts at making a Starship Troopers video game.
An RTS title subtitled Terran Ascendancy did the rounds back in 2000 but failed to garner much success.
Similarly, a more recent mobile game tie-in for the fourth film Starship Troopers: Invasion was released to some rather bad reviews. Judging from the overwhelmingly derivative concept, messy gameplay and simplistic visuals, this Temple Run clone seems to deserve the hate it gets.
And in terms of video games, that’s about all there is to say; three underwhelming efforts for such rich and attractive source material. It really is a shame.
So what would I like to see?
Having mulled that question over quite a bit recently, I think that perhaps a slight departure from the action movie formula might be a good idea.
As strange as it sounds, I think that a Starship Troopers setting would be a really interesting fit for another Telltale Games title.
When you get down to it, the material of Starship Troopers is never really about the bugs; it’s about the humans and the society that makes them go to war so readily. The explosive frontline battles as seen in the movie and its existing video game adaptions do form a large part of the appeal behind the brand that we know today, but there’s so much more that can be interesting here if given the chance.
Telltale Games‘ tells an extraordinarily compulsive story in their hit The Walking Dead digital download title. Here it is a similar situation (as it is with most Zombie themed media); the human elements are the ones we find the most interesting.
We don’t find Dead Rising scary because of any zombie either; it’s the humans that utterly terrify us and I find Starship Troopers has the potential to be somewhat similar at times.
I don’t want to get too deep into the themes behind Heinlein’s and Verhoeven’s work (on the novel and film respectively) as for one, I think it might make for a nice follow up article.
But a “Telltale” style point-and-click Starship Troopers game exploring the themes of citizenship, eugenics and militarization with in-depth character dialogue and settings taken from the book and film?
Sign me up!… Assuming service still guarantees citizenship, that is.